Goal for the Week

It’s easy for a week to come off the rails. Unexpected meetings start filling your calendar; new tasks clog your inbox out of nowhere; a sudden emergency demands your full attention. At the level of specific items, each one of them might be unexpected. But we can be pretty sure in advance that something unknown is going to arise, even if we can’t predict what it will be. Amidst all this, how do we retain some level of focus, some modicum of attention?

One thing that I’ve found invaluable is to define a goal for the week. I’ll do this as part of my routine first thing on Monday morning. The intention isn’t to list everything that I expect to get done in the week. That’s too much, and besides, I know things are going to come up. Instead, I want to define: what’s the key thing for this week. What’s the lynchpin, the item that’s the absolute most important this week. If I’m able to accomplish my goal for the week, it was a good week. Even if nothing else gets done, it’s ok, and if I’m able to get through more of my to-do list, it’s gravy.

If I’m able to accomplish my goal for the week, it was a good week.

Once I have my goal, I write it down. I want it where I can see it. Then, I want to look at the goal many times during the week and reflect on it. Have I achieved this yet? If not, am I on track to achieve it? If I’m not on course, what do I need to adjust, prioritize, or declare “not happening this week” in order to get my goal done?

I’ll note that on occasion, the fabric of the universe shifts such that I learn mid-week that, for whatever reason, my goal is no longer relevant. If that comes to pass, that’s fine. These things happen. But they don’t happen often. This item was the very most important thing in my world just a few days ago. If my goal goes away too often, I’m going to start getting worried—it’s going to be time to think harder about what’s going wrong.

But most of the time, the most important thing on Monday is only that much more important on Friday. Naming it, writing it down, and regularly reflecting on it has helped keep me focused and better at completing at least this one item a week.

And here’s a little secret to close things out. A week is a handy period, but there’s nothing special about it. Setting a goal for a day, a month, or a quarter is a great idea too.