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How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

Perhaps you’ve been working extra hard towards a goal. You think you have the perfect plan, but you just don’t seem to be making progress. You don’t understand. Now you’re feeling a little tired, and you want to give up. Tomorrow won’t be any better, anyway.

Perhaps it’s true: you won’t succeed—just yet.

But the reason you get stuck isn’t that you don’t have the abilities to do it, or that you’re not putting in enough effort. Rather, you’re missing the point of goal-setting—you’ve made yourself the wrong goal in the first place.

To achieve what you want most, what you need is a SMART goal instead.

S-M-A-R-T is a set of 5 criteria to help you judge whether a goal is good or not. It helps you make better use of your time and energy, and achieve your goals effectively. Setting a SMART goal is the first step to success.

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When setting a new goal, or making changes to a current goal, you should ask yourself whether your goal fulfils these 5 criteria:[1][2]

S for Specific

It is important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. That way you can focus your time and energy on achieving your goal. Also, having a specific goal helps you stay away from distractions.

A simple trick to set a specific goal is to start with a verb.[3] This helps you remember exactly what you’re going to do.

M for Measurable

You want to know it when you’ve achieved your goal. You should also be able to tell how far you’ve come during the process, and how much further to go. Be specific with how much or how many about your goal.

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A for Achievable

Your goal should be possible within your abilities. Look at what skills you already have, and compare them to the skills needed to achieve your goal. If there’s a skill you don’t have yet, find out whether you’ll be able to learn it.

Make a plan of the exact things you’ll have to do for your goal, and make adjustments where you have to.

R for Realistic

Research into the facts and figures relevant to your goal. Then think about the resources available to you, such as your budget, time frame, the help you can get, etc. Ask yourself if your goal makes sense in your situation.

Also, be realistic about the effort you’re willing to put in. You may want to see if it’s a worthwhile goal to pursue in itself, or how it will fit in with your other goals.

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T for Time-bound

Think about when you want to achieve your goal. Setting a time limit adds to your motivation. Also, work out a timeline to keep track of your progress.

Keep in mind the total time you have while deciding the daily or weekly target. It will be a constant reminder to keep you going when you’re tempted to slack off.

Adapting SMART goal is a bit tricky, try to start by learning from different examples.

Here’re some examples of how you can can use the SMART formula to set goals and make them achievable.

Goal Example 1: I want to be more productive at work.

My problem: By the end of my work day, I always have lots of pending works still and have to work over time a lot. I figured that I spent too much time on the first few tasks, leaving no more time for the rest of the works.

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  • Specific: Finishing all the tasks planned for the day requires tasks prioritization as well as effort and time estimation. Prioritization, and time and effort estimation for tasks are my weaknesses. In 30 days, I will prioritize tasks efficiently and accurately estimate each task’s time and effort and do as planned.
  • Measurable: By the 30th day, I should be able to have my task list well-prioritized, with the time correctly estimated for at least 90% of the tasks. And I will be able to follow the estimated time and complete all the planned tasks on the list.
  • Achievable: I will set aside 10 minutes every day to organize and prioritize the tasks I should do the next day. I will also set aside another 5 to 10 minutes to review whether my estimation of time and effort is correct, and whether I can follow my plan in completing tasks.
  • Realistic: Setting aside around 20 minutes in total each day to plan for the 7 to 8 hours of tasks is realistic and beneficial to my work efficiency.
  • Time-Bound: In 30 days, I should be good at prioritizing and completing tasks according to my plan, ensuring my tasks will be done on time without extra working time.

Goal Example 2: I want to start to read more books.

My problem: I often struggle to find the right words to express my ideas in my assignments. I also have trouble with my grammar, and make lots of mistakes when I write.

