Memorize Your Goals

Here is an off the cuff thought that I think may be fairly promising.

When it comes to productivity, there are several levels going on. In GTD they are called “horizons of focus.” They are:

  1. Mission
  2. Goals
  3. Roles
  4. Projects
  5. Actions

I know a lot of people have a hard enough time just keeping a current project list, and that’s OK. For those that have attained to the level of setting specific goals and writing them down, my suggestion is this: memorize them.

In other words, David Allen’s counsel to have everything “outside your mind” so that your mind doesn’t have to use up its RAM to remember what it has to do does not apply to the higher levels. It is a great principle for the level of projects and actions. But since the higher levels are more big picture by definition, there is not as much to have to remember up there.

In fact, if you want the higher levels (your goals and mission) to govern your choice of projects and actions — which you should — then really there is almost no choice other than to have your goals down cold. It is important to write them down, but if you are actually going to be using them and guiding your actions by them, they have to be in your head as well.

This is possible because you shouldn’t have very many goals. Or, better, each quarter you should identify the most important 3-5 goals for you that quarter. You might have many more longer-term goals. But these quarterly goals need to be kept very few, because otherwise you will not be able to focus on them.

Since they are few, they can be memorized. And since they can be memorized, you can actually be acting on them. If you don’t memorize them, you’ll have the cumbersome step of always having to look back at them whenever you are deciding which projects and actions to focus on. Either that, or you’ll just ignore them.

Just some thoughts. I know that this post actually raises whole fields of issues, such as how to do goals, where to keep them, how to organize them, the nature of long-term goals versus shorter-term goals, and so forth. Thus, I run the risk here of getting a bit out of order, and discussing particulars before having given the larger framework. But, for those who utilize the 30k foot horizon of goals, this is an idea that might be worth considering.

  • Garrett Wishall

    This is an excellent idea. It would particularly be helpful for making big decisions. Having your goals memorized would allow you to make decisions on current projects, action items in a purposeful way.