Europe’s mid-eighties stadium rock masterpiece is rapidly becoming the soundtrack to my life, as I enter the last few days of working and of living in my home of the last 18 years. With a LONG list of admin and packing jobs, as well as a busy calendar of farewell socials, the pressure to get everything done is acute, and feels greater as each day counts down.
I’ve been counting down to this point since 2015 and ticking off a day then was an equal measure of time as it is now, but the significance is greater when the number remaining is much smaller. I can now empathise with Einstein and his theory that time can speed up!
For many years I have subscribed to the idea of the End Effect, which I first read about in Mark Forster’s work on time management. Think back to the last time you went on holiday, or back to December in the days before your Christmas break. Were you more productive, as you sought to clear tasks before the break?
It is definitely something I have observed over time in myself, and in clients who get so many of their action points done in the days before our next session. Humans seem to have a propensity for drift, and then a need to speed up to compensate for the drift when we face a hard deadline like a holiday, or a retirement day. My social calendar has seen the same effect – I’ve been banging on about going away for years, but many people seem to have only just realised they want to see me before I go!
How can we use the End Effect to improve our productivity? Obviously, I strongly advocate retiring to boost your focus but even in the absence of such a deadline, we can create mini deadlines against which we work. You could punctuate your year with regular holidays so you become focussed on completing tasks in the gaps between them. You could have quarterly (or more frequent) meetings to check progress on projects and goals.
But I have seen many people, including me, have regular reviews or progress meetings and still suffer enormously from drift. The trick, it seems, is to have real accountability, ideally to an external reference point that focusses the mind before the review stage: tax return deadlines are a great example. Mastermind groups or success clubs have a similar effect if run well, and I saw their power with my clients over many years.
Making clear commitments to actions by a date to a third person such as a business coach or success club seems to activate some part of our character that doesn’t want to let down others, or be seen to “fail” in public. We seem as humans to fear letting others down more than letting ourselves down. I can’t explain it, but I can suggest using it.
If for some reason something went wrong and I didn’t retire on 28 Friday, I would obviously be very personally disappointed. But my greatest fear would be turning up to a networking event in March, shrugging my shoulders and saying “Oops”.
So, how can you use this in your daily life? Regular readers will have read my blog on the value of having a Goal, supported by a Plan and delivered by daily, or frequent, Actions. I strongly advocate having 90 Day Plans to give you frequent “Final Countdowns”. Have a week or two off every 12 weeks, and focus on what needs to be done before your next holiday.
Schedule those actions into weeks within the twelve (don’t leave all of them to the last week) and then be clear on what you need to do TODAY to honour your commitments. And tell someone – be accountable.
- have a bigger life goal
- know the 90-day steps towards that goal
- plan weekly activity to deliver the 90-day steps
- Take daily actions to complete the weekly activity.
You may not be heading for Venus, like the somewhat unimaginative Europe lyrics, but you may still stand tall if you reach your own personal goals. For many years I have said that the biggest enemy of success is drift. All of us can put off something until tomorrow. But at some point we become aware that our tomorrows are limited. So don’t waste your todays.