“You failed your communications course. You’re not going to be able to graduate college this semester.”
I read and re-read and re-read that email. My cheeks flushed in embarrassment. It felt like hundreds of eyes in the library were lurking over at me. I hunched in front of my screen so no one could see FAILURE written in bold letters on my final grade report.
My communications course was one of those blow-off classes that didn’t require attendance. You didn’t have to show up, and you didn’t have to know much. All you had to do was walk in, take the test, and you were pretty much guaranteed an A. But halfway through the semester, as I was out of the routine of thinking about it, I forgot I was enrolled in that class. I missed the final exam completely. I failed the course. I didn’t graduate. I…
That dream haunted me every semester (literally) throughout my undergrad experience. It’s that gripping sensation of failing at something because you forgot all about it.
I stopped setting New Year’s resolutions a few years back because I had the same thing happen. I’d show up to the first few days of my goal. But come June, I all-of-a-sudden remembered—oh yeah, I had planned to be (insert resolution here) this year.
While none of us intend to give up on our goals, it happens slowly and imperceptibly. If we don’t consistently remind ourselves what we’re after, it’s easy to make small decisions to satisfy what we want now and sacrifice what we want in the end. Keeping our long-term desires in our sights helps us make better decisions in the moment.
To break that habit of starting and forgetting, I created a “Command Center” to consistently keep my goals in front of me. While remembering what we set out to do doesn’t automatically mean we’ll follow through with it, it reminds us why we should. Here are the three simple steps to setting up your own and succeeding at your goals this year:
- Pick somewhere you see every day. Set it up somewhere that will haunt you as you walk by. Somewhere that shouts “LOOK AT ME!” Somewhere you can’t avoid. It’s got to be somewhere you see every day. For me, that’s on the way to the kitchen–my favorite place in the house.
- Put everything in that place. Hang your goals, checklists, calendars, to-do lists, mail, everything there. That way you only have to check one place to get all the info you need. It fail-proofs forgetting.
- Make a habit of checking it. One way to do that is to bundle it with things you already do. If you’re a coffee fanatic, make a rule to check your command center while your fix is brewing. If you sleep at night (I think that’s probably you), make a rule you can’t get in bed before you check it too.
If you routinely check one place that has all the information, events, and to-dos you need, you’ll set yourself up to consistently remember your goals and the steps you need to get there. And when you do, chances are you won’t skip your final exam, and you’ll pass the class. In the end, you’ll do what it takes to make it happen and make less decisions to satisfy the now and sacrifice what’s most important. Find that spot for your command center, and put one thing there. Claim back your discipline today, and move forward towards your goals.