Don’t worry, this isn’t the old story about the insecure dyslexic, insomniac atheist who lays awake at night wondering if there really is a Dog. It’s about the strange but ultimately effective path that my dog takes when I call him and why this could be a valuable reminder about goal setting.

Toby, you see, does eventually come back, fulfilling his contractual obligations to his master and ensuring that he gets fed. At the same time, he thoroughly enjoys himself. The route he takes is always new and original – he checks out known cat hiding places and performs other checklist tasks, strange smells are sniffed (some other attached to other dogs) and he generally has a good time.

The funny thing is that, although he may be disorganised in many ways, Toby is arguably better than his master when it comes to knowing and sticking to his objectives. The path he takes to reach them is often long and weird, but he gets there in spite of many distractions.

On the other hand, distractions are often fatal to well-planned operations, since they force a rework of the plan, for which there is no time. How often has our well-planned day, week or project fallen foul of such a blow?

But it needn’t be fatal, if our objectives for the day, week or project are clear.

In addition to a dog, I have a ridiculously simple acronym that reminds me of this point: MAP.

My objectives, Audience, Plan. Three key aspects of preparing almost any activity – what we are trying to achieve, who we are dealing with and our plan. There’s a lot to be said about these three points individually, but my message here is that their order is important. The main thing is to know what we are trying to achieve. How we manage it can be unpredictable and distractions on the way can be fun, providing we are confident that we’ll reach our goal in the end.

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