The Three R’s to Help You Succeed!
I previously discussed the importance of having a duplicable and streamlined process. Doing so enables you to more easily and repeatedly utilize an already developed strategy to take you all the way to your destination. However, we know all too well that things do not usually go as we plan them.
In “Power Your Productivity” I wrote:
A roadmap is not a binding contract locking you into a course of action. It’s simply a guide that gives you a more concrete idea of how you get to where you want to go.
Remember this: a roadmap is not just scalable–to match the size of the task; it is also flexible–to deal with unexpected obstacles as they arise.
Whenever you are engaged in a process, you must build into your roadmap checkpoints which allow you to review your incremental progress along the way, in order to ensure that you are efficiently working towards your goal. This key practice applies across the board in a variety of endeavors.
- If your goal is to master your concert repertoire in four months, you need monthly and weekly review points so that you can regularly evaluate whether your progress is appropriate, given the remaining amount of time. Not every review point will cover everything you need to do. Your work should be divided up so that various tasks are spread out among the checkpoints, to maximize effectiveness. If for two weeks, your primary goal is a complete run-through at tempo and your secondary goal is memorization by section, then your review should reflect the relative priority and weight of each. As your immediate tasks shift, your checkpoints move as well.
- We commonly apply the same framework in project management across a range of industries. A project is divided up into multiple tasks and sub-tasks. The overall project and each lower-level task will typically have an owner to report to and a principal who will carry out the task. If they are one and the same, there will be another higher-level person who will be updated on the progress to ensure transparent accountability. Review points are built into the lifespan of the project in order to ensure that each segment of the project is progressing in alignment with the overall plan.
In his seminal work, Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz describes the goal-striving device inherent in every living being as a “built-in guidance system.”  These mechanisms come in two general types:
- The target, goal, or answer is already known. The goal is to reach or accomplish it.
- The target, goal, or answer is unknown. The goal is to discover or locate it.
Our brains operate in both ways depending on what we are faced with. Just as a homing missile or guided torpedo seeks its target, our minds are equipped with the means to move towards our goals. We are equipped with a set of sensory abilities which bring us information on our progress and allow us to gauge our current position within the context of our overall path.
In other words, our senses give us the ability to REVIEW. But review doesn’t help us much if we don’t RESPOND to what we find. Here, Maltz has valuable insights as well:
These “sense organs” keep the machine informed when it is on the correct course (positive feedback) and when it commits an error and gets off course (negative feedback). The machine does not react or respond to positive feedback. It is doing the correct thing already and “just keeps on doing what it is doing.” There must be a corrective device, however, which will respond to negative feedback. When negative feedback informs the mechanism that it is “off the beam too far to the right, the corrective mechanism automatically causes the rudder to move so that it will steer the machine back to the left. If it “overcorrects” and heads too far to the left, this mistake is made known through negative feeedback, and the corrective device moves the rudder so it will steer the machine back to the right. The torpedo accomplishes its goal by going forward, making errors, and continually correcting them. By a series of zigzags it literally “gropes” its way to the goal. 
Once you know if you are off-track, you can look to determine where and how you deviated from your path. Take steps to realign yourself by assessing the distance between you and your ultimate goal. What steps are necessary to correct course?
When you know how you can get back to moving towards your goal, do it!
Finally, once we know that we are headed in the right direction again, the advice is simple. “REPEAT until successful!”
Just as Maltz says: “The machine does not react or respond to positive feedback. It is doing the correct thing already and ‘just keeps on doing what it is doing.’”
REVIEW and RESPOND help you to identify what is working and filter out what is hindering you. Once you know what works, simply duplicate that again and again. You should expect to be faced with negative feedback again, either while working towards your current objective or a future one. What do you do when that happens? Go back to your self-checking process, find what helped you achieve success, and REPEAT those steps, once again!
This is the final installment of the “How to Get Things Done” series. Thank you for seeing it through to the end. Remember that although there is no 100 percent guaranteed way for you to do everything as easily or as quickly as you might wish, the steps outlined in this series will go a long way to helping you make your tasks more manageable and your goals more achievable.
 Maltz, Maxwell. Psycho-Cybernetics, New York: Pocket Books (Division of Simon & Schuster), 1960: 16.
 Ibid., 19-20