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Your Routine is the Key to Achieving Your Goals

Your Routine is the Key to Achieving Your Goals

When I look back at the goals I’ve achieved, the ones I’ve almost achieved and the ones that continue to sit there, staring me in the face, day after day after day I’ve started to come to a strong realization about goal setting.

It’s not about breaking the goal down into smaller parts to make it easier to achieve or putting a deadline on when to achieve it; it’s something much smaller, much simpler and yes, so obvious – it’s about the routine.

Take a moment and look back on some of the goals you tried to achieve over the last 3 months?

Why did you fail?

Were your goals too vague?

Did you not have the proper level of support from your friend to achieve it?

Was it because you didn’t have the time to achieve it?

Why did you not have the proper amount of time to achieve it?

Did you start out and set some unrealistic expectations of yourself that were hard to mingle into the rest of your life once you started?

Did you start but not really commit to achieving it?

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Were you never able to find the time to work on it?

Bingo.

I’ve been struggling with achieving some of my own goals lately (the large ones).  When I looked back and compared to the goals I had achieved during the same time period, I started to see a pattern emerge.

I had a Routine.

For the goalsI achieved, I had a routine that I kept to whether it was every day or every other day and for the ones that I didn’t, I had a sheet with some bullet points on it that I tried to cross out week after week but was never able to do so – no matter how hard I tried.

If we now understand the importance of setting a routine in relation to our goal achievement what do we need to consider in setting a proper routine that will enable us to succeed?

Establish the Routine at the same time as your Goal

Dreaming about achieving “something” is the path to creating a Goal, creating a routine is the road to the execution of that goal. If you are committed and serious about creating and achieving your goal – build a routine for when you are going to work on it while you are dreaming (yes dreaming) it up.

Don’t wait, don’t put it off, don’t put it on your TODO list – do it now – set the tone for your achievement now.

If you are worried about skipping out on your new routine – write it down, put a reminder in your phone – whatever works for you. The most important part in creating a routine are the triggers that drive us to take action – so these little cues are critical to your success.

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For instance, if you are consistently finished working at the end of the day at x time, set that event for the trigger for your routine. Instead of watching TV, spend 30 minutes on achieving your goal, set the timer, block everything out, make it happen.

The routine needs to fit into your schedule

Now that you have created the routine – is it realistic, is it achievable?

In any routine, this is the first barrier to goal achievement.

If you are working 10-hour days, then having to come home and get your kids off to activities, scheduling 4 hours of work to happen on a daily basis isn’t going to work for you. After 2 days you will stop from sheer exhaustion and frustration.

We are all busy; we are all trying to grow and develop and our goals are outside of the norm of what everyone else is trying to do.

This is exactly why it is so imperative that you set your goals to fit into your schedule and not make them totally unrealistic to achieve. If you need to start earlier in the day to make it happen, do that; maybe do an extra hour every other night to get started before going full tilt all the time.

Make it realistic, make it possible, make it doable. Doing 8 minutes of pushups every morning, every day will add up to 56 minutes of pushups you weren’t doing the week before – that is achievement.

The goal is not to achieve it as fast as possible, but to make progress towards it.

Remove distractions from your routine

One of the greatest barriers to resistance with routines are the distractions that surround us. I stayed up too late, so now I’m tired in the morning. I didn’t put out my clothes the night before so now I don’t want to go jogging.

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Case in point: I play hockey at 7am once a week; to get there (and be alert) I need to get up at 6am. To go, I need my work bag ready for the day; I need my hockey bag and all my gear, towel, etc in it. I need my stick and water bottle and then I can go.

All in all, I need to everything together so I’m not stumbling around in the dark in the morning.

The night before, I put it all in my car—I have that battle with myself the night before. So when I wake up in the morning, all I need to do is look down at my feet, put on the clothes I’ve laid out, put on a jacket, eat and get in the car.

My success rate when I do this is incredibly higher because I had the battle with myself the night before, not the morning of, not in the heat of the moment where other temptations were high. In that instance, I am committed.

And on the days when I don’t do this, my success is incredibly lower – the excuses rise up.  Even if I am feeling sick, I will still go if everything was laid out the night before.

Why?

Part of it is embarrassment. If I sleep in and then wake up, get into my car and start the drive to work what is there waiting for me?

My equipment – that whole ride to work is just me and my equipment, staring at me, laughing at me, making me feel like a fool for not getting up and hitting that goal.

In the case where you think it is going to take five hours a week to achieve your goal – set 5 hours aside to work on that goal so you are there, focused and working on it. If you need to have a quiet space to work in or have your favourite mug with you – make it happen.

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Achievement of our goals are driven by execution and our execution is driven by the creation of realistic, focused, deliberate routines that are free from distractions, excuses and obstacles and work within our schedules to achieve them.

Think about goals you have right now at work or in your personal life?

Why is that project still not finished?

Why have you not finished the siding on the house?