  • Specific: I want to read more books so I can learn more vocabulary and sentence structures to use in my writing. In this semester, I will read books, take notes of new vocabulary and sentence structures, and revise them.
  • Measurable: By the end of this semester, I should be able to score at least 8 out of 10 in the ‘grammar and style’ component of my essays.
  • Achievable: I will finish reading 2 books of at least 300 pages each. I will read 15 pages each day, 5 days a week; and revise my reading notes for 45 minutes on each of the remaining 2 days of the week.
  • Realistic: Reading 15 pages each day is manageable. Also, reading consistently is an effective way for me to learn writing skills.
  • Time-Bound: I want to see improvement in grades from 6 to 8 (out of 10) by the end of this semester, which is 92 days in total.

Goal Example 3: I want to wake up earlier.

My problem: I am always 5 minutes late to work because I snooze my alarm too many times in the morning and don’t have enough time to get ready.

  • Specific: I currently set my alarm at 7am, but I wake up at 7:30am. I have to leave for work at 7:45am the latest, and I need 45 minutes to get ready. So my goal is to wake up at 7am.
  • Measurable: In 1 month, I should be able to get out of bed without pressing snooze. My first target is to press snooze only once within the first week.
  • Achievable: I can train myself to wake up earlier by putting my alarm further away from my bed, so I’m forced to get up. Also, I can set my favorite song as my alarm ringtone so I don’t feel annoyed by the default sound early in the morning.
  • Realistic: I usually go to bed by midnight. Waking up at 7am means I can get 7 hours’ sleep, which is enough for me. So waking up at 7am is a realistic goal.
  • Time-Bound: I will get up at 7am sharp and stop pressing snooze in 1 month.

Goal Example 4: I want to eat healthier.

My problem: I am overweight. I know what I should and shouldn’t eat, but I lack the motivation to make the right choices.

  • Specific: In order to practice making healthy decisions, in the next 3 months, I will make plans before meal times come around.
  • Measurable: I want to lose 5 kg in order to get back into the healthy weight range within 3 months. I will eat healthy meals for 6 days a week, an indulge in a nice dinner on Sunday.
  • Achievable: I can spend an hour on Sundays to plan my meals for the week. I can look online to see what restaurants near my office serve healthy options. I can also cook my own meals at weekends.
  • Realistic: I have the knowledge to make healthy choices, and the ability to cook myself healthy meals. Also, allowing myself 1 ‘cheat meal’ per week makes my goal manageable.
  • Time-Bound: I will make healthy food choices over the next 3 months, and build momentum for the future.

Goal Example 5: I want to spend more time with my family.

My problem: I don’t see my wife and son enough since I always let work take up my leisure time even when I’m at home.

  • Specific: I will spend more time to chat with my family every day and do fun activities with them at weekends.
  • Measurable: In the coming month, I will spend time with my family without thinking about work when I get home. I will spend an hour after dinner to chat with my wife and son every day, and go out with them on either Saturday or Sunday.
  • Achievable: I can switch off the email notifications on my phone when I’m with my family. I can also take some time to discuss with my family what activities to do at weekends when we have dinner.
  • Realistic: My job doesn’t require me to stand by outside of office hours. So having work-free time with my family shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Time-Bound: I will spend weekends with my family and pay my full attention on them when we’re together for the upcoming month, and make it a habit.

Break down big goals and take small steps, and you’ll achieve them eventually.

If you’re looking for some motivation on achieving big goals, watch this cool doodle video about breaking big goals down and taking small steps to reach the goals:

Reference

More by this author

Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

Do you sometimes feel that you add items to your to-do list faster than you tick them off? Do you spend most of your day worrying about your lack of time?

The truth is, no matter how much we love our job, or how productive we believe we are under stress, there comes a moment when the pressure rises above boiling point. The sheer number of urgent tasks multiplies in a geometric progression. New possibilities no longer sound inspiring, they sound overwhelming and equal more work.

If that’s where you are right now – keep reading! If not, it doesn’t mean you should wait until you get there to learn how to cope with a demanding work schedule and how to calm yourself down quickly when you feel overwhelmed.

