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The Key To Reaching Your Goals: Willpower And Planning

The Key To Reaching Your Goals: Willpower And Planning

Most of us have goals. Our goals should be the reason we wake up in the morning and do the things we do. How many times have you written down goals and promised yourself to stick to reaching them? You find yourself succeeding for the first week or two (exceptional cases would be a month) and then you lose track of the routine, slide back into old habits, and three months later have made no real progress. This is a very demotivating cycle in life and we have all been there one too many times. It’s not only encompassed by lack of motivation and discipline, but also by the poor execution of our goal setting.

While most of us focus on the end goal and how little progress we’ve made, rarely do we look into these two important things: willpower and planning

Willpower has been defined as: “control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s own impulses” (Cambridge). This is often mistaken for motivation. Motivation is the urge or deep desire to do something, will power is following through even under undesirable circumstances.

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The first thing we need to focus on when setting our goals is how much will power are we going to have? This can be hard to determine as we do not know what tomorrow brings. However, we can still exercise our will to our favour.

Exercising your will power

The first step to exercising will power is becoming conscious of the need for will power. Say, hypothetically, your goal was to cut down on the amount of time spent on social media. List down events that will require the will power.

  1. Free time on your hands
  2. Pop ups and notifications
  3. When work is going slow
  4. When you’re avoiding completing a project

These are just random guesses; however, we are able to identify the enemy and fight it off with will. When your become conscious about the need to exercise your will and not just trying to stay motivated, you are better prepared to fight the temptation to give in to distractions.

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The plan

The second part of our goal setting is planning. Numerous studies show the advantages of planning, some have even concluded that just having a plan in place increases your chances of success.

The plan is a map that shows you how to get to the finish line. Once again, using our hypothetical goal of cutting down on social media time,  your end goal could be to spend 30 minutes on Facebook a day and no more. How do you go about achieving this goal if you currently spend 3-4 hours on social media daily? A good way to plan this is first identifying why it matters to you that you achieve this goal?

  1. You could be more productive if you spent less time on social media
  2. Your work wouldn’t pile up
  3. You have more actual free time to just chill without guilt about incomplete work
  4. For your own sanity

These are motivators. Now that you’ve established why it’s important to you, how will you go about achieving this?

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Take it one step at a time

Our biggest mistake is taking giant leaps. Habits are built over time. They don’t happen overnight. A good plan would be writing down a list of important things that need your attention, such as a report that’s overdue or studying for an upcoming exam. When your priorities are in mind and sight you are more willing to work on it and not procrastinate.

Now that you’ve got your plan of action and a list of events that could deter you from your plan, this eliminates blindsides and makes you feel more in control.

Bring it down to bite size chunks

What do we mean by bite size chunks? It simply means, do not bite off more than you can chew. Set realistic and achievable goals. Dreaming of becoming president isn’t unrealistic, but it is unrealistic when you have no political experience, no background in politics, and lack the right skills or expertise to hold such a post. Realistic means something that is achievable within a given time frame.

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To cut down on social media from 4 hours to 30 minutes in one day is unrealistic. A bite size chunk would be turning off notifications and only logging on during tea or lunch breaks. Take it one step at a time.

Keep track

Always keep track of where you are. All too often, people look at the end goal, then look at where they currently are and lose motivation. However, if you look back at where you’ve been, you are able to measure and keep pushing. Maybe you went on social media longer than lunch break on Tuesday. Don’t let that discourage you. Look to your track keeping journal, and you’ll notice you’ve gone from 4 hours to 3.5 hours in two week. Instead of being discouraged, focus on this small victory. Victories trigger positive emotion that makes us believe we can achieve these goals.

Outdo yourself

If you’ve cut down your social media usage by 30 minutes, challenge yourself to cut it down by another 30 minutes over the following weeks, then add another 30 after some time, and so forth. After some time you’ll go down from 4 hours to 30 minutes!

Conclusion

The key to reaching your goal lies within your own will and commitment to becoming a better version of yourself. Reaching your goals also requires setting the right plans in place to achieve them. When you are able to follow these guidelines and stay committed to good habits and proper routine there will be no need for willpower and planning. You will be on autopilot. You can set higher goals and achieve even more. If you are setting goals and failing, you are already on the right track. Having goals in the first place shows that you want to change, grow, and develop. You have been equipped with everything you need to be your absolute best. So when the tough gets going remind yourself why it is important to you.

Goal infographic

    More by this author

    Kayiba Mpoyi

    Writer by birth

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    Published on January 16, 2019

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

    You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

    You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

    That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

    Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

    1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

    Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

    We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

    To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

    At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

    The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

    2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

    Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

    The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

    In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

    It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

    It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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    So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

    • Are you a great strategist?
    • Are you an effective planner?
    • Is Project Management your strength?
    • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
    • Are you the ideas person?
    • Is Implementation your strength?

    Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

    3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

    One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

    Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

    Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

    Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

    4. Take Time for Planning

    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

    One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

    You can take the time to think about:

    • What’s the purpose of the project?
    • How Important is it?
    • When does it need to be delivered by?
    • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
    • What are the KPIs?
    • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
    • Who is working on this project?
    • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
    • What tolerances can I add in?
    • What are the review stages?
    • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

    Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

    5. Focus on Priorities

    Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

    Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

    One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

    1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
    2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
    3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
    4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

    James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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      The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

      If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

      If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

      6. Take Time Out

      To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

      If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

      Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

      In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

      Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

      Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

      I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

      Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

      If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

      8. Stop Multitasking

      Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

      So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

      When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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      If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

      9. Work in Blocks of Time

      To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

      I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

      Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

      Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

      Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

      Then take another 10-minute break.

      Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

      By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

      10. Get Rid of Distractions

      Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

      “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

      Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

      If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

      11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

      You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

      Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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      Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

      12. Take a Time Audit

      Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

      Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

      You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

      Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

      Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

      At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

      If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

      13. Protect Your Confidence

      It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

      When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

      Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

      When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

      Final Words

      A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

      The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

      If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

      Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

      Reference

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