Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When and How to Increase Goals: 2715.3 to 2727.3 Miles: 12/16/14

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There is an alternate route just before the start of this leg that looks tempting on the map. The route is only 11 miles shorter and there are 129 miles without a guaranteed water source. 

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It looks like stealth camping may be difficult on this leg. Stealth campsites are easier to find after dark. You only have to be out of the area illuminated by headlights. Another option is to lean against a tree (if you can find one) during the day to get naps. Plan on doing more hiking at night. 

When and How Much to Increase Goals


I don't usually set goals in terms of results until after I set them in terms of time. For example, I can plan to work a focused hour a day on a blog post. If I don't finish a post, I wait until the next day to finish it. It's only after I learn to focus completely on a task that I consider increasing the time spent each day. This gives away the whole topic, so I'll use examples.

Walking goals as an example

Suppose a walker starts by walking a half-hour a day six days a week. They shouldn't worry about the miles as they are output and not input. Most people will want to increase their time quickly as they get in shape and possibly walk themselves into injury, fatigue, or loss of interest. This may be a mistake.

Instead of increasing the time quickly, think in terms of progress during the next year. If the person increases only one minute a week, at the end of a year, they will be walking 82 minutes a day. This is almost triple the input and more than triple the output. The reason the output increases more than the time is the pace will likely increase without effort. The catch is to learn to walk the 82 minutes without a break or with one planned short break in the middle.

Learn and improve your focus limit

After two years of writing books, I can still only focus for 20 minutes at a time. After 20 minutes of work, I take a 7 minute break. Everyone has a different focus limit and if possible don't let someone else direct this limit. After eight cycles of this, I need a half hour to an hour break. Many times, I need to end the day.

The key to success is learning your focus limit for an activity and only working focused minutes. Initially, I could only work 15 focused minutes at a time and I gradually increased to 20 minutes at a time. 

The time to increase goals is when a person is able to improve their focus limit.  The amount may only come a minute at a time. It's better to get an hour of focused time than two hours of unfocused time.

Change the process, not the time

The focus limit cannot be changed rapidly no matter how much a domineering boss wants it. If they try to force it, production, quality, or both will decline in the long-term even if the worker works more hours. If the boss truly wanted to improve performance, they would decrease the length of the work day. Yes, that's what I meant to say -- decrease!

The wrong way to decrease the time is to tell a focused worker to work harder. It's not possible. The right way to decrease the time is to improve the process. In a business, that's the boss's job. That's what they get paid for. For the self-employed, they will have to find a  method.

Often, creating a checklist for the current process will improve work flow without effort. For example, here is the process for a blog post on this blog:

  1. Decide subject during morning walk. Write down 3 main points.
  2. Copy top part with pictures from a draft post.
  3. Get and watch animated street view from spreadsheet.
  4. Get weather from spreadsheet.
  5. Write a bit about the route for the day.
  6. Type title in bottom part of post.
  7. Add three main points as sub-headings
  8. Add introduction, support and conclusion for each subheading
  9. Proofread by listening - Send the blog post to my Kindle Fire and listen to it while walking on the treadmill. 
With a written process, I can improve the process. For instance, as I wrote this, I added the "Proofread by Listening" step. It only takes about a minute to send a blog post to the Kindle Fire. There are free apps for this on Amazon.


Improving performance to allow increased goal achievement should be an incremental process over time. First, work on improving focus. Second, increase time slowly within reason. Third, improve the process. Steady progress is more effective than trying to make output leaps.

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