How 'perfect day planning' can help your cricket (part 2)
In part one, we found out why planning the perfect day is so important. Today we discuss how to make it a reality.
When you have your perfect day on paper, what happens next?
You need to find out what the practical steps are to making your dreams a reality, and there is a simple process to doing this.
James Hamilton suggests starting by taking a look at your day and sorting out each goal into the following:
- Have now, or can get now.
- Able to achieve or get if you put your mind to it.
- Able to achieve or get with a lot of planning and application.
- Requires a change in the behaviour or attitudes of other people or is impossible.
The first two categories can be the hardest to identify. We tend to assume that our ideal day will be utterly unlike what we do now. We tend to rule out the things that satisfy us now as having any part in some kind of glowing future.
For example, if you want to become a more accurate bowler all you need is a ball, a net, some chalk to mark my target and a free hour or two to practice in. You can get close to your ideal without huge effort and expenditure once you learn how to identify what parts of your perfect day fit into those first two categories.
Category 3 is more like Tim Ferris' dreamlining: The big stuff like travel and career aims that might months or years to achieve. You might be looking to make it as a professional cricketer, or take more wickets in the league than anyone else.
Category 4 is trickier. Most people tend to rule out anything of a type that they haven't managed to achieve in the past. That does not mean it's impossible. You don't have to give up your dream just because it seems too difficult. Be careful not to count yourself out of anything that really would fulfil and satisfy you.
That said, you should be careful of anything that is dependent on the attitudes and behaviours of other people.
You are not fully in control of how your family, friends, team mates, coaches or colleagues treat you. All you are in control of is how you treat yourself. Any goal you have that needs you to hold other people’s strings is impossible.
Anything in category 4 needs to be discarded if it's genuinely impossible.
Time to get things done
Having removed anything you can't control, it's time to get everything else done. This is where the dreaming stops and you start to outline the real, practical and simple steps.
Far and away the best way of doing this can be found in a book called 'Getting Things Done' (GTD) by Management Consultant David Allen.
It's a well tried and proven system in the business world to improve productivity, but it can work just as well for you to make yourself better at cricket. A task is still a task if it is 'go to nets' or 'attend meeting'.
The strength of GTD is that it gives you a place to hold all the practical actions that is not in your brain. Trying to remember everything is bound to failure. How often, for example, do you remember to buy toilet roll when you are standing in the toilet roll aisle in the supermarket?
As Allen say, we are great at having ideas but awful at holding them in our brains. So use a system instead.
So pick up your perfect day listed into the 4 categories, grab a fresh sheet of paper and do the following:
Start with anything that take one simple step (make a phone call, look at a website, cook breakfast) and can be done right now. Do it immediately.
Then take anything that is left that take one simple, clear next action (buy bat, go to nets) and put it in a list. If it's a time based action (like a meeting or a game) put it in some kind of calendar to remind you when it is. If you could do it any time write it on a list called "Next Actions". If you have more than 20 or so next actions you will probably want to subdivide the list into contexts like "Calls" for phone calls you need to make or "Errands" for shopping you need to do (put "buy toilet roll" on the errands list and refer to it when you are in the supermarket).
It's important to make sure that everything at this point is genuinely something you can actually physically do. For example, "Get car fixed" is not a next action unless you are a mechanic and are wearing your overalls. The next action in this case might be "phone garage", because that is something you can do.
You should be left with the things that will take a few more steps to complete. Allen calls these 'Projects'. An example of a small project would be "Get car fixed" as above. A bigger, longer project might be to cement a place in the 1st XI. As a general rule, these projects should not take longer than a year to complete.
From this list of projects you now need to identify the next physical action for each one. Again, take care to really break it down. If you can't do it yourself with the tools you have at hand, it's not a next action.
Add these actions to your Next Action list or calendar from before. If you have more than 20 next actions, subdivide them by context again. Other examples of contexts you can use are "PC" (for example, "subscribe to PitchVision miCoach") and "Cricket Club".
You may find at this point there are some actions you have that rely on someone else to do something. If so, create a list called "Waiting For" and put all those actions in that list.
There may be some things you would like to do one day but don't want to commit to starting just yet. Put these in a list called "Someday/Maybe" and forget about them for now (you can always check back on that list later).
Now you should be armed with the following:
- A calendar with time based items on it
- A list of projects
- A list of next actions (sorted by context if necessary)
You can now start completing those actions and projects, safe in the knowledge you are moving, action by action, towards your perfect day goals.
The GTD system is a bit more involved that what I have outlined here. If you are serious about reaching your goals in cricket (or in work, or the rest of life) I strongly suggest you buy the book. For a quick overview of GTD in general, click here.
Now I want to know your feedback. How are you planning on making your goals a reality and are you using the perfect day or GTD methods to help you? Leave a comment or drop me an email.
(A big thank you to James Hamilton for helping me to tie GTD to goal setting, an article he sent me recently has been a very strong influence on these two articles.)