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Best Practices for Goal-Setting: 6 Steps to Ensure You Keep Reaching For Your Goals

Best Practices for Goal-Setting: 6 Steps to Ensure You Keep Reaching For Your Goals

The word “goals” is being thrown around a lot lately. You’ll find thousands of pictures on Instagram with the caption “#goals,” meaning the person who posted the picture can only hope to one day be as fit, pretty, or on fleek as the person in the picture (Did I use that right? God, I’m old…)

For some reason, “goals” have recently come to mean something similar to “pipe dreams”: Aspirations which we would never actually be able to reach – and would never even try to reach in the first place.

That is absolutely not what goals should be seen as being. There’s no point in living if you’re not actively trying to better yourself. You should always be setting goals, and always working hard to reach them. It’s not easy, and it’s not meant to be. But if you put the following best practices into action, you’ll find working toward your goals is much more realistic and possible than you’d previously thought.

Set One Goal at a Time

You most likely know someone – or are someone – who always has a million things to do and feels like there’s never enough time in the day to get things done. This feeling can, understandably, be completely overwhelming. When you get overwhelmed, you become less likely to attain any of the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Stick to one goal at a time. Tell yourself you won’t switch gears until you’ve gotten to a certain point of completion (which we’ll discuss later). When you operate this way, you’ll be able to focus 100% of your energy on completing the task at hand to the best of your ability. You won’t get sidetracked by other projects and end up losing the time it takes to switch gears in order to work on something else.

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And, once you’ve attained one goal, you’ll have one less thing to think about when moving forward.

Make Your Goal Visible

Once you’ve set a goal to work toward, write it down. Write it in a journal. Write it on the whiteboard on your refrigerator. Heck, there are even companies that produce clothes for you to write your goal on.

If nothing else, writing your goal down will serve as a reminder throughout your busy day that you have an obligation to attend to before you take on anything else. A written statement will hold you accountable; you’ll feel as if you let yourself down if you don’t complete the task you said you would.

And, upon completion of the task, you can physically – and symbolically – cross the goal off your list, leaving you feeling accomplished and satisfied.

Identify Possible Hangups

If goals were easy to reach, the reward for reaching them wouldn’t be so valuable.

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There will always be roadblocks in your way when setting a new goal. You might want to lose weight, but it means you’ll have to give up ice cream. You might want to be more productive, but you need to keep your cell phone nearby in case your kids need you. You might want to go back to school, but you don’t have the time, money, or energy to do so.

These “but”s are the reason those “#goals” mentioned above are so lofty and unattainable: We often want better lives for ourselves, but aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary in order to get there.

When setting goals, you first have to determine the areas in which you’ll have to work hardest to get where you want to be. Once you have a realistic idea of the effort it will take to reach your goals, you’ll be much more likely to follow through with them.

Make a Plan

You’ve likely heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you set out to reach your goal in a haphazard manner, you’ll almost assuredly fall flat right away.

Understand that the path to reaching your goal won’t be one giant leap that will land you right where you need to be. It will be a journey full of small victories, bumps in the road, and setbacks. Your plan of action will be your map along this symbolic journey.

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Not only will you plan the small steps you’ll take along your journey, but you’ll also need to plan for when things go wrong. Because things will go wrong. You may not even be at fault when it happens, but it will be your responsibility to right the ship when you hit rough waters.

If you’ve made a plan for how to deal with every step along the way, you’ll have a much easier time navigating toward your goal.

Define Milestones

The path to your goal may be long and difficult, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be moments to celebrate along the way.

When setting up your plan, make note of any milestones you’ll aim to reach throughout your journey. These moments will tell you you’re on the right track and are making progress toward your goal.

Make these milestones definitive and measurable, just as your ultimate goal should be. For example, if you aspire to lose twenty pounds by the end of the year, you’ll want to know exactly how much weight you should be losing each week in order to reach this goal. At the end of every month, you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made – which will be cause for celebration in itself.

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The goals we most aspire to accomplish are the ones that are so far ahead of us that we have a hard time envisioning them. By keeping an eye on short-term accomplishments, you can continue to feel motivated as you get closer and closer to your main goal.

Get Moving

After setting everything up to maximize your chances of success, you still have to actually put in the work to get where you want to be.

Since you’ve streamlined the process, anticipated pitfalls, and defined the small victories you’ll celebrate along the way, you’ll face much less resistance from within as you start working toward your goals. Instead of having to worry about all sorts of extraneous and superfluous factors, you’ll be able to keep your mind on accomplishing the goal you’ve set out to reach.

Featured photo credit: Flickr/ Mountain Climbing / Logan Rowe via farm8.staticflickr.com

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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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