The setting of goals can be a terribly important step in any project. Unfortunately, it is one which is often forgotten. Yesterday was one of those days wherein I encountered a minor problem in my thesis—a place where the calculations were predicting temperatures which simply aren’t a reasonable answer, which, of course, leads to the question “why”. After checking to be certain there wasn’t a problem with the data entry step of the calculations I discussed the issue with my advisor, who had some guesses as to what factors might cause such an unreasonable answer and sent me off with a couple of things to try—if they turned out they way he suggested they might, we’d have our answer as to what the problem was. Alas, those things didn’t give the expected result, leaving me with the question “now what” just as it was time for the departmental seminar to start.
So I shut down the computer, went to seminar, and went from there to an evening dance class. I went to bed secure in the knowledge that when I got up in the morning I had no place I had to be, and nothing I needed to do to prevent me from putting in many hours of uni work. However, I failed to name for myself a goal for the day—I didn’t select a specific task to be the first thing upon which I would work in the morning.
In the absence of such a goal my day when pretty much as they do when one fails to decide to do some specific task—that is to say I managed to accomplish quite a few useful housekeeping tasks and replied to a few e-mails; the usual sorts of “work avoidance” things that permit us to feel good about doing *something*, even if it isn’t the something we know that we *should* be doing. It wasn’t until after sunset, when my partner commented that he’d accomplished all of his goals for the day that I realized just *why* I’d kept thinking “I should be doing uni work” and kept picking up some other useful task instead. This epiphany having registered, I thought about what still needs to happen before I will be done with the project, and selected a simple, but necessary task, and went to it. A couple of hours later I looked up from said task, surprised to see that time had elapsed, and pleased to have reached a breaking point. Such beautiful results, from such a simple “trick” to get oneself to work!
Needless to say, my list of things I am meant to do on a daily basis (remember to eat, get some exercise, read 1000 words of geologic literature) has just been expanded by one: Decide upon goal(s) for tomorrow.