Reaching your goals and getting things done isn’t always easy. Some people are doers. They are reliable and can be counted on to always get things done, often before the deadline. Others are planners. They want to get things done and have lots of plans, but they struggle to make progress on those plans and are often late. You might be tempted to call them lazy, but lack of motivation might not be the problem. Often such people work very hard, but there are a lot of false starts and wheel spinning. If you are a planner, how can you overcome barriers to success?
What’s the Difference between Doers and Planners?
Doers are what is called action oriented. They are able to set goals at school or at work, come up with plans to reach those goals, and execute. Planners are state oriented. They set goals and come up with plans to reach those goals. They know what they want and how to get there. But somehow they fail to execute those plans for three reasons.
- Failure to Launch. They can have a difficult time getting started. Other things seem to get in the way, as they can be distracted by competing goals or friends who can pull them in a different direction.
- Getting Distracted. They get started but are distracted by something that captures their attention and efforts. This might be e-mail, peers, social media or any number of distractions that are all around us each day.
- Getting Bogged Down in Details. Planners can be perfectionists who get stuck trying to make something perfect. I see this with doctoral students in their writing that they revise over and over trying to make it as good as they can before showing it to their professors. They can be their own worst critics, unwilling to let go and proceed with the next step of the plan to reach their goals.
Overcome Barriers to Success
If you are a doer, you know how to remain focused, screen out distractions, and get things done. You know when something is good enough. If you are a planner, there is still hope that you can overcome barriers to success by avoiding the three reasons that people fail to reach their goals. To do that, I provide these five tips.
- Seek structure. Planners have the most difficult time when tasks are unstructured. I have seen many doctoral students thrive in classes where there are deadlines for assignments, but they struggle with activities with little structure and no hard deadline. Sometimes students will ask me to impose deadlines that can help them stay focused. An effective strategy for many people is to ask for deadlines from their professors, supervisors, or others. Another strategy is to create your own deadline and committing yourself to it by making a promise to another person.
- Set mini-goals. As a college student, I would plan out my entire semester the first week of classes by setting mini-goals for each week and even each day. I would set mini-goals for the reading of each textbook chapter and each assignment. This helped me stay focused and avoid the failure to launch problem.
- Avoid distractions. Set aside work time when you turn off e-mail and all your electronic devices. Some people find that they need to work in places where they can be away from other people who might distract them. For some that means working at home away from colleagues and coworkers. For others it means working in the office or at school, away from family and friends. Still others find their best working spot is at a coffee shop or library.
- Seek Feedback. When you work on something, it is easy to get bogged down in trying to make it perfect and reach the point of diminishing returns. You keep working away, but the product isn’t really getting better. At this point what can be most helpful is to get feedback from someone who can look at what you have done and provide suggestions for improvements. Not only can this help you become unstuck by providing a new direction, it can give you renewed confidence as the feedback shows you that what you have done a good job, and you work is not the terrible mess you thought.
- Look with Fresh Eyes. I do a lot of writing, and one thing I discovered is that you can lose perspective on the quality of your own work and need to step back and reset. This means setting the work aside and working on something else for a while. Many times I will work on something for a few hours, and then take a break to work on something else. When I return another day, I have an easier time seeing the strengths and flaws, and the place where I was bogged down is not so difficult to get past.
All of us have times when we struggle to get things done. If this is you more often than you would like, you should first take stock of where your lack of progress occurs. Are you having trouble starting, getting distracted, or getting bogged down? Then try my five tips to overcome your barriers to success.
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