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Here’s Why Writing Down Your Goals Really Does Work

Here’s Why Writing Down Your Goals Really Does Work

According to a USA Today report on New Years’ resolutions, people who write down their resolutions are more likely to keep them than people who simply think or talk about them — even if the only difference between these two groups of people is the act of writing their goals down beforehand.

It turns out that the seemingly simple act of writing unlocks all sorts of psychological and personal dynamics which translate to real tangible results. We’re talking more than a 100% difference in results.

Pay attention to the following factors. They spell out why writing down your goals, whether they’re smaller short-term goals or “Big Picture” long-term ones, dramatically increases the chances you’ll actually achieve whatever it is you set out to do.

Increased Motivation

Too many people subconsciously believe that simply thinking about doing something is as good as actually acting on it. They confuse thinking, deliberation, and analysis with action. Don’t get me wrong: when you’re setting up goals, you should research. You should get enough information so you can make a truly informed decision.

The problem? People often confuse analysis and information-gathering with taking action on their goals. They psychologically fool themselves into thinking that since they are sifting through all this data, they can hold off on actually getting off the fence and putting their money where their mouths are.

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Writing your plans and spelling them out with a step-by-step breakdown is the next best thing to having a life coach cheer you on every day. It increases your motivation to actually start acting on your goals. Too much analysis and information-gathering, on the other hand, can leave you with a vaguely defined conception of what your goal should be. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people suffering from “analysis paralysis” to have absolutely no concrete goals. Their objective is so ill-defined, free-ranging, and formless that they end up feeling less motivated.

There is no sense of urgency, so they keep gathering information and end up no closer to achieving anything of real value — even after spending a huge amount of time, effort, and even money.

Narrowed Focus

“Where your focus goes, your energy flows.”

I can’t emphasize this enough. If you are focused on something, it’s easier to direct your time, energy, and concentration toward it. Accordingly, writing down your goals enables you to clearly identify what to focus your time, money, and resources on. All other potential priorities are set aside and you can concentrate on what truly matters.

This focus increases the chances you’ll get a return on your efforts. This focus also increases the value of your return on effort and prevents you from easily being thrown off track.

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Clear Benchmarks

If you are fuzzy regarding the things you wish to achieve, it’s too easy to give yourself excuses for failure. In fact, if your goals are ambiguous enough (largely because they aren’t written down), you can fool yourself into thinking that almost any kind of result is a “success.”

Of course, if you were completely honest with yourself, you’d know that there are results that are way more desirable than most developments you get from your efforts. Sadly, it’s hard to stay focused on these true results if your goals remain fuzzy and flexible due to the fact that you haven’t written them down.

Written goals demand certain results. Since you can see the specific results you should be aiming for, it is harder for you to fudge your results. You end up making less excuses and you set yourself up for real progress.

Reduced Stress

Since written goals are clearer and easier to pin down than if they were just in your mind, your overall stress levels go down. When you keep yourself guessing as to what your objectives should be, it is too easy to stress out.

On the one hand, you might be mentally defining your objectives to be broader than they really are. This means you have a lot more things to worry about.

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On the other hand, you can think of your ill-defined unwritten goals in such limited terms that when challenges arise, you freak out. You kick yourself for not having thought of certain contingencies ahead of time. You end up spending more money and time on fires you could have taken out earlier (or prevented from breaking out entirely) if you had only written down your goals.

Small Wins

There’s no such thing as an impossible goal. Let me repeat that again just in case it didn’t sink in with you: there’s no such thing as an impossible goal. The only thing that would make a goal impossible to achieve is its timeline or schedule. These are two totally different factors: timeline/deadline and goal.

If you don’t believe me, just think back to the late 1950s Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States. When Kennedy boldly said that the US would put a man on the moon, a lot of people the world over thought he was crazy. In their minds, a manned lunar mission was the stuff of fantasies. Fast forward only a few years later and the world went crazy over live television footage of Neil Armstrong on the moon’s surface. The moral of the story? There are no impossible goals.

When you write down your goals, you can break them down into smaller, easier-to-schedule modules. The more you can break a goal down into modules that fit a realistic timeline, the more realistic and achievable your goals become. It’s hard to turn your goals into modules if you don’t write them down. You might end up missing an important detail.

Better Systems

Successful people are able to achieve success (and maintain it) by building systems. They automate. They outsource. They do things in a certain sequence that improves the value of their results or speeds up their processes. In other words, they use systems instead of simply relying on getting lucky.

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If you don’t write down your goals, you make it incredibly hard on yourself to come up with a system. You may end up chasing your tail because you missed an important detail or you failed to pay attention to a crucial process.

The Bottom Line

If you want to turn more of your great ideas, hopes, and dreams into a form you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, you need to write down your goals. They may seem awesome in your mind but you might end up simply running on the fumes of wishful thinking if you don’t bother to write them down. Achieve success faster and more efficiently with less stress by simply writing down your goals. Do it today and start experiencing better results!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Nabin Paudyal

Co-Founder, Siplikan Media Group

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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