This article is written by Abhyuday Agarwal, COO, LawSikho.
Your ability to fulfil your dreams is based on achieving big goals in your life. Many people fail to achieve their dreams not because they are incapable, but because they abandon their pursuit of big goals.
When you pursue big goals, what indicators can you use constantly to identify relevant actions and track progress everyday?
How can you identify and deal with the most important tasks?
How can you stay connected to the bigger goal everyday, despite engaging in routine or monotonous work?
Irrespective of whether you are working at a job, running your own business or pursuing your passion, you will need to deal with this question.
Conventional wisdom states that to achieve big goals, one must be able to break them down into smaller milestones, and work on them everyday.
However, this step is insufficient to identify what are our daily priorities, and what results must be produced everyday to make progress.
For example, assume that you want to build a full-service law firm in 5 years with a 50 crore turnover and 100 international institutional clients which regularly give you work. You cannot predict each step of the journey on your first day.
Now, we can identify some key milestones to achieve this goal. One key milestone could be to build a website, or another one could be to find a partner, establish an office, earn revenues of 1 crore in the first year, and triple revenues every subsequent year.
Now, breaking down the milestones above into daily deliverables can be very complex.
Moreover, you will need to pursue more than one milestone at a time. For example, you may be simultaneously working on building networks that leads you to getting the kind of work you want to do while trying to keep your partnership intact. You may struggle with keeping quality of the work done by your firm consistent while trying to hire talented lawyers and grow your team. You may struggle to manage your finances well while you are still aspiring to grow fast. You will not only do client work but also have to invest time and resources towards training your associates and tracking their performance.
Given this situation, how will you assess which actions you should take everyday?
It is possible that instead of achieving the goal in 5 years, you take 8 years or 10 years. However, the pursuit and the journey still remain worthwhile.
However, while you are on the path, how can you know that you are doing the right things, proceeding in the right direction and making the right kind of progress?
In the beginning, when you will struggle with the very basics, your big goal of building a law firm with INR 50 crore turnover may look very different and also disconnected from the current status of things, and the ongoing tasks, such as finding an office, onboarding a partner, working on current clients, ensuring profitability of your practice, etc.
Most people do not spend time and energy connecting their everyday tasks with their bigger goals. They cannot identify how their actions today will stack up to the big goal they want to achieve.
This leads to the death of the big goal. Over time it evaporates. When you forget your dream, you are not going to just stumble upon it by chance.
I recently recognized certain barriers which I personally faced in this department.
- Doubting that I can achieve the big goal (even an iota of doubt can destroy everything)
- Not trusting that the steps I have identified are correct to lead me towards the goal
- Worrying about other steps rather than working exclusively on what I currently have at hand.
The doubt in my mind let to uncertainty and anxiety, and lack of faith in the steps made me experience tremendous pressure while working.
Although I produced results, working itself was very exhausting.
People around me did not notice this because I am generally very good at what I do, but I felt that there must be a way to produce results with greater ease.
Accidentally, on one of those days when we were taking a training session on drafting and the legal system of India for HR managers at ITC, I was really busy with teaching and could not keep track of what was happening in our Delhi office.
To deal with that situation, I accidentally chanced upon a new question:
What will move the needle today?
I could deal with what was urgent in a couple of hours, and I realized that I did not have any other emergency.
I thought of asking myself this question everyday at work, not when I face emergencies, but with respect to achieving my goals on a daily basis.
What will move the needle today? [in connection with my goals]
I must answer this before starting any activity.
I am practicing stopping all work, getting off my computer and mobile phone if don’t answer this question. This means that there are many times when I am perplexed and have no idea about what I must do next.
But it enables me to think and identify what is relevant.
Finding the answer to this question every day and stopping an activity which makes me ‘busy’ is very difficult. It requires me to think. It is easier to say this than to implement it in my life.
A lot of times the tasks at hand are relatively easy and not time-consuming. For example, having a difficult conversation may take only 15 minutes, but it may move me forward in a big way.
Until I consciously identified that it was necessary to move the needle for the day, I could avoid the conversation.
Not anymore, because I needed to move the needle.
This question also forces me to think of how everyday tasks are steps to achieve the big goals, which I can miss otherwise.
Now, most people are ‘busy’ at office work, college projects, examinations, moot courts or some other task without answering this question. They spend days, months and years at it. They are too busy to even answer this question.
It enables them to avoid performing the tasks that matter. For example, learning a new area of law, or negotiating an increase in salary, quitting your job, asking your boss to give you more work, etc.
Avoiding this question will lead to dissatisfaction, slowdown, boredom, frustration, anxiety or similar unproductive emotions over time.
For years, I thought that to realize ambitious goals, such as improving the state of legal education in India, I must work for 18 hours everyday.
Guess how I fared at this standard? I used to fail everyday, except maybe once in a month.
It felt horrible, and my self-esteem suffered. Imagine how it would feel to fail every day to fulfil the standards you set for yourself.
I realized that the standards themselves were incorrectly set.
I had not considered the right questions when I was setting the standards.
Now, I can experience the satisfaction of making progress in even 3 hours of work. This does not mean that I need to work three hours per day, but it means that I can make a lot more things move in an 8-hour work day than I could earlier with a 12 or 14 hour work day.
How could I achieve results in 3 hours which I was unable to achieve even in 12 hours? What is the explanation for that?
There were many difficult tasks I was avoiding doing, and to justify my avoiding them I took up a lot of other tasks to fill up my day.
But some key aspects did not move. The regret of not doing what was difficult but necessary left me empty.
You can only imagine how my life has started to improve after discovering this question.
I am able to free up time to spend on my self-development. I can take out time to relax and rejuvenate.
It enables me to be present to the situation when I am interacting with my friends, discussing a new project whose future is uncertain with a senior, or interacting with my wife.
I am not so rigid about when I work and when I rest. I can work at odd hours, and rest in the middle of work if I am tired.
As I practice this method more rigorously, I intend to improve the results I achieve in an 8 hour workday even further.
Hence, I thought of sharing my discovery with you.
I know that many working professionals face stress at work. Entrepreneurs struggle to find out what tasks must be done today and what can be parked for later. Even college students face this kind of pressure, with respect to exams, project submissions and other college activities. They are unable to spend time working on their passion, at internships, or even to pursue their own learning.
Many of you believe that you cannot take out one hour per day to study a Lawsikho course because you are preoccupied with college or office work. Some of you even worry about what will happen if you are unable to submit assignments for a month because you were working on the closing of a transaction, or an audit assignment or preparing for exams.
My suggestion is the same: stop all work. Answer the question: What will move the needle today?
Here’s another tip to ensure you always answer this question successfully – there is always something that that can move the needle today. You can find it if you apply your mind and think hard enough.
This discovery has altered the way I visualize my day.
Do share with me how you plan to apply this in your life, any results or challenges you face in the process by replying to this email.
If one of your goals is to learn the law, you can move the needle today. The following courses are open for enrolment:
Executive Certificate Courses
Certificate Course in Legal Practice Development and Management
Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy Certificate
Certificate Course in Consumer Litigation
Certificate Course in Trademark Licensing, Prosecution and Litigation
Certificate Course in Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) Litigation
Certificate Course in Companies Act
Certificate Course in Labour, Employment and Industrial Laws for HR Managers
Judgment Writing and Drafting Course for Judicial Services