July 4th 2017, marks exactly one year since I incorporated daily goal tracking into my productivity system. In the past 365 days, I have achieved my daily goals a total of 816 times. At the core of this achievement is my daily accounting of four wildly important daily goals. Sure, there has been many other factors – the books I’ve read, the people I’ve talked or listened to. But at the end of the day, the consistent achievement and accounting of my four daily goals have enabled me to achieve more and stress less. My four daily goals are:
- Four uninterrupted 90-minute time blocks of work
- At least 45 minutes of vigorous physical activity
- Spend at least one hour programming
- Write at least 400 words every day
I chose these four particular goals because each reflects a skill I am either afraid of doing or struggle with doing consistently. For example, for years I have accepted a false narrative that I am just not good at writing. Bullshit I say! If I write consistently every day, I hope to rewrite that self-narrative. Now, any good student of Deliberate Practice knows that merely doing something over time won’t necessarily develop a skill to expert levels. However, what writing at least 400 words every day has given me is confidence that I can indeed write. In order to develop skills in the above areas, it was important I worked on them every day. So like any anniversary, it provides a good opportunity to take stock, reflect on progress, and contemplate the future.
Four uninterrupted 90-minute blocks of work per day
I achieved this goal 228 times in the past year. It equates to an incredible 1,368 hours of focused, deep, uninterrupted work of some kind. I can only imagine how much more I have produced in those 1,368 hyper focused hours. I should not, that 1,368 only counts for the specific periods of timed, uninterrupted work. I spent my time working as efficiently as possible for the remaining 600 hours in the 2000-hour work year. But I what is especially relevant is the quality and quantity of my work for those 1,368 hours.
At least 45 minutes of vigorous physical activity
Over the past year, I have worked out for at least 45 minutes (often more) 200 times. In 200 physical work out sessions, I have ran distances ranging from 5 to 13 kilometres, stretched my body in variety of yoga poses, strengthened my core using Contrology (Pilates), swam 1.2 kilometres many times, and lifted weights beyond previous levels. While I had a setback with my appendix surgery in April, I am now getting back on the beam, and am currently training for the Sydney City to Surf 14 kilometre race in August.
Spend at least 1 hour programming
According to my goal count, I have achieved this goal 142 times in the past year. However, given that I spent about 250 hours programming in March through June alone, I suspect the actual time spent in the past year programming is much higher than 142. That is a lot of code!
Write 400 words every day
Of my four goals, the act of writing is likely my biggest challenge. I had spent plenty of time in university writing papers, but it was rarely a consistent effort. I knew if I wanted to advance as a professional I had to invest time in acquiring writing skills. So on 190 different days, I wrote at least 400 words on a variety of subjects. Often times I wrote for work. Yet I also spent significant effort writing for this lovely blog site. Each day, I marked in my Daily Victory Scorecard file, not only if I met the 400 word goal, but additionally the number of words for that day. After 365 days, I have written a total of 127,176 words (or an average of 669 words per writing day). To put this in perspective, an average fiction novel contains about 80,000 words.
There were certain life events this past year that made working towards any goals on a given day extremely difficult, or downright impossible. In April, for instance, I had my appendix removed, which meant I wasn’t writing, focusing for six hours, or working out. I did however spend time on the hospital bed working on polygon search algorithms for my Principles of Programming class.
In addition, while I do track goal achievement on the weekend, I don’t strive to meet all four goals in a single day. Some Saturdays I hit all four goals and generally take off on Sundays except for a light workout or yoga session. Striving for excellence is great but I will never be at my best if I don’t take time to rest and relax. Proper R and R is tantamount with optimised productivity and goal attainment.
As I look forward to next year, my four daily goals will generally remain the same. I may consider increasing my daily word count to 600. But as they currently stand, my four daily goals continue to sharpen my physical, mental, professional, and spiritual saw. The beauty of tracking my goal counts daily for a year is that I now have a metric to compare for next year. My big goal for the next year – a total goal count of at least 1,000. Here we go baby!