Techniques To Make You More Effective At Reaching Long-Term Goals

After-Action Reports

I borrow this idea from a former student of mine who spent some time in Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror. After each mission that his unit carried out, they would sit down as soon as possible and write up what they called an after-action report. These reports consisted of three main questions: what went right, what went wrong, and what do we need to do differently next time? Applying these questions to mission planning later meant that tactics and equipment could be honed over time.

That same skill applies to us. If my goal, again, is to lose weight and I do a workout that makes me tired but hurts my joints, my after-action report might come to the conclusion that working out is good, injuries should be avoided, and thus, next time, I should do a different kind of exercise. Putting your actions into this framework, every time you do something that aids you in achieving your goals puts you a little closer to refining effective tools and tactics that are tailored to your needs. An after-action report is simple to do and you can do it in your head, bu

Beware Burnout

Rome was not built in a day. It was built by people and took centuries. Each and every one of those human beings required food, water, and sleep. As do you.

Especially when we start working towards goals, the initial enthusiasm will carry you through long nights, hard workouts, and the like. But that enthusiasm will fade. Ask any graduate students in your life how they really feel six years into a Ph.D. Excited is not a word they will use.

When the enthusiasm and newness are gone, you will need a base upon which to fall back. To keep that base strong, keep the fundamentals in mind. Try to get eight hours of sleep if you can. Do not work weekends if you can avoid it. Eat well, and cut down on caffeine and alcohol. That way, when you do need to pull an all-nighter to make some insane deadline, then you have a fair shot at doing it.

Treat your goals as marathons rather than sprints. If you have been keeping a reasonable pace, then you can still sprint when you need to. If you have been outpacing yourself for too long, however, you will burn out and end up having to play catch-up later, which is even harder after burning out.

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