Why have you not started your new floor?

You might think it’s your commitment or your goal being too lofty, but perhaps it really that you never created a routine that you could really commit to to drive toward its completion.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

More by this author

Greg Thomas

Software Architect

Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions To Be a Better Person, We Need to Go Through 5 Stages of Changes Bad Bosses Bark Out Orders, Good Bosses Coach Their Teams Your Routine is the Key to Achieving Your Goals Why you need a Weekly Reset

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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Too Much On Your Plate? 7 Ways to Tackle It

Too Much On Your Plate? 7 Ways to Tackle It

Do you ever feel like you’re crossing off tasks from your never-ending “to-do” list and yet get to the end of your day feeling like you didn’t make significant progress?

Your new marketing plan takes a backseat. The much needed “you time” is put off until next week. The exciting new idea you’ve been working on can wait until life gets less hectic.

You have too much on your plate but unsure of what to do. In a world where we value the pursuit of more—ideas, tasks, actions—what if you were able to shift to valuing less, putting your energy towards what really matters?

There is a way, one where you take control back. Here, you identify what matters most. You make deletion a habit. You leave the cult of busy and value priorities instead of random actions.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to manage the feeling that you always have too much on your plate. Most importantly, you’ll get your mental sanity back while being able to make progress on what matters to you.

1. Delete the Clutter—Literally

As you read this, there is physical, mental, and emotional clutter that is robbing you of precious energy from what really matters. This manifests itself in myriad ways.

Your workspace makes it impossible to focus. Your calendar has recurring meetings that expired months ago. You haven’t had that one conversation that keeps you anxious. In other words, your next level of growth starts with subtraction.

We tend to overestimate how much we can get done while underestimating the amount of time and energy things will take. Researchers call this the “planning” fallacy.[1] The result is that in trying to do too much, we fall short every time.

Instead, start by deleting something today:

  • Donate old clothes.
  • Clear the clutter in your home office.
  • Tell your college friends in the text message thread that you’re going to be away for a while.
  • Scan your calendar for any worn-out obligations that are consuming your precious time, energy, and attention.

While many productivity experts will stack new actions, habits, and routines to your schedule, you’re going to do the opposite. By deleting things out of your life, you create some much-needed breathing room. With this newfound perspective, you can now identify what matters.

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2. Identify Your “Big 3” Priorities

We tend to overvalue new ideas, projects, and initiatives because they provide a tantalizing dopamine hit of possibility. Not being able to set your priorities straight results in having too much on your plate.

  • The new marketing campaign is a can’t miss for doubling profits.
  • The collaboration with someone we admire has unlimited potential.
  • The new podcast we’re launching will turn us into our industry’s top expert.

Right?

Well, not always. Due to the planning fallacy we mentioned above, we often say yes to way too much at once, which means we scatter our limited energy and focus across too many domains.

Instead, take a minimalist approach to your life, career, and business. In any given quarter or “season,” pick one, two, or three main priorities.  These are typically not urgent, yet vitally important projects that move the needle in a significant way. They are not half-hearted tasks, random initiatives, or “fake work”. They are connected to your bigger goals and matter to you.

If you’re having trouble identifying your “Big 3,” write down at least 15-20 possibilities that could be one. Then, take a step back, and highlight the most important ones.

Going forward, you’ll now be able to filter your decision-making by asking a question—will this next task, meeting, action serve one of those priorities?

Granted, not everything you do all day will. But this alone will help you with making better and faster decisions, establishing boundaries, and taking control back of what matters. When you do, you’ll start winning your day with daily, consistent action.

3. Win the Day With 1% Progress

The conventional wisdom of personal growth and self-help have sold you a false myth—the illusion that every day must be a rousing success. Hopped up on motivation, it’s easy to buy into this narrative and yet, sustained success is about consistent action steps compounded over long periods of time.

Enter the 1% rule, which operates under the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen—defined as steady, continuous improvement. Using this rule, you’ll make daily progress a habit and tap into the number one human motivator.

Research by Harvard professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer dove into why people stay motivated at work. In analyzing 12,000 diary entries where they tracked their emotional state various times a day, they came to one conclusion—it’s not money, it’s not security, and it’s not approval. Progress is more important than anything else.[2]

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To harness what is called the progress principle’, break down the priorities from step two into the smallest possible action.

For example:

  • Instead of “create a marketing plan”, start with the first step—brainstorm marketing ideas for twenty minutes.
  • Instead of “launch website”, choose to complete a draft of your About Me page.
  • Instead of “grow the business”, choose to make three extra sales calls on any given week.

Progress triggers dopamine in the brain, which makes motivation surge, and the cycle repeats itself. One percent today and tomorrow start to accumulate, and incremental growth turns into exponential. To make this a consistent practice, you’re going to lower the bar to get started.

