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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

[1] Project Smart: SMART Goals
[2] Mind Tools: SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable
[3] OnStrategy: How to Set SMART Goals

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Wen Shan

Proud Philosophy grad. Based in HK.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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