I have been working on self-optimisation and productivity for 13 years. It's a journey that began shortly before my graduation from university, and it had to do with the fact that I suddenly no longer had any externally determined goals (=finish school and university with good grades) and had to make up my mind about the meaning of life and my goals derived from that.
I have changed a lot since, but the real breakthrough came just recently. My performance, effectiveness, and overall happiness have taken a quantum leap in the last two years. It was not a linear change as in the years before, but a sudden one. It feels like a breakthrough moment for my self-optimization journey in retrospect.
A simple mindset change helped me break through an inner barrier that held me back.
So what changed? I developed the aspiration to become the master of my agenda and have consistently pursued this ideal ever since.
Before that, my agenda was externally driven. Childhood, school, basic military service and university were externally determined per default. But even after that, I spent 7-8 years working on other people's agendas instead of my own. The reason is simple: I didn't have an agenda of my own, and it was convenient to follow someone else's agenda.
What do I mean by that? Well, I did all the tasks thrown at me, not only by the boss but also by my colleagues. My primary intent was to help others in the company to achieve their goals. I put my plans aside for this.
Don't get me wrong: I think that's okay, especially at the beginning of your career and in your 20s, respectively, an excellent tactic to learn how things work and who you want to be and what to achieve. But you can't spend your whole life drifting like a butterfly in the wind. At some point, you must recognize your direction and pursue it even against resistance.
Why become the master of your agenda?
My trigger for my change was a bitter disappointment that was the straw that broke the camel's back. My reactive mindset wasn't leading me to what I truly desired, and my disappointment about this had risen to an unacceptable level.
Here are eight symptoms that may show that you are also ready to become the master of your agenda:
- You increasingly recognize the wrong decisions of others because you can better assess situations through your experience and know-how. In many cases, you intuitively know what works and what doesn't.
- You have developed a compass of values and want to communicate and enforce it against groupthink. You do not accept, for example, that people talk behind colleagues' backs and actively speak out against it.
- You don't let your peers put social pressure on you to act and behave a certain way.
- You may not yet be able to put into words exactly what your goal and purpose in life are, but you are beginning to see a direction and are pursuing it rigorously.
- You recognize your time's value and finite nature and want to use it to pursue your own goals and not just fill it with work of other people's agendas.
- You are tired of ineffectiveness and overhead activities. You want to achieve your goals in the shortest possible way and are willing to break conventions and cut red tape ("it's always been like this...").
- You realize that everyone else puts their trousers on one leg at a time, the same as you do. Your opinions, views and ideas are neither more nor less valuable and correct than those of others.
- You sense that your colleagues/peers are looking to you for direction. You are actively asked to express your goals and opinions.
How to become the master of your agenda?
You don't have to be 100% master of your agenda. Your circumstances may not allow that. It is enough to stop being agendaless!
1 - Know your "Why"
To become the master of your agenda, you need to have a clear understanding of what your goals are. Once you know what you want to achieve, you can develop a plan of action to make it happen. One of the most important things to remember is that you control your destiny. No one else can dictate what you do with your life.
2 - Create an Agenda
An agenda doesn't just happen; it must be developed through a strategic planning process and regularly reviewed and updated. This starts with defining your life areas ("contexts") and ends with concrete tasks. In the following two articles, you will see how I do this planning and where I maintain it.
3 - Allocate time
You need to be proactive and take charge of your agenda. One way to do this is to set aside time each day to work on your goals. You may need to sacrifice some of your leisure time to get things done, but it will be worth it in the end.
4 - Focus & Simplify
If you spend your time pursuing both your work tasks and your personal projects, time will always be in short supply. You may also have too many goals, tasks and projects and become mentally overloaded. My tip: identify what is essential in all areas of your life and focus on that. What's your critical path in your main job? What's the critical path in Health & Fitness? What's the critical path in your project? Everything else you should discard. Motto: Subtraction beats addition every single time!
5 - Don't break the chain
You don't become master of your agenda over an ambitious weekend. Cadence and perseverance make the master. It would be best to think about which daily habits represent your intentions and execute them daily over dozens or even hundreds of days. The Habits must become second nature. Only then will your change be sustainable and lead to success in the end.
6 - Be present in life
Building your agenda can not come out of anywhere. You need a seed from which your agenda develops. This seed is your identity and inner compass deep inside you. The problem is that many people do not feel their identity because they are not at peace with themselves and are not practised in working on it through reflection and mindfulness. Fears and expectations hold them back. This also needs to be worked on in addition to the "logical" aspects of the agenda.
7- Be clear about your decisions
Your agenda not only includes your plans and goals but your agenda also includes a common thread along which you can make decisions. What is right and what is wrong? What is to be done, and what is to be omitted? In which direction does your project or team need to develop?
When you make decisions based on your agenda, it is vital that you communicate clear "yes" and unambiguous "no". With a half-baked "yes", you will only confuse yourself and your environment. Motto: It's either a hell yes, or a hell no. Follow your intuition!
Benefits: If you develop your own agenda, many things will simplify.
As I mentioned in your introduction, building your own agenda is essential to being effective. You can optimize your efficiency as much as you want with productivity improvements - if you don't apply that to your agenda, it won't help you to become effective in succeeding in life.
Developing your own agenda takes a lot of energy and time, but it's worth it. It's like sharpening an axe. With your agenda, many things will come more easily to you:
- Your free time will become much more high quality as you fill it with your intentions instead of just procrastinating and entertaining.
- It will be easier to make decisions because your agenda gives you a goal that is intuitively woven into all your actions.
- You find it easier to say no to unessential tasks because you know that for every "yes", you would have to put your plans in the back.
- Other people will appreciate your intentionality and deliberateness.
- You will find it easier to "just be yourself". You don't have to wear masks behind which you hide the real you. That only costs unnecessary energy. Instead, you proudly carry your agenda in front of you.
- You will be more fundamentally satisfied because you know you're spending your time on the most meaningful thing: pursuing your desires, ideas and plans.
- You feel in control, and this makes you feel powerful. In many jobs, it feels like you're just a cog in the wheel. You have no control. But control is essential to feel a purpose. When you reclaim some of your time for your pursuits, you also reclaim control; the purpose gained from it will make you happy.
I've already linked to a few other articles from this blog in the appropriate places above. Sign up as a free member if you are further interested in becoming the master of your agenda to succeed in life. You will then be informed about my new posts by email.