What Are We Doing? Why Are We Doing It? Will It Feel Better When We Stop?

Dec 29, 2010   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Professional Development  //  9 Comments

These three little questions were on the board one day when we walked into our Signals and Systems class in our second year of university.  The class was all about applied mathematics related to control signals and systems and included some complex methods to solve the equations.  The concepts were tough and all of us struggled with it to the point that the average grade on the mid-term exam was 27%.  After the mid-term’s were graded, the professor started the next class with the three questions shown above.  His point was to get us to look at the big picture of what the class was about and why we were doing it and how it fit in with our courses overall.

imageOver the last little while I’ve seen a number of people talking about what they are working on right now, how busy they are, how much time they spend online, getting to Inbox Zero (yeah, as if I’ll ever get near that…) and a whole host of other things.  There are lots of theories and books including Getting Things Done, Priority Management, and First Things First.

These are all great for helping us get where we are going, but do we know where we are going?  In First Things First one of the key things is to actually come up with a plan and goals.  But I think we all slip up on this by doing the “Urgent – Important” and “Urgent – Not Important” things without putting aside any time for the big picture planning.  I know that it is too easy to let time slip away and continue to work on the daily/weekly/monthly things and go through life without a vision of where we want to be or the goals we want to achieve.

So here we are at the end of 2010 and as we think about the year and decade that is just ending, let’s look back at what we’ve done and achieved and how far we’ve come.  But don’t forget to look at what we want out of the next year, 5 years, 10 years and so on.  Then we can set the milestones that go with that and make sure that what we are doing is helping us to get where we want to be.  Otherwise we’ll be sitting here on December 29, 2011 wondering where the last year went….like I am on December 29, 2010.


  • So what are your plans for 2011?

    • Karen,
      In 2011 I plan to:
      1. Make sure I stop at the next exit after the stop request is made…
      2. Learn to sleep with one eye open…
      3. For the rest, I’m not sure yet…

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karen Lopez. Karen Lopez said: What Are We Doing? Why Are We Doing It? Will It Feel Better When We Stop? http://goo.gl/fb/0rIso […]

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about this type of thing lately. This year, I read The 4-Hour work week and watched @angielim quit her “awesome” job at Microsoft to move to Costa Rica for a job at a surfing school. Both of these were highly motivating.

    I really need to figure out exactly what the hell I want, what I’m willing to pay to get there, and get to work paying that price.

    Thanks for the post.

    • John,
      Thanks for the comment. I think we all struggle with this at different times in our lives. It’s hard to put the time and effort into thinking and wrestling with the whole “what do I want to be when I grow up”. We all struggle with it for our careers and what we do for a living, what we know and want to learn, etc. This is one of the things that I think we put off thinking about until later, but it just delays it. We just have to take the time to do it and I’m as guilty as the next guy about procrastinating on this.

      The hard part is not to get discouraged by where we are, what we don’t know and how far we feel we still have to go. It’s easy to compare ourselves to someone else and say “I wish I knew what he/she knows”. I think it’s important to think about and celebrate what we already know and how far we’ve already come. And if you really do want to be in a different place, put the plan together to get there.

  • Just remember that real life happens on our way to accomplish our goals. Enjoy every minute.Let your work accomplishments each day be your rewards, but remember that PEOPLE, and our relationships with them, are all that really matter in the end.

  • Gliding along in my middle years, it’s only now that I’m watching the older generation meet the challenges of retirement, that prompts me to try to plan for the future I want — for the rest of my career and into retirement.
    Then I get off the phone with someone who’s wife is out selling her body for medical experiments to make ends meet and I come back to what John Lennon sang. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
    It’s great to plan and work your plan, but there’s also a skill/quality to being able to handle what life throws at you. Someone recently told me this is called ‘resilience’ and we should teach it to our children.

  • Sue/Jane,
    Great comments and I think the key in both of them is that while we need to be looking forward to the future we need to enjoy the ride and what’s happening right now. And yes, there are things that will happen that won’t necessarily be enjoyable that we’ll just have to suck it up and get through. And as they say “That’s life” and we do need to be resilient and have strength when unexpected things happen, but still remember life is a journey and it’s the journey as much as where we are going that’s important.

  • […] a previous post I talked about needing a plan so we could see the big picture of where we wanted to go so we could […]

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