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Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

Losing weight, saving money, getting fit, quitting smoking… Haven’t you ever gotten excited about your New Year’s goals?

You’re not alone. Unfortunately, as studies show, most resolutions don’t go beyond the wishful thinking stage. A staggering 92 people out of 100 fail to achieve their New Year’s goals.[1]

When the “fresh start effect” fades away, motivation falters and the first bump on the road often signals the end of the journey. We end up the following year with the exact same goals, again and again –as if we were stuck in life.

There may be many reasons why people end up giving up on our goals. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Picking up the wrong objectives;
  • Not setting the goal properly;
  • Setting the bar too high and feel overwhelmed;
  • Lacking guidance and support;
  • Not planning strategies for overcoming obstacles; etc.

But there is another one, a more obvious one, so obvious that most seem to forget about it: if we want to achieve a goal, we need to follow through. Setting the objective is a good start –but it’s only the beginning of the journey.

A lot of people have the misconception that when they have set a goal, they will be able to achieve it. It’s definitely not enough. We can’t expect success when we don’t follow through.

I have been setting and tracking goals for about 20 years now. It started after a deep teenager crisis which left my life as a mess. Setting goals was a way to rebuild myself, set eyes on a new horizon and move forward. Find out more about my story in another article I’ve written: How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

Goals stayed with me since that day. When I started to work in investment banking a few years later, having goals helped me maintain a work-life balance and stay healthy in a high-pressure environment.

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My approach to goals evolved over time. It started with a pen and a blank piece of paper; then an Excel spreadsheet; and finally, I built a goal-setting app called GOALMAP.

In total, I have set hundreds of goals and tracked hundreds of thousands of steps towards reaching them. If there is one secret I have learned and would like to share with you, it’s this one: tracking is the key. So let me try and explain how you can unlock the power of goal-tracking to build your dream life:

1. Be a S.T.A.R.

There is a lot of stress put on setting goals, but setting goals is just one of the phases of the overall success loop. If you want to achieve your goals and engage in a meaningful personal growth process, you need to take a broader approach.

I have a name for that. I call it the S.T.A.R. method: Set goals, Track progress, Analyze results, and Reset your goals. It’s a loop, a dynamic process.

2. Make your goals trackable

First things first, most objectives are bound to failure simply because they are not clearly defined. If your resolution is too vague, you can’t measure success and you can’t define a proper plan of action. It’s like saying “I want to go somewhere nice” to your GPS: it probably won’t help you.

Set your goal properly using the S.M.A.R.T. goal technique:

  • Specific: Your goals should be precise. You can’t hit the bull’s-eye if there is none. Don’t say “I want to lose weight” but rather “I want to lose 4 kilos by year-end”.
  • Measurable: Your goal should be quantified so that you know at any point in time whether you are on track or not. This will enable you to follow your progress on a regular basis.
  • Achievable: Don’t over-plan, be realistic, your objective must be within reach. If it’s too big, then try and break it into smaller manageable goals that you can achieve step by step.
  • Relevant: Your goals must be relevant to you, connected to your deepest aspirations and aligned with your personal values.
  • Time-bound: Your goal should have a deadline, or a recurrence (x times per day, y hours per week).

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Read for more tips about setting a SMART goal: How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

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3. Focus on habits

One day, I checked my goals and tried to determine what the difference was between those I achieved rather easily and those for which I seemed to struggle or procrastinate. I found a clear pattern.

I had a few long term goals, like maintaining a certain weight, or getting a new degree before I reach 40. I was doing well with the first one, less so with the second one.

Why did I seem to have a two-speed motivation? I was not less motivated by the new degree. But I had nowhere to start from, while my weight goal instead was linked to habits, such as eating five servings of fruits or vegetables per day, eating fish twice a week, exercising at least four times a week, etc.

These daily and weekly habits helped me reach the long term objective. They made it easy to track progress. I had not set any corresponding habit for my degree goal. And I was not going to achieve it just by looking at it.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

Have a vision for who you want to be in the long run, and focus on the little habits that will get you there. We tend to underestimate how far we can go by taking small steps in the same direction day after day. Be great in the small things. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

4. Keep track

“A goal properly set is halfway reached” Abraham Lincoln.

The second half is all about tracking. Okay, you have entered a proper address in your GPS instead of “somewhere nice”, but what is the point if you then switch it off?

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Track your progress in a consistent and structured manner; i.e., not just in your head. Use an app, write in your journal, etc. Make it so that you can easily follow your evolution and compare with previous periods.

A study of nearly 1,700 participants in a weight-loss program showed that those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.[2] Tracking fosters self-awareness. When you understand yourself better, it becomes much easier to change.

Tracking is also motivating in itself. It gives you immediate feedback on how you are performing. It provides you with a sense of achievement. Instead of a never-ending to-do-list which sometimes demoralizes you, you visualize the things you have already completed in your done list and get motivated. Find out more about the benefits of done list here: Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work and Done Lists Do

5. Reward yourself

Another benefit of tracking is that it allows you to define milestones, break down progress, and reinforce the habit loop by rewarding yourself for reaching certain milestones.

We all know that we are more motivated to do something when there is a reward at stake. The pleasure induced by a reward reinforces the activity which helped get the reward. This is called extrinsic motivation. It can be helpful to kick-start the process when intrinsic motivation is a bit low.

A simple way to introduce rewards is to plan/get/offer the rewards yourself. You need to set the bar properly. You need to do a decent effort to get it. It can’t be too difficult, or else you may end up feeling discouraged. It can’t be too easy, or else you’ll get the reward without the need for motivation.

You also need to define a reward that makes sense. Eating junk food for a week if you manage to lose three kilos is probably not the best choice! Ideally, the reward and the effort should be somehow aligned in nature. This will help create a virtuous circle.

Buying a smaller-size dress when you lose a few kilos or getting a massage after a few weeks of physical training are good examples. These rewards help you build milestones on your path to a better you. They become the symbols of your positive behavior change.

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6. Analyze your results and adjust your goals

Goals are not meant to be cast in stone. They must be alive and reassessed regularly. Monotony is a big motivation killer, so tracking gives you everything you need to stay motivated smartly.

When you track your progress, you can easily compare your actual results with the targets you had set. It is then time to take a step back and reset your goals. Here are a few examples:

  • Adjust down: “Hitting the gym three times a week was too ambitious. I manage to go once a week, two sometimes. I’ll change my target to twice a week instead and build up from there.”
  • Adjust up: “I have consistently hit my target of reading two hours per week. I enjoyed reading that much and learned a lot. Let’s increase the target to two and a half hours.”
  • Stop tracking: “I used to drink too much coffee some days when I hadn’t slept enough the previous night but over time, I managed to ingrain a new habit. I don’t drink more than two cups a day anymore. I can probably stop tracking this goal now.”
  • Give up: “I liked the idea of practicing martial arts but I fail on this goal week after week. I realize that I don’t enjoy the process as much as I liked the idea. It’s time to switch to another sport.”

Once a month, or every other month, try and take an “appointment with yourself” and review your goals. Assess what works well, what works less well, update the targets, add, remove, refine, etc. This will help you keep it interesting and inspiring.

Track it till you make it

A goal you don’t keep track of is doomed to fail. Setting it is not enough. Actually, setting goals is only about making them trackable and actionable.

By keeping track of your goals, you will engage in a virtuous personal growth circle. It will allow you to analyze your results, get motivated, improve, set better goals, and so on.

Ready, set, track!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Damien Catani

Founder at GOALMAP

You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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