Bert here. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect over the last month or so. More than I ever have. Over the last few years, I’ve developed some habits and characteristics that I’m not that proud of. With reflection, I’ve realized how badly I’ve wanted to shake these habits because of the impact it has on me and some of the relationships I have with those close to me. But nobody is going to do it for me. Through pen and paper here on our blog, I wanted to put the pen to the figurative paper to help hold myself accountable. To do so, I’ve set three personal development goals for the year. If you have any advice for either or have done something similar, please share your story in the comment section. I would LOVE to read about it.
Personal Development Goal #1: Finish What You Start. Avoid Too Many Half Completed Projects
This is something that I haven’t always been the best at. It is probably because I have a very short attention span. Too frequently, I will start something, get distracted by another thing, start another item before finishing the last, and continue down this vicious path. Before I know it, I have ten things that are open without completing one of them.
Here is the worst part. Do you think this applies to work, finance items, or home projects? If you guessed all of the above you would be correct. At work, I would find myself completing nothing on my daily To-Do list or important task list because I would start the next task before taking an extra hour to complete the first one.
For finances, this has been very frustrating as well. My dining room table would have several piles of paper. This can include items such as transferring an old custodian account of my wife’s to our brokerage, quoting insurance, fully implementing an account I opened at a new bank, etc. There have been plenty of these examples over the years. For each of these items, I talked to Lanny/did research and was very excited about making the change to improve my financial situation. But for some reason, it took forever for me to finish the remaining five steps needed to fully take advantage of this.
The core issue for each of these is not focusing. Further, it is not taking the extra focused time to accomplish this activity. My goal for 2019 is to spend that extra time AT that moment and finish it. For example, this week, I made the necessary calls to transfer my wife’s old custodian investment account her grandfather set up for her years ago. I had to talk to a representative, fill out forms, create a fax cover sheet, have my wife finish the forms, and fax the final form in. In the past, I would have had the phone call, printed out the forms, and worried about the remaining tasks one day in the future.
This time, I took an extra hour, removed distractions, and worked to bring it home. I printed the forms, the fax, and shared to-do list that night with my wife for when we got home that evening. That night, we completed the forms and I faxed the information at the library. Within 24 hours, I took this task from start to finish. Soon, the funds will be transferred into our portfolio. It felt amazing.
This was one successful example of doing this. I need to keep going and keep on practicing this to make this a habit. Can I cover as many topics that day if I’m focusing as much on one topic? No. But I’ll save time, frustration, and ultimately put together a better product by focusing on the one task and bringing it to completion while it is fresh on my mind rather than picking up and putting down that same task several times over a long period.
Personal Development Goal #2: Be Present and Commit All Your Energy to that Activity – To explain this one, it may be easier to explain what I want. I want to be present in an activity and devote my full attention to that one activity. When I’m hanging out with Lanny, I want to hang out with Lanny. When my wife and I are relaxing or watching a show, I want to focus only on that show. If I am with family, I want focus on talking with family or chasing around my niece and nephew. I want people to feel like I am deeply involved in that conversation and building the connection with them.
The sad truth is that what I want couldn’t be further from reality. Too often, I find myself distracted or trying to multi-task. Sometimes I tell myself that I can follow people on our Twitter account while listening to a conversation. Or I can skim an article while my wife tells me a story about her day. Or I convince myself I can focus on three things at once.
One major culprit of this is my cell phone. It sucks that so much of your life is involved with this handheld device. Every day I am challenging myself to “Put My Damn Phone Away.” But the results have been mixed. For every conversation I have where I am not distracted, I have one a few days later where my phone is sitting on my lap. This is something that everyone struggles with in 2019, but I feel like it has been worse for me. After I leave someones house or a conversation and I realize I was distracted, all I want to do is throw my phone out the freaking window.
Another major culprit is just the fact that I haven’t put the necessary focus or energy into each interaction. When I’m in the conversation, I need to be IN that conversation. When my wife and I talking about something or watching a movie, I need to be IN that movie. If I’m on a brewery tour, I need to be IN that brewery tour. Stop letting my mind wander, focus on the activity, and enjoy it.
What I’ve tried, with success, is leaving my phone in a different room or a coat pocket when I’m somewhere. I completely remove the largest distraction. For example, my wife and I recently took a trip and stayed with family for four nights. These were distant relatives that we didn’t know too well. Surprisingly, they welcomed us with open arms and were so happy we were staying with them. Each evening, we left our phones in our bedroom and talked with them/played games with them until we were all ready for bed. They did a lot of the talking and we just listened to their fascinating life stories. By the end, we felt like we knew them so well.
I honestly feel like I know them better than other relatives that I have been around locally my entire life. Removing my cell phone as a distraction and putting all my energy allowed this relationship to blossom. It was incredible. Not surprising though, a few days after returning home, I slipped into some of my bad habits. As I said, there is work that needs to be done here and I have to find the right balance.
Personal Development Goal #3: Respond Timely, Even a Simple Message Goes A Long Way – This issue is the side effect of trying to develop Goals 1 & 2 and the fact that I can really, really suck at communicating. There are times where I will receive a message from someone and take a long time to respond. In another instance, I will leave my phone and not tell my closest friends & family, that I am unavailable.
The result is that I come back to some unread messages and I missed a chance to have a great conversation with those closest to me. (Remember, I did mention that I suck at communicating). In my mind, I am planning on responding later when I’m not busy. However, how on earth is the other person supposed to know that? I can try to rationalize it, but it is rude and I need to be better about it.
My goal is to find the right balance between responding timely to messages and focusing on activities. Just because you receive a message doesn’t mean you have to respond immediately, especially if you are busy. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to put the message off for long periods of time. And a simple response can go a long way.
For example, if I want to focus on finishing a blog article for two hours, I may receive a text message. The text may be from someone asking how I’m doing or how things are going. Now, I can send a simple response letting them know I’ll respond in a few hours after finishing something up, which is acceptable. What’s not acceptable is waiting to respond until two hours later. Similarly, if I’m driving all over the city and receive a message, just let the person know that I am driving and will respond later.
It really isn’t that difficult to do. But for some reason, I just haven’t done it recently. I know what needs to be done and how to go about it. I just need to change. All I can do is apologize to those closest to me that are impacted by this and work on getting better. But once again, last night, I slipped back into this bad habit.
2019 has a lot of question marks for me. There is so much that I want to improve on over the remaining months of the year (and beyond into 2020). Writing this article was helpful and therapeutic for me. Trapping these feelings inside has been hard over the last few months. I’m happy that I have finally written them down. It is time to be accountable and make myself better. Hopefully I am looking back at this at the end of the year laughing. But there isn’t a better time to change than now.
Have you worked through similar issues in the past? Do you have any suggestions for personal development in these three areas? Do you think having three goals is too many for this aspect of life? Would it be better to focus on just one?