Well, every day I get a little more excited about the Austin Marathon. Last week someone asked me when I was going to run my next marathon and she misheard me as saying “Boston” instead of “Austin.” I had to laugh. I WILL be at the Boston Marathon this year, but once again I’ll be there as a cheerleader for Bill instead of as a participant. No, Austin is my next race. I didn’t have to qualify to get in.

I’ve been training all of 2013 to improve my running and to get ready for Austin, as you know. I’ve changed my cadence, learned better posture, sped up my paces in the 10K and half marathon distances, and put in many miles of speed work–something I thought I’d never bother with. I’ve enjoyed changing up my routine. In the past, I’ve focused only on logging miles; this past year I’ve pushed myself in new ways.

As the race draws near, I’m anxious about meeting my goal: To shave an hour off of my average 5:30 marathon time.

But one thing I’ve always believed is that each day of the journey is as important as the destination. Whatever my finishing time in Austin turns out to be, I’ve grown as a runner and as a person, and I hold that growth as a high value.

So now that 2014 is here and I have new goals to reach for, I’m strategizing once again to meet benchmarks along the way. I promised I’d write a blog about each of the four strategies I consider crucial to the meeting of any goal. Remember, the four strategies for success are scheduling, accountability, evaluating/measuring progress, and overcoming roadblocks.

 

Strategy #1–Scheduling:

CalendarI believe that if something doesn’t end up on the calendar, there is little chance it will happen. Once something is on the agenda for a specific date and time, it’s likely to get done. For years, I kept long “to do” lists next to my desk and worked through them, crossing off tasks as I went. I still keep such lists, but what I’ve discovered is that I tend to work on the items that are easiest to complete and leave the difficult or labor-intensive tasks on the list indefinitely.

Some people (like my husband, Bill) have iron wills and can gut their way through difficult tasks. Such people can delay their fun and will put down their metaphorical plows only when their hard work is complete. I’ve never been like this. I am (like many, many people I know) a little lazy and undisciplined by nature. To overcome my tendency to avoid hard work, I’ve learned to put my work on my calendar. So, every time I HOPE to spend a couple of hours writing or HOPE to get in a long run, I write it on my agenda. From 2:00 to 4:00 today, for example, I’ll be working on my new book proposal. At 5:00 I have an important phone call to make. Other things I put on my calendar are: Run 4 miles. Edit client’s work. Write blog post. Send out newsletter. If I ever miss an appointment with you or forget to do something I said I would do, I guarantee it never made it onto my calendar.

The thing is, many of the big goals we have (training for a marathon, writing a book, or learning to play the violin, for example) cannot be done in one sitting; they cannot be checked off of a “to do” list because they are long term commitments. Big goals take a bit of inspiration and faith in ourselves. But inspiration and faith are fickle friends; they come and go unbidden. The calendar, on the other hand, is a faithful, insistent taskmaster–reliable and immutable.

So, what is your big goal this year? When are you putting in the hours? Tuesday from 8am to 10am? And what time are you working on your goal next week? And the week after that? If you don’t currently schedule time to work toward your goals in the same way you would schedule a doctor’s appointment, give it a try. Scheduling works.