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A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama

We all learned that phrase in elementary school when learning about palindromes, but this is taking on a new meaning for me. So many of us feel that we accomplish way too little from day to day. The majority of our accomplishments take place at work, likely because other people depend upon us. But many of us have tremendous ambitions where the only person in the world we’d let down is ourselves.

But isn’t that the most important person to come through for? How can others really depend upon us if we can’t even depend upon ourselves?

Without a plan, nothing gets accomplished on purpose. Anything that happens is almost purely accidental. We often forget how much control we have over our own lives. It’s way too easy to come home after a hard, productive day at work, and convince ourselves that we can now waste time being couch potatoes. And before you know it, it’s time to go to sleep. And we do so with the feeling of dissatisfaction in the pit of our stomach. We’re well aware of another wasted night, and no matter what we accomplished during the day (especially if we work for someone else), we feel completely empty.

We have so many intentions of getting to the next step in life, but we’re too easily distracted by the easy and useless. We allow ourselves to turn off our brain after a long hard day at work. But aren’t we just taking the advice of society? Most people live each day in a rut. Why do we listen to what everyone else says is the way to live? That’s not living! It’s barely existing.

My plan of attack is to combine a GTD strategy with an RPM strategy. I read Getting Things Done last year, but my implementation has been half-hearted. I know I’m not alone, so I don’t feel too badly about it. We all need a refresher at times. I do now capture just about everything instead of keeping things in my head. But the rest has been inconsistent. I went through Anthony Robbins’s The Time of Your Life program, but just listened to the tapes instead of also taking action. It will be different this time, because I have proven to myself this year that I can accomplish something major when giving it complete focus, and by stating it here publicly. I can build upon that.

So, each day I will make forward steps in the following, working on at least two of each. Which of these I work on each day will be dependent upon my state of mind on that day. Most of us need some flexibility from day to day, as long as there’s a valid list to choose our activities from. All of these activities contribute towards my life goals, which is a topic for a future post:

  • Improve my .NET skills through reading or training videos.
  • Work on a software project I’ve been planning, making use of the above.
  • Learn Ruby through reading, training videos, and coding.
  • Improve my writing skills by writing (but not necessarily posting) a blog entry, and reading about writing.
  • Improve my planning skills by revisiting AND practicing GTD and RPM.

Each week, I will make forward steps in the following:

  • Post a completed blog entry at least twice per week.
  • Add one planned feature to the .NET and SQL Server user group websites, which will add to my .NET skills (mainly weekend work).

Each month, I will do each of the following at least once:

  • Update the user group websites with information about the next meeting.
  • Tackle one home project, such as cleaning out the junk drawers or the attic, or filing backlogged paperwork (part of the GTD tasks).
  • Attend a local Toastmasters meeting (?).  I haven’t totally committed to this yet, but I believe it would help me a lot, especially with my roles as a leader at work and in the user group.  I may incorporate this into next year’s plans.

All of the above is in addition to family time, so this is just how I plan on spending my “free” time. I definitely should have two to three hours per day for these items.

So, these are my plans for creating my “Panama”. Of course, I will adjust these lists as need be, but at least it’s now in writing. How about you? Are you digging a canal, or a rut?


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  1. Way to go Mark. Its 10:00 PM here. I am feeling wretched about my life and was contemplating on how to take control of my life…
    I am thinking of digging into RPM and see whether it works for me…
    So have you been able to do all the things in your life goal list?

  2. A little bit each day, Rama. I was on vacation for the past few days, but still got some of my reading and .NET training in at night. My short-term goal is to put at least two significant check marks next to my daily items (complete chapters, a complete method, or a complete lesson, etc.) each day.

  3. Hello from Switzerland! I came across your blog posting after searching for panama and your post on A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama makes an interesting read. Thanks for sharing. I will research more next Monday when I have the day off.


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