Does this sound familiar to you? I’m in the middle of reading three books, I’ve got two online courses I’ve registered for but not completed, and a big project I want done by the end of the year. Progress on any of these fronts is incremental at best.

Why? Perhaps it’s because the day-to-day continues to fill your plate or, perhaps, it’s because you don’t know where to start toward any of these things or, perhaps, it’s because you haven’t yet made the connection between these deliverables and your goals and aspirations.

Whatever the reason, you are likely a bit frustrated by your inability to complete the items you said were important to you. The first thing we’re going to do is to look up…by this I mean, stop looking at each of the tasks that consumes your day (the weeds) and let’s get a clear picture of the landscape.

I’ve seen this quote attributed to many and find it a strong beacon when I get lost in the weeds, “Plan the work and work the plan.” In order to do this, I’d suggest spending a bit of time gaining some clarity on your goals. What does success look like to you? You could bound this question a bunch of different ways. What does success look like to you in this project? What does success look like to you at the end of this year? What does success look like to you in your career? You get the idea.

Let’s say I frame success in the following way. By the end of the year I will have firmly established Dragonfly Coaching with multiple offerings. Now, as I look at those three books, only one of them will help me achieve this goal. The same goes for the online courses. So, I’m going to give myself permission to put those other two books and that second online course on the shelf for now. I may come back to them at some point but, at the moment, they are a distraction. That big project, though, is integral to my plan of having multiple offerings.

Armed with that clarity of focus, I’ll start to align my time — my calendar — with these priorities. First, I will take a hard look at the commitments that already consume my daily agenda and ask myself three questions:

  1. Will this commitment advance me toward my goals?

  2. Is this a commitment that only I can attend to?

  3. Does this commitment need to be attended to now?

When the answer to all three of these is “yes,” then it stays firmly on your calendar but, where the answer to any of the three is “no,” there is an opportunity to renegotiate that commitment. This may mean delegating it, delaying it, or simply declining, if appropriate.

With these commitments in place, you are now able to see the space in your calendar and to begin to fill it with the tasks that will move you forward toward your goals. This may mean carving out small, or large, chunks of time. As an example, I could plan an hour a day to read the book. I could block a module a week from the online course onto my calendar. I could set aside a day a month to tackle the project.

It is easy to get caught in the weeds. It takes diligence to stop, lift your gaze, and ensure that you are still headed in the direction of your goals. But, that momentary pause, and whatever course correction you may need to make, will see you making significant progress toward that destination.