To Do: Pairing Stretch Goals & Smart Goals

SOLL 27 out of 31

In chapter 11 of the novel Hatchet, Brian begins to think forward and mentally prepare and look forward to what he needs to do to survive as he repeatedly thinks, “There were these things to do.”  As he looks forward and breaks down what things he needs to do, his ultimate focus is on the stretch goal of  wilderness survival. When he begin to break this down into small steps, his actions begin to change and he does what he needs to do. He is not transformed all at once, but these small steps combined with his stretch goals related to survival ultimately lead to his survival and transformation.

For some reason (perhaps the reason is I have taught this book 3 years in a row), when looking at the things I have to do, this quote resurfaces. Mentally preparing tasks has never worked for me because I don’t prioritize well, my goals are unrealistic, I don’t know where to begin, and I can’t remember the items.Physically preparing tasks has never worked for me because I can’t find the list and I don’t maintain a routine long enough to develop a habit.

On yesterday’s blog, I wrote about Charles Duhigg and his book about becoming more productive at work and in life.  I want to try his way of creating and executing a To Do list. Ultimately, I’d like to see if I can say, “There were these things to do, and I did them, habitually, efficiently, and effectively.” Until my Duhigg book comes, I’m relying on reviews and articles about his recent book.  The recent article from Business Insider, “Too Many of Us Make the Same Mistakes with Our To Do Lists–and It Ruins Our Productivity,” outlines Duhigg’s take on writing and executing to do lists.

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Duhigg suggests that you mix stretch goals (ambitious aims that almost seem unachievable) with SMART goals. I have a huge pile of papers, and I still need to figure out what the SMART goals are.

S-specific (what papers)
M-measurable (how many per day)
A-achievable (Per day max)
R-realistic (yup)
T-timeline (chunk it)

My stretch goal is to get ALL papers graded before my break, so that I can truly break without papers awaiting me with a last day grading marathon.

Duhigg tells readers not to cheat. Don’t write what you’ve already done on your to do list. Don’t write the things you do each day that you don’t need to write (showering, eating, etc.), the things that are easy at the top, or things you’ve already done–he calls that mood repair. This is not a feel good psychological repair list. This is about productivity. Hmmmm…this system makes sense. I will work on figuring out the SMART goals, so I can get things done. My stretch goal is designed to remind me of my larger ambition and to show me I’m not checking things off to feel good. My SMART goals keep me from getting lost and help me know what to do next. More on this soon. For now, though, I need to shift my focus to the goals related to family.


IMG_0496Today I’ll be journeying to my brother’s house for some family time. I suppose my Duhigg style stretch goal for that would be to BE PRESENT.

Maybe in the 1.5 hours in the car I will work on those papers.


What I’m wondering is if this system of Duhigg’s will help with the block I’ve always had in the lists–I’m conceptual, I’m big picture. I struggle breaking things down, but this system totally makes sense to me.

  1. Start with the big picture–the stretch goal.
  2. Break it down.
  3. Make it happen.
  4. Achieve.


Maybe, just maybe, I can become a more productive person with some systems that allow me to achieve a better balance between work and home.

For the rest of this month, I will write with the purpose of getting things done. There are these things to do, and more than anything else in this world, I want to get these things done, so that the list on the right becomes a daily reality and so the sadness, regret, and guilt that plague me daily dissipate and are replaced with me becoming the wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend I am meant to be. I believe much of this hinges with To Dos that actually get done.





3 thoughts on “To Do: Pairing Stretch Goals & Smart Goals

  1. As soon as I saw a post about to-do lists, I knew it was the post for me!

    I struggle a lot to get things done in a timely manner. There’s always “next time” until there’s “no time”! At some point in my researching (probably while I was supposed to be doing something else) I found an article that broke things down similarly. When faced with a task, I break it down into steps, I list the materials that will be needed and an expected time, I use a digital timer, and I build in a reward. It’s worked as well or better than anything else I’ve tried before! I am very interested in this book and will be researching that too!


  2. Pingback: Letter of Reflection/Encouragment | From Meandering Maya to Deliberate Maya

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