Do you have trouble getting things done? Have you ever decided to do something that was important to you, but later found you just weren’t making any headway at all? If you’re having trouble completing tasks that you want to do, and which you know you’re capable of doing, you might considering using a technique called benchmarking.
A benchmark is nothing more than a certain level of output that you’re establishing as your bare minimum. When using benchmarking, what you want to do is decide what your daily benchmark will be for a particular task, and accept nothing less than hitting that benchmark consistently.
For a benchmark to be realistic, it should be well below the maximum that you’re capable of, and substantially less than what you really want to do. You want to have an idea of what you’d ideally like to accomplish each day, but if you fail to hit your targets, you want to be sure that you at least achieve a certain minimum standard. Shoot for your goal, but accept no less than your benchmark.
An Example of Using Benchmarks
Let’s say you have a book that you’ve been meaning to read. You know it’s a book that will be very helpful, so you really want to read it in a reasonable period of time. But it’s a really big book and it requires a lot of concentration to fully understand it, so you’ve been procrastinating, hoping that you’ll find the time to read it someday. Of course, that day never comes, and the book continues to collect dust every day. How can you use benchmarking to ensure that you stop making excuses and actually read the book?
First, decide what your goal will be, how many pages you would like to read each day. How about 100 pages? No, that’s too much because it’s a fantasy. You might read that much on the first sitting, but you know the book’s material is too complex and you won’t make the time to read that much consistently. How about 20 pages? OK, you decide that you can shoot for 20 pages a day. That’s your goal.
But it’s OK if you don’t always reach your goal. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Even though you’ll try to read 20 pages a day, some days you might not have the time or the energy to hit your goal. And that’s fine; you’re allowed to sometimes fall short of what you’d like to get done. But you decide to set a benchmark of reading 5 pages a day. No matter what, you’re going to read a minimum of 5 pages a day, every day, without fail.
That means that even if the kids have soccer practice, or you get a flat tire, or you get sick, or you have a huge argument with your boss, or whatever, you still have to read those 5 pages. Your benchmark of 5 pages is considerably less than your goal of 20 pages, but that’s because things are bound to come up once in a while, and you’ll need to have some flexibility to slow down. You’re still shooting for your goal each day, but you’ll accept no less than your benchmark, no matter what.
Your benchmark needs to be low enough that you can easily achieve it, but high enough to be significant. You can’t honestly complain that you don’t have time to read 5 pages a day, so it’s a realistic benchmark. And if your book is 1,000 pages long, then even if you only read the bare minimum of 5 pages a day, you’ll be done in 200 days. That’s not exactly lightning speed, but it guarantees that the job will get done within that window of time. I’ve known people who have been meaning to read a book for years, but never seem to get around to it.
Other Ways to Use Benchmarks
What kinds of things can benchmarking be applied to? Anything that can easily be broken down into measurable chunks. If you want to read a certain number of pages, or make a certain number of sales calls, or go running for a certain period of time, or clean out a certain number of items from the garage, these are all things that lend themselves to benchmarking. The one key is to make sure that your benchmark is a measure of output, not results. You can set a benchmark of how many sales calls you want to make, but you shouldn’t set a benchmark of how many new clients you’ll sign up, because you can’t directly control that.
You might have noticed that I didn’t specify what should happen if you don’t meet your benchmark. That’s because there’s no need to work out a punishment, as it won’t happen. You simply have to meet your benchmark. If you haven’t met your benchmark for the day, then the day isn’t over yet. Of course, in some extreme cases, you’ll want to postpone your project. If your house burns down, then you need to deal with that, and forget about your benchmark of running for 30 minutes on the treadmill. I only state it as mandatory because people are far, far more likely to be too easy on themselves than too tough.
So there you have it, a very simple and practical method of getting something done in a reasonable period of time. If you find that certain things you want to accomplish just seem to elude you even though you know you’re perfectly capable of achieving them, try using benchmarks to guarantee that you make consistent progress.
Hunter Nuttall wants you to stop sucking and live a life of abundance. Visit his site to learn how to improve your life and your income.
Image by Moriza.