Excitement: No need for Goals

I have recently noticed something – and maybe you have to. It's related to the work I do on the evenings and weekends which is different than the work I do during the day.

During the day I manage creatives and developers to create software products for very targeted markets. I'm mostly solving tough technical problems, leading people, and spending time on phone calls, all for the same reason – to get software products out the door and in the hands of our customers. During the day I manage staff. My team is across the globe and country. And we do everything with a set of quarterly and even two-month goals. We then set smaller goals (like 2-week ones) and even smaller ones (2 day goals). We do this to make sure we're all on the same page and it's a strategy that works. I have no complaints and my teams are pretty productive.

But in the evenings and on the weekends I do different stuff. You may have heard of software and start-up incubators but that term is mostly focused on sharing physical space and helping people get their projects started. Recently the term business accelerator has made its way into the vernacular because of the success of folks like AngelPad (the guys who helped my buddy Jon Paris, and his startup, Astrid). But those are companies that often gather a group of companies, and help them start up. On the evenings and weekends, I do something similar for software and non-software companies, small start-ups and individuals. But I'm just one guy. I help with brand audits, social media strategy, marketing material creation, web sites, application development, and business strategy. It's a lot to do, and there's never enough time.

So what I have noticed?

I noticed that during the weekends, I don't have any goals set up. Not for the hour, the night, the week, the month or the quarter. But I still get stuff done. 

How is that possible? I wondered, as I made the mental note. In fact, in some ways, I'm more effective, getting way more done in the evenings or weekends (but that may be because I'm hardly ever on phone meetings). I used to hear people talk about managing their time, and I'd correct them. It's not about managing your time – it's about managing your energy, like the good folks at HBR tell us. Now, there's nothing wrong with managing your time, and I love these ways to help (found at mindtools). But I still used to say it was about energy.

But I was all out of energy…

But as I've looked back at a particularly busy period of life these past few months, I've noticed that I conjured up all sorts of extra energy when I needed to have it. When my friends at ROAR needed a little extra push to launch their platform, I pulled two back-to-back all-nighters. Where did that energy come from? When my Orange / Dallas friends (Cara Martens, Julie Pierce & Joy Bowen) needed an extra push to create some great content for their projects, I powered thru several 18 hour days. Where did that come from? When my friend Scott (all the folks I help become friends…) needed a brochure on a fast turnaround for an upcoming fundraiser for DCPI, I cranked out an infographic and brochure in two days. Where did that energy come from? And I even did my own research for my eBook on managing virtual teams, and for an infographic for an upcoming presentation.

In every case, the energy hadn't been there. I was tired already. I had already been to the gym. My body was tired. My day job has been full on it's own. So where did the energy come from?

It's not about Energy (but it's still not about Time)

I was able to muster up the energy I needed quite easily, it turns out. How? Because I was excited. What I didn't need was a goal to get me focused. I didn't need a target or a list of stuff to do. I just needed to be engaged. I needed to be excited about what I was working on. When I was, I'd find (or create) the energy to get something done when I thought there wasn't any time left. My fingers typed faster. My brain pushed harder. And I used the time constraints to drive me to completion.

So what's the trick to getting me to produce more without creating new goals? Get me excited about your project and I may be able to help you out. That's the real distinction between my day job and my other work. But I also look back at my day job and notice that I do the same when I'm excited about a project that we're working on—I work harder, faster, smarter and longer when I'm engaged and excited.

So, what will it take for you to get excited about what's in front of you?

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