I used to make a lot of lists.
I made movie lists, book lists, “things to do before you die” lists, shopping lists, travel destination lists, and other lists I can’t even remember now. Well, making lists is nice. It keeps me aware of the things I have to do, or want to do, and when I look at my lists I push myself to accomplish or complete these things. But I also see a lot of stuff left undone, that probably won’t ever get done. So I decided to make an honest list this time: one that consists of realistic goals that I have concrete plans for achieving. (This piece has been written with the guidance of Jon Westenberg’s article “How to Invest in Yourself.”)
Do this with me. But remember, you can’t put any really marginal or unrealistic stuff like “go bungee jumping,” “become president” or “buy an island” on it. I mean, do those kinds of things if you can, but make another list for them, because this one is designed to be simple and achievable. It’s something like a five-year development plan. No, I’m not exaggerating. Not at all.
Step 1: Things That Can Be Done at Once
Let’s start with the simplest things, like cooking a special meal or reading a book. This part of the list is for activities that do not require a sequence of steps, a special skill set or much time. You don’t plan these carefully; you just start doing them and get them done. Find the simple things that you have the resources to accomplish. For example, “try making sushi,” “read ‘Crime and Punishment,’” and “memorize ‘Gülümse’ (a poem by Kemal Burkay)” are on my list.
Step 2: Define the Things That Need to Be Done in Steps
It gets a bit more complicated at this point. In this step, we’re looking at a bigger goal. By complicated, I mean that it requires some work, time and sub-plans. Because we both know that when you write something like “learn German” on your list, it will remain a vague dream. Why? Because it’s not something concrete; you don’t know the limits. For example, by learning German, do you mean getting to the B1 level, or just being able to speak a little German when you visit Germany? So at this point, it’s very important to define the goal. Split your goal into some sub-goals. For example, using the learning-German example, my sub-goals are:
– Take the German II course at Bilkent
– Study German vocabulary from an app for 10 minutes every day
– Get a German A2 certificate from the Goethe Institute
– Find a German pen pal and practice with him/her
Do this for each big goal. Now you have little, reachable goals, and can easily keep track of your progress. Write them down as a list. Then go on to the next step.
Step 3: Things That You Only Need Time to Complete
This is the most fun part. This part of the list is for things that you know you’ll do someday, but don’t need to plan right now. It can be graduating, getting married, buying a Mercedes, visiting Budapest, or even having a laser operation to get your myopia fixed. You see, you don’t need to start working toward them right now, but it can be nice to see them on a list and know that you’ll do them someday.
Preparing this list is easy; being realistic is the hard part. That’s because when making these kinds of lists, we tend to start putting every wild dream we have on the paper, and I think this makes us feel hopeless when we look at the list later. We feel empty when we realize that half of this stuff will just stay on the paper, without a check mark beside it. So, be truthful with yourself, and don’t write down anything that you know you won’t do.
Lastly, take your time. You probably won’t be able to make this list all at once, since it requires large-scale and long-term thinking. At least that’s how it’s been for me. So what I’m doing is carrying the list with me wherever I go, until I’m sure that it’s done. (By the way, you can always use some related visuals to motivate yourself, since the brain understands better when it visualizes stuff.) Good luck with the list!