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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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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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