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Working from Power - Part II

Sasha, a biology professor at an eastern US liberal arts college wrote me after reading the Winter issue on ?Working from Power.? She said, ?Ok, I?ve constructed my Pyramid of Power by writing my Purpose, Mission and Vision statements. I wrote 50-100 life goals on small sticky notes and sorted them into categories of goals that seemed to go together. Then I parked them on colored paper, one color to each category. I also used your '4 times 3 to-do list' and I?m getting a lot more done. Now I?m ready for the next steps. You have to write faster and send me the next installment of the Professor Destressor eNews.?

I offered to meet with Sasha to give her a preview of the next two tools to help work from power, the Dream Book and the Tracking System.

The Dream Book is a planning tool for generating and managing all the wonderful ideas, professional and personal, that you would like to explore in your lifetime. The Tracking System is a way of keeping track of all your current and future projects at home and at work so that you can see at a glance if you are overcommitted, procrastinating, or completing your work in a timely fashion. (In case you missed the Winter issue of the Professor Destressor eNews, here?s the link:

Dream a Little Dream & Connect the Dots

Just because you have generated a lot of goals, you?re not finished. You should still keep generating and gathering goals. Every time you have a thought about something you want to do like, ?we should get that chair reupholstered,? write it on a sticky note and put with the others related to the ?Home? category on colored pages, say, yellow. If you have a thought about a professional goal like, ?I should write an article refuting Ken Wilber?s claim that all fields of knowledge are connected,? write it on a sticky, put it in the ?Research? category on, say, blue pages. Writing down these dreams and goals does not commit you to doing any of them. At this stage, the more stickies, the better. Later you can throw out those you don?t feel drawn to or you can park them in an undecided pile of stickies on colored paper.

Now you need a way to manage all of your goals so let?s put together your Dream Book. (About 1/6 of participants in my audiences prefer a Dream Wall in which they park all of their goals. All of the following suggestions can be translated from books and walls into electronic forms.)

You need the following equipment:

  • 8 ½ x 11 three ring notebook;
  • several sheets each of 6-8 colors of 8 ½ x 11 copy paper and several pages of plain white paper;
  • (optional) notebook dividers;
  • (optional) plastic sleeves for overhead transparencies.

Or poster board for your wall, enough to hold many sticky notes.

Follow these steps:

  1. Three hole punch the white and colored paper and put the white paper into the front of the binder in this order:

    Page 1 - Purpose statement in large font - maybe in script
    Page 2 - Mission statement
    Page 3 - Table of Contents. Use the 6-8 Vision statements as chapter headings. You can write or type these.

    Here is the beginning of Sasha?s table of contents:
    Chapter 1 - Home: My home is clean, organized and aesthetically pleasing and supports me, my spirit, and my work.
    Chapter 2 - Hobbies: I learn, practice, and perform music with my flute in order to stay relaxed and refreshed for my work.
    Chapter 3 - Scholarly work: I develop creative ideas for research and submit three articles for peer reviewed journals a year, four conference presentations/poster sessions a year with my students, and author, edit, or co-author one book every five years.

  2. Add the colored paper.

    Following your table of contents insert the hole punched colored pages and organize them in the order of the chapter titles or Vision statements. Pages can be oriented portrait with the stickies facing you as you flip open a page, or lined up sideways into landscape so you can read them if you turn the notebook sideways. You can use section dividers or just punch holes in the colored sheets. For example if you use purple for your Vision statement, ?I stay in contact with my family and friends sharing joy, supporting each other, and connected around mutual activities? put several purple pages into the book and have separate pages for goals related to families, friends and your activities with them.

    Your Home section will be on different colored paper with a section for each room or a section for Maintenance, one for Redecorating, etc. There may be some logical way to group the goals perhaps by subcategories. For example, in the Friends and Family section, there might be a page of goals related to each family unit or perhaps to each person. You might have a separate page for each friend.

    Sasha used pink pages for the ?teaching? category represented by her vision statement: ?My classes are well-prepared, interesting, creative, and collegial in their atmosphere.? On these pages she parked all of her goals related to teaching. She had a page for goals for developing interesting material, one for creating learning activities, and another for promoting a collegial class atmosphere through warm-up and team building activities.

    As you park the sticky notes on these pages, double check to see if all the stickies you like fit somewhere under the overarching statements. If they don?t, park them in a ?miscellaneous? or ?later? location. Double check the Vision category statements to describe the main themes that encompass all the stickies within the category.

    How do you know that you have the right categories? There are no right categories ­ just a good enough system to get started. You are looking for categories that organize the complexity that represents you and your life. If you choose the category ?work? you may have sub-categories and park the goals on separate pages for teaching, research, service, or other aspects of your work.

    In addition to her teaching sub-categories Sasha had these goals for her teaching: (See if you can figure out where she would park them.)

    • Give students ungraded before/after tests on key course concepts when the course starts and end.
    • Analyze the differences in the concepts pre/post.
    • Outline an article to be submitted to The Academy.

    She put them on a pink page called, ?teaching ­ scholarship? because she hoped to start some research on her teaching effectiveness that might be publishable. Since these goals are part of Sasha?s research plans, they could also be moved to her research pages and parked under a sub-category, ?SoTL (scholarship of teaching and learning) Research.? Whatever works for you is the right category system.

    Another way to organize some sections is by time, the first purple page containing very immediate goals, the next mid-range goals and the third long range goals. You do not have to use the same organizational system in every section.

