Monday, April 23, 2007

When a Laudable Intermediate Goal becomes a Cop-Out

As a reward for taking a week off in early March, I was greeted by over 240 emails on my return. I whittled and deleted and responded, with the objective to get the pile down to no more than 10 unread emails at any point in time.  That goal of 10 became a lure for me, beckoning my efforts, mocking me when I'd go to a meeting only to return to 25 more emails that arrived in the meantime.
It took a couple of weeks, but I succeeded.  I got the unread pile to 10 and have kept it there since. That's the good news.
I observed last week that the 10 unread email remained the same 10 as days earlier.  I was not dealing with emails and then seeing them replaced with a new crop.  No, I was consistently (and quite comfortably) ignoring the same 10 requests for action that I really didn't want to deal with.  The goal of 10 became a cop-out. 
A very human reaction.  But it illustrated to me the allure of goals that are almost, but not quite, an ultimate objective.  I failed to push the goal farther upon reaching it.
It can happen in any process.  It was simply painfully clear to me when it took place on my inbox. 
Interestingly, I cut the goal to 5 today.  As I left work, there were only 2.  And they just came in today...they will be dispatched in the morning.
Keep pushing your goal.  And keep learning.

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