4. Lower the Bar to Get Started

We’ve all found ourselves staring at a blank cursor at the local coffee shop, primed to do important work, and then realized that 55 minutes went by and we got nothing done.

Why? Getting started is always the hardest part, and it’s much harder when you have too much on your plate. Whether that’s your workout routine or working on your priorities, resistance is always highest right before you start.

Borrowing the term from how chemical compounds change at different thresholds, psychologists call this term “activation energy”.[3]

This is a fancy way of saying the energy it takes for you to go from thinking about doing something to doing it. The higher the volume of the task, the longer the wait to get started or, in many cases, we put it off entirely.

Instead, you’re going to play a trick on yourself:

  • Instead of a 45-minute time-block, commit to doing 10 minutes.
  • Instead of a 3-mile run, commit to two loops around the block.
  • Instead of cleaning your home, commit to getting the closet done.

By lowering the bar, you’ll take the pressure off yourself. And, as you’ll notice, once you’ve started, it’s much easy to keep going.

5. Double Your Rate of Saying No

No decision you make is ever in a vacuum. The coffee meeting you agreed to early in the morning means you said “no” to your morning workout. We tend to say yes freely without thinking about the consequences until we’re stuck at a networking mixer or Zoom catch-up we don’t want to be in.

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However, the most important word you can use in the pursuit of taking stuff off your plate is “no.”

Here are two questions to ask yourself when receiving a request or opportunity are:

  • If this was tomorrow morning, would I still say yes? We tend to say yes to anything that is a few weeks or months out.
  • If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to, and is it worth it? This simple question allows you to be aware of the cost.

Saying no creates instant clarity. It deletes “open loops” in our heads and honors some much-needed boundaries. Most importantly, it gives you the time, energy, and bandwidth to pour yourself into your priorities.

Of course, this does not mean you will neglect parts of your life you enjoy. Rather, you will do so with discernment. Otherwise, you will say “yes” to anyone and everyone at your expense.

Instead, say “yes” to yourself first. Say yes to your goals. Say yes to your priorities. Say yes to your creative time before you agree to someone else’s needs and agendas.

6. Leave the Cult of Busy

The cult of busy consumes your precious energy and thrives on making you a card-carrying member who pays their dues with exhaustion, scattered progress, and burnout. Busyness has become a societal badge of honor—a ‘tell’ to let others know you’re important. It’s as if having too much on your plate is a good thing.

However, is busy actually working? On a long enough timeline, busy leads to overwhelm, distraction, and a lot of social media scrolling. To leave the cult of busyness is a courageous act, and it starts with your language.

Research has shown that language provides a look into our beliefs. If we believe we are always busy and don’t have enough time, it’s easy to procrastinate and self-sabotage on what matters.

Next time you want to tell the world how busy you are and how hectic life seems to be, catch yourself. Shift your language, use words like prioritized, focused, committed—and watch how these shift your emotional state.

7. Celebrate Wins Every Day

You’re the worst person in the world to recognize your growth. It’s a bold statement, but I can say that with confidence because I am, too. We all are. We are masters at focusing on what’s not working and the “gap” between today’s reality and our future selves.

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Furthermore, we often discount the goals we worked hard to attain. We brush them off once we’ve achieved them and quickly move onto the next.

It’s time to take control back and celebrate at least three wins every day. These are not about grand moments, it’s about the small ways you showed up. This is essential to helping yourself when you have too much on your plate.

If you want to unlock this even further, identify the ‘ingredient of success’ for your win.

For example:

  • Your win was to show up for your early morning workout, the ingredient is discipline.
  • Your win was to have a tough conversation with someone, the ingredient is honesty.
  • Your win was to publish something before you felt ready, the ingredient is courage.

Why does this matter?

Celebrating small wins has been shown to amplify motivation in our personal and professional lives.[4] By writing these down, you’ll recognize the places where you are growing and are already accumulating the ingredients of your next success.

It’s Time to Take Stuff Off Your Plate

We’ve all felt like we have too much on our plate at some point—and things seem to be getting worse, not better. There are more tasks to do. There are more social media platforms to post and comment on. More inputs are competing for our attention that never seem to end.

The reality is that unless you take control of this now, it will only get worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

  • You can delete clutter every day.
  • You can get clear on your priorities.
  • You can choose to leave the cult of busy.

Once you do, you’ll start to value less, not more. You’ll accumulate winning days more often. You’ll learn how to set boundaries and recognize a distraction disguised as a shiny opportunity.

Best of all, you’ll get to the end of your days knowing you are moving forward in your life and business. During these times, nothing could be more important or relevant.

More Tips to Help You End Overwhelm

Featured photo credit: Tetiana SHYSHKINA via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Exploring the “Planning Fallacy”: Why People Underestimate Their Task Completion Times
[2] Harvard Business Review: The Power of Small Wins
[3] Psychology Today: Activation Energy: How It Keeps Happiness at a Distance
[4] Harvard Business Review: The Power of Small Wins

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