When it comes to self-improvement or personal accomplishment, it always seems great to explore in our imaginations, make some plans, read about other people’s strategies, or otherwise prepare for what we believe we’re going to do. The only problem is that many people never get past that phase. They end up with all preparation and no delivery.
In the business world there is a concept known as a deliverable. One dictionary defines a deliverable as “something that can be achieved or delivered as the result of a plan or process.” That’s a decent definition. A deliverable is something you actually create or produce. It is something tangible you can point to and say “I did that.” A deliverable might be a business report, dinner party or work of art.
I think when it comes to achieving things in life we should focus more on deliverables and less on the considerations that surround that deliverable.
Many of us talk about wanting to do something. We’re pretty good at planning to do something. We might spend a lot of time on the thinking, learning and preparation activities needed to do that something, but when the time comes to actually do it, our momentum grinds to a halt. We simply never do it. I think every single one of us has numerous stories of how this has played out in our lives.
Unfortunately, we often place such an emphasis on all of this advance preparation that we short circuit our attempt to accomplish what we intended in the first place. We neglect to just do it and this leads to a lot of false starts and disappointments in our lives.
Focusing on a deliverable acts as the target we are attempting to hit and this propels us forward. A goal or objective is sometimes a different animal than a deliverable. A goal or objective can often be vague or imprecise. A deliverable needs to be specific. For example, having the goal of wanting to learn about something is quite different than saying you’re going to write an article about that something. The writing of the article will focus your learning, stimulate your thinking about the topic, and force you to tussle with the material in ways passive learning will not. The learning will be deeper and more sustained if you create a deliverable. You also end up with “proof” that you understand the material. Most importantly, you actually do the learning you set out to do in the first place because you’ve been guided and encouraged by the deliverable you set out to produce.
Another advantage to focusing on a deliverable is that it reduces the tendency to be thrown off track by setbacks or detours. The realities of life, and indeed the realities of accomplishing anything, are that we will often move two steps forward and one step back. We will have unforeseen obstacles appear out of nowhere. Our life situation may suddenly change and challenge the completion of what we had set out to accomplish. Deliverables keep us focused and on track better than more generalized goals and objectives will. We’ve got something specific we’re trying to do and we’ll actually know when we’ve done it.
It’s hard sometimes to gauge whether we’ve achieved something if the goal or objective has been defined in a general or inexact way. A deliverable solves that problem.