Please interrupt me

At this time of year I love setting goals and encourage everyone I meet to do the same.  Most every notable accomplishment I’ve experienced I can track back to having a clear goal.  The books I’ve written, trips to places like Africa, selecting the cars I drive, having a Sanctuary on our property, developing a beautiful hosta garden, and learning Spanish all began as a written goal.  However, I know that some of you just resist the process, believing that setting goals takes the spontaneity out of life.  That you will never again be allowed to impulsively go to the movies, take a walk or enjoy the sunset.  Actually, I expect the opposite results.  I expect you to have more time to do those things – and more.  And that has caused me to rethink my model for setting goals.

I have found that often the most fulfilled and “successful” people are the most spontaneous, have the most time for leisurely enjoyed Dan & Mercedes #7lunches, and are not irritated at unexpected “interruptions.”  I have also experienced that my most creative thinking often comes when I am on the treadmill first thing in the morning, driving along a detour, seeing one of my granddaughters walk into my office, or playing Quiddler with Joanne.  Unbroken focus on the goals may lead a person to measurable “success” but may be a hindrance to finding real fulfillment.  In fact, blind focus will likely cause us to miss God’s subtle and quiet voice in the rainbow or the unexpected chance encounter.

Here’s my new recommendation:  Create a clear focus and plan for 85% of your time.  Keep the 15% open for new hobbies, meditation, reading, or just interruptions.  Instead of seeing these as hindrances, they may very well be the fertilizer for your ultimate success.  This week Joanne and I will be in Chicago for our annual pre-Christmas jaunt.  No plans, no phones, no computers, no necessary shopping; just free time with the love of my life.  But now that I think about it, I had this clearly on my goals for 2013 and made the arrangements many months ago.  Sounds like a worthy goal to me.  It appears that unless I have the 85% in place, the 15% will never occur.  Without clear goals, everything looks like a crisis and 100% of your time will be consumed.

Too many of us set goals by using the past as our starting point and merely adding 10% to what we’ve done before. Institutions do that all the time. But who wants to live like an institution?    Decide now what you are going to STOP doing?  That will free up the time for what is more important.

What great ideas have you discovered in the middle of an interruption?


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  • Chadrick Black

    Great thoughts, Dan. I’m always amazed how many people do not understand the importance of this as well and think “planning” your life means planning every single second and not allowing for moments of spontaneity.

    One important practice Dana and I complete is creating an annual budget each February that we practice the next twelve months. Once that is established, a monthly finance spreadsheet is created around the 28-30th of each month for the next month. Then those monthly plans are separated
    into a weekly finance guide. I then spend about 15 minutes each morning to make sure our financial ship is on course.

    Notice how our “15 minute a day financial plan” ties into our annual budget.

    Does this system capture everything life throws at us? Of course not. Last February, did I have the foresight to budget spending $1200.00 on a root canal in June of this year or $600.00 on a medical test for my little girl in August? Nope. But do I fit room in our budget for unexpected expenses? Of course.

    As I write this, we’re ten months into our budget from February. So how close are our actual financial results to our plan? We’re within 2% of what we planned in February. (And that’s a 2% surplus.) This didn’t happen by luck or devine intervention. It happened because we created a plan and executed it daily.

    The point? I’ve learned I have a tendency to go in the direction I give my days. And when I don’t give my days direction, I usually never end up where I want to be.

    15 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot of time each day to review our finances. But I know that equates to over 91 hours a year.

    So I would ask someone: What would investing an extra 91 hours to a specific part of your life do? What if you painted an extra 91 hours next
    year? Wrote an extra 91 hours next year? Exercised an extra 91 hours next year? Prayed an extra 91 hours next year?

    Remember, the most important part of your ten year plan is
    happening today…

    • Michelle Wright

      Wow. Thank you so much for posting this. I appreciate the lesson you shared and also the excellence with which you write. I would love to use this as a guest post for my blog I’m launching in January if you’re open to it. Let me know.

      • 48DaysDan


        Sure – I’d be honored if you used it in your blog. You can use something like this for my bio:

        This is a guest post by Dan Miller. He is the author of 48 Days to the Work You Love. You can read his blog and explore his community at You can also follow him on Twitter.

        • Michelle Wright

          Cool! Thanks, Dan! Actually, I want to use Chadrick’s post. I never even thought I could use YOUR posts. Lol! Now that I know, I’ll do just that and use your suggested bio. Just goes to show being open to opportunity and responsive to requests pays off (for both of us.) Happy New Year!

  • LouAnn Clark

    Dan, as you know, I help people make changes in their lives by changing their thinking. Since coming to the Sanctuary for Coaching with Excellence last spring, I have changed my thinking about goals, planning, and routines. I have come to see that goals and plans are not boundaries that restrict me. They are boundaries that protect my most important priorities! With that in mind, I expect 2014 to be my best year yet. Thanks for helping me change for the better.

  • Michelle Wright

    Leave 15% of your time open. I love it. I hate when I plan all my days down to the last minute with everything including the breaks scheduled. Feels stifling to me. I do better when I plan a time to do the important things and schedule some fun but other times just leave time open. I must confess I haven’t done enough planning lately outside of scheduled appointments, but as Chadrick said below, the days when I spend a few minutes giving myself direction, I accomplish more…and even when I don’t mark everything off the list, I have a clear starting point for the next day.

  • Love this! Reminded me of the phone call we got from you January 2nd about Joel’s Finding Your Voice book! Changed our plan for the year and we learned and grew so much! Love you Dan and Joanne!

  • Grant Mckeel

    This year I began a 1-2 times a month road-trip to see my oldest son and during the time away I rediscovered my GREAT need for down time, a walk in the woods, reading or just sitting quietly.

    • Michelle Wright

      So true. I was listening to a sample of Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud, and he talked about a man who sat on a park bench to think and realized he hadn’t allowed himself to do much of that the past few years. “He had just worked hard because that was needed.” Sounds so much like me. That stops today.

  • Rob Parkman

    I am self-employed and find that some of my greatest clarity on new initiatives comes when I get away from my office and enjoy an afternoon hike. Thanks for the encouragement to leave time in the margins for creativity, connection with others and conversations with God.

    • Rob,
      Time in the margins – I love that. It’s certainly been true for me.

  • Chrissy Basham

    Hi Dan,

    Do you have any advice for TOO many goals? I have so many things I want to achieve (personally, physically, spiritually, career-wise, marriage-wise, hobbies, travel) that I don’t know where to start. It makes me anxious just focusing on one goal, because I feel like I am missing out on the others. But then I end up only being half-committed to a bunch of things.

    How long do you suggest focusing on one goal before adding on another?