  3. Use the Dream Book as a parking garage for goals.

    What if you aren'?t currently doing the goals under that Vision statement or interested in doing them because it is not the right time in your life to start on that goal? For now that?s quite ok; you can decide later what categories are priorities for working on now and what specific goals are ones to which you would like to commit. However, always state the Vision in present tense even though it is not presently true. It compels you forward and perks up an area in your brain known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS scans for stimulation that helped your cave ancestors stay safe and advance their goals. The RAS helps you meet your goals. Once you write your Vision statement in the present tense, the RAS will help you meet your goals by noticing opportunities to resolve the discrepancy between the present reality and your Vision.

    In reality you don?t want to work on all of those goals simultaneously. It would be over whelming. So if your RAS notices a guy who knows how to parasail and you have parasailing as one of your goals for after you get tenure or finish your book or get the kids out of the house, grab that information and park it in your Dream Book. If it is just a name and phone number it goes on a sticky and into the ?Hobby? section. If it is a brochure, drop it into a plastic sleeve and click into your Dream Book in back of the Hobby pages. If you decide later that parasailing is not something you want to do, you can dump the brochure in the recycling center. Never again will you be in the situation of getting to a goal you have dreamed about and say, ?I wish I had that parasailing guy?s information.?

  4. Use the Dream Book for research.

    Imagine that a research article you are reading has juicy information about one of your future writing topics. You can either drop the article into a plastic sleeve in the Dream Book or file the article in a folder with a sticky placed in your Dream Book in the research sub section on that topic. By the time you sit down to work on the article your background reading will be done. Be sure to underline or mark with a sticky the section in the article that interested you and why it was interesting. If you find a section of a book interesting, photocopy it, mark up the photocopy pages, and file it in a sleeve or folder. Be sure to note the complete reference on the photocopied pages.

    Similarly, you may have research gathering for your personal goals such as remodeling your house. You might drop in a few brochures on kitchen cabinets and granite selections into your ?Home? section. After awhile the house project might need its own Dream Book with sub categories for ?cabinets? ?paint colors,? and ?granite types.? When we planned our daughter?s wedding we started a book with sections on invitations, videographers, musicians, halls to rent, caterers, etc. As we drew up contracts, they went into sleeves in the appropriate sections and we tossed all the other information but one backup vendor in case something went wrong. On the day of the wedding we brought the Wedding Dream Book along just in case there were any contract glitches.

  5. Use the Dream Book for archival material.

    Leave the backs of the pages free so you can park completed goals. That way you can review your completed goals by reading your Dream Book backward, a very useful activity when it is time to revise your resume or do your annual report. If you are using poster boards to track your goals, you can park the competed goals on the back of poster boards.

Get It Done - Use Tracking Sheets

None of your goals will happen if those stickies stay parked in the Dream Book or on the Dream Wall. Now it is time to commit to some goals. Pick a goal that is easy to commit to, perhaps a goal you are already working on, like an article that is in rough draft form that needs revision.

  1. Take one of your goals and write smaller sub-goals that have to be completed to achieve the big goal. If finishing an article is your goal these might be the steps you would follow:
    • Outline the rough draft to see what form the ideas are taking;
    • Rewrite the draft to fit the outline;
    • Revise;
    • Have a colleague read it;
    • Revise;
    • Send to more colleagues;
    • Revise;
    • Submit to journal.
    • Wait for reviews;
    • Etc.

  2. Set up a Tracking Sheet to keep track of your goals and sub-goals by turning one of your sheets to landscape orientation and label the first row with the goal you want to work on. Label the columns in units of time by weeks, months, and years depending on your projects. In the cells formed by the intersection of the rows (goals) and the columns (dates) fill in the cells with the sub-goals that need to happen at the ½ way point, the ¼ way point and then the next few days. You can fill in the sub-goals starting today and going forward or starting at the end point and planning backward. Put any of the sub-goals that you can complete under whichever time frame you want to do it. For example, the goal, ?Review Wilber?s book? might take a week but ?Look up a reference? can be done in minutes.

    You can move the early sub-goal sticky notes to some place where you will review them on the computer monitor, bathroom mirror, or paper calendar. You can type them into a word processing table or a spreadsheet. (For a downloadable Word version of a Tracking Sheet with examples and with places for your own projects, go to: trackingsheet.doc

    The key is to keep acting on the goals and check whether you are staying on track by referring to the Tracking Sheets.

    When you are finished organizing your first goal into sub-goals allocated to time units, take another goal, professional or personal and do the same. Eventually you will have all your current goals and sub-goals on one Tracking Sheet. The vertical column forms a to-do list for the week. As things get crossed off, you can see immediately what is progressing and what things are being procrastinated. Having both personal goals and sub-goals on the same sheet allows you to avoid those time management ?Oops? such as scheduling an article to be submitted the same week as your kids? spring break.

  3. Transfer your Tracking Sheets into your PDA, calendar, etc. Review them on either Friday or Sunday evening or Monday morning to know what has been completed this week, what needs to be done next week, and the trouble spots in your planning. Problem solve about the sub-goals that aren?t getting done. Are they not important? Do you not have the resources to manage them? Are they too big and need to be broken down better? Do you not really care about them?

    As you complete your goals, check them off in your system. Review your whole Dream Book twice a year to check if your Purpose, Mission, and Vision statements are still relevant. File and organize all the ancillary materials on your goals. Celebrate your accomplishments and enjoy a deep sense of accomplishment that your life matters and that you are living by your values.


Dream big and get things done.

© Copyright 2009 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information.

CONTACT INFORMATION: Susan Robison, PhD.; 3275 Font Hill Drive; Ellicott City, MD 21042 Voice: 410-465-5892; E-mail: Website:

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