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8 Steps to Ensure You Accomplish Your Goals

8 Steps to Ensure You Accomplish Your Goals

Setting and achieving goals can be an intimidating process. When you start out on a new path, you probably have little to no experience in the field at all. It’s hard to imagine that you might one day consider yourself an expert in that area. Rather than getting overwhelmed with everything that comes with starting a new venture, take a step back, plan out your path, and take the first steps toward accomplishing your goal.

1. Start small

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

Like I said, it’s easy to get intimidated when starting something new. When I started playing guitar, I was amazed at how incredible some of my friends already were. Of course, they’d been playing since they were 10 years old. I couldn’t just pick up my guitar and start shredding like they were able to; I had to learn how to tune it, how to hold it, and how to play open chords before I could move on to more advanced techniques like arpeggios and diminished 7th chords. Figure out how you’re going to learn the basics before you try to try to tackle something you’re not ready for. It might be boring to start slow, but building a solid foundation will ensure future success.

2. Attack one goal at a time

However, not all goals are created equal: Merely fantasizing about your goal is de-motivating-it actually tricks the brain into thinking you have already achieved it. — Vanessa Van Edwards 

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Starting with the basics can also be intimidating, as you’ll find there is a lot to learn. Don’t stretch yourself thin by trying to accomplish more than one task at a time. Using guitar as an example again, it would make no sense for me to learn how to play chords before I knew if my guitar was in tune. Training my ear to recognize the exact note each string should be tuned to was the absolute beginning of my path as a guitarist. If I learned how to play a chord before knowing exactly what that chord should sound like, I would have been doing myself a huge disservice. By setting your sights on one goal at a time, you’ll be able to carry the knowledge you learned with you onto the next step in your journey.

3. Understand your goals

The starting point of all achievement is desire. — Napoleon Hill 

In high school, I (and I’m sure many of you) used to wonder “when am I ever gonna need this?” Because I couldn’t picture my adult self needing to know how to calculate the area of a triangle, I didn’t really care much for math, and, naturally, didn’t do too well in the subject, either. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of learning the materials my teachers presented. The goal wasn’t to learn, but to pass the class. If I understood that learning the ins-and-outs of the periodic table in 10th grade would put me on the path toward curing diseases in my adult life, I might have paid a bit more attention in chemistry class. The point is, you should know beforehand why each step in your journey is important. Understand your goals by using this goal wheel. Knowing this will allow you to put your all into every step you take.

4. Truly want to succeed

Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for motivation, managers and scholars need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision. — “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting” Harvard Business School

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I just mentioned how my goals in high school were simply to pass the test and move on. My grades allowed me to pass but they weren’t good. Any knowledge I gained for one test immediately left my brain after the test was over, since, to my teenage self, I had accomplished my goal and no longer needed to keep that information stored. If I had the drive to succeed that I do now, I would have taken my studies a bit more seriously, knowing that what I learned then would benefit me later in life. When trying something new, you have to be passionate about every step you take. Not everything you learn on your path will be interesting or fun. But the result of truly learning from each step will ultimately lead to success. One day, you’ll surprise yourself at how much you know about a subject you learned 10 years ago — because you took the time learning it the first time around!

5. Make your goals public

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. — Jim Rohn 

When you set out to accomplish a new goal, don’t hide your efforts. Tell your family and friends about your new venture. Doing so will have more of an effect on your efforts than you realize. For one, you won’t want to embarrass yourself by petering out, and you’ll push yourself to succeed so others see how far you’ve come. Secondly, you won’t want to let others down. If you tell your wife you’re going to start exercising more, chances are she’ll be excited at the prospect of you having a little less of a gut and a little more in the bicep region. I’m not saying you should only want to improve for others, but I am saying there’s nothing wrong with getting motivation from external sources.

6. Get excited about improving

There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made good use of our days, that we’ve lived up to our expectations of ourselves. — Gretchen Rubin, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

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When learning a new skill, there’s an alternative to being intimidated by others who are currently better than you: getting inspired by them. Going back to my days as a novice guitarist, I was definitely intimidated by my friends who, to my beginner ears, were incredible musicians. But as I got better at playing guitar myself, I realized that I could reach their level of expertise with more and more practice. I went from thinking “There’s no way I’ll be able to play like that” to “I’m actually better than that!” in the span of a few short months. Not only that, but analyzing my progress helped me visualize my future progress as well. As you progress on your path to success, you’ll be better at setting realistic goals, and will start surpassing them with ease.

7. Anticipate success

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on Earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. — Thomas Jefferson

This goes along with the last section, in that once you start succeeding at smaller tasks, you’ll begin to see the big picture. You’ll stop thinking “Let’s see if I can do this,” and begin thinking “Once I complete this, I’ll be able to move on to this next step.” It won’t be a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when.” You’ll be better able to make a gameplan for success, since you’ll know where you’ll be the following day in terms of skills and abilities. Once you see where your progress is headed, you should make a checklist of what you want to accomplish, and what you’ll do next after you reach that goal. Soon enough a 5K will turn into a marathon!

8. Make visual representations of your path

Students who invest in their goals also demonstrate greater persistence, creativity, and risk ­taking in their achievement of those goals.– “Setting Goals: Who, Why, and How?” By: Harvard Initiative for Teaching and Learning 

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Don’t just think up a checklist or to-do list; physically write one out. Once you accomplish a small task, take the time to check it off your list. You’ll be surprised how motivating it can be to see a long list of tasks you need to do get smaller and smaller. Also, create a schedule. As I mentioned, you’ll eventually be able to anticipate what your future self will be able to accomplish. Setting a schedule which predicts future accomplishments will keep you on task to ensure you reach those goals on the day you thought you would. Writing your goals out makes them tangible, and you’ll be less likely to put work off, no matter how tired you may be.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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