Here are 7 quick and easy tips on how to calm down when you are overwhelmed:

1. Let go of a few activities

Yes, it’s that easy! Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “If I don’t do it today, will it matter a month from now?”

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Not every urgent task is important. Just like not every important, high pay-off task is urgent. The best way to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed and to manage your time is to know the difference between the two and learn to simplify your life by getting your to-do list down to three big tasks.

2. Take deep breaths to calm down

This advice sounds so simple it’s often overlooked. But it works better (and faster) than any other relaxation technique out there.

There is a direct connection between our emotional state and breathing. An anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed person breathes as if they have just finished running a marathon. A calm person breathes differently. Their breathing is deep, slow and steady. So when you have a panic attack, the best way to bring your heart rate down and to regain your cool is to change your breathing.

Try this now:

Take a slow, long deep breath in, filling your lungs with air and expanding your diaphragm. Hold your breath for four counts and then slowly release the air through your mouth. Repeat four times and notice frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed dissolve with each long exhale of these calming breaths.

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3. Make “Just one thing” your mantra

When we feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on our to-do list, it’s easy to enter the ‘deer in the headlights’ state. You see deadlines approaching directly towards you, and you know that something has to be done about them, but you just don’t know where to start.

The best way to get your mind out of an ‘inactivity trance’ is to create momentum. This is what makes the “Just one thing” mantra so powerful. It helps to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now, “or else.”

Next time you feel overwhelmed make grabbing a cup of coffee your “Just one thing.” You can do it, right? Then come back, pick one of the smallest tasks on your to-do list and tell yourself you’ll do just that one task. This is your next “Just one thing” that you will concentrate on until it’s complete. After that you can move on to the next task and so on.

It’s not “One thing at a time.” Saying this implies that there is a huge line of other tasks waiting to get done and that’s not the message you want to keep repeating to yourself. Learn how to focus here and stop getting overwhelmed.

4. Reduce the multi-tasking and multi-thinking

It’s been proven that multi-tasking is very inefficient, to the point of dumbing us down (more than smoking marijuana does). The same is true for multi-thinking, when your mind frantically jumps from one thought to another, trying to focus on and analyze several things all at once.

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Fortunately, there is help. A few minutes of meditation or brainwave music is all it takes to start feeling more relaxed, more creative and less overwhelmed.

5. Get moving

Any exercise you engage in – be it walking or dancing to your favorite beat – helps to release endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, through your body and to clear your mind.

Staying active also increases your productivity, enhances your ability to combat stress and anxiety. It also helps you to release the tension, boosting your mood and changing the thoughts that induce the sense of being overwhelmed.

The best part is you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get the mind-soothing benefits of exercise. Even as little as 15 minutes of dancing or jogging can go a long way towards making you feel better and staying calmer.

6. Change your surroundings

We all need and deserve to take vacations from work woes and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, spending two weeks lazing on a beach, toes in the sand and a Mojito in hand, is not always an option. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t take short ‘vacations’ from work stress and the technology buzz.

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Go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine. Stop at a park instead of driving straight home from work. Sometimes changing your surroundings and ‘spicing up your routine’ is all it takes to change your perspective on things and find creative solutions to seemingly complex and overwhelming problems.

7. Get some pet therapy

Studies have shown what most of us already guessed – our pets can be a great help during stressful moments. Simple actions such as petting or playing with your dog or cat can lower high blood pressure, boost your immune system and boost your mood.

Besides, pets can make the best conversation partners to share your frustrations with. They listen, they love you unconditionally and they never talk back or say, “I told you so.”

Final thoughts

Don’t wait for stress to hit you to start practicing these quick ways to calm down when you are overwhelmed. The best way to enjoy a worry-free life is not to push yourself to the limit of being overwhelmed and frustrated.

Featured photo credit: Dardan via unsplash.com

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