Advertising
Advertising

If You Want to Get Bigger Things Done in 2018, Read This

If You Want to Get Bigger Things Done in 2018, Read This

You may think of Starbucks as a great place to grab a coffee, but they’ve actually got a fascinating goal that they’re aiming for. Their ambition is to be recognized as much for their commitment to social responsibility – as the quality of their coffee. And they want to reach this goal by 2020.[1]

To help reach this worthy ambition, Starbucks plans to offer sustainable coffee, eco-friendly stores, employment opportunities for military veterans (and their spouses), youth and refugees, and food share and community service.

How will they achieve these targets? The company is committed to planting 100 million trees to farmers by 2025, double the recycled content, recyclability and the reusability of Starbucks cups by 2020, hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses, and rescue 100 percent of food available to donate by 2020 in U.S. company-owned stores. (And many more.)

    This Starbucks’ plan is essentially based on the SMART goal principles. With a deadline of 2020 (just three years), they’re stretching their potential to get big things done as soon as possible.

    SMART Goal vs Stretch Goal

    In November 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, published a paper titled: There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. It’s believed that this was the first time the acronym SMART was written down.

    Maybe you’ve already known or tried a SMART goal, but let’s just have a recap of what SMART stands for:[2]

    • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
    • Measurable – quantify, or at least suggest, an indicator of progress.
    • Assignable – specify who will do it.
    • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved given available resources.
    • Timeline – specify when the result can be achieved.

    This clear and simple framework has revolutionized the way many people and companies implement their goal setting.

    How about Stretch goals? Stretch goals allow you to stretch your imagination, potential and ability. It’s when our creativity and imagination comes up with what we believe are winning ideas – but we don’t necessarily have any concrete steps on how to achieve them. This can often make Stretch goals seem like make-believe, as the goals are often very challenging.

    Advertising

    On the left, you can see a straight path leading to a country. This is how your SMART goal looks when in action. You have a clear direction and a definite goal.

    On the right, you can see a blurry, meandering path to an unknown continent. This is how your Stretch goal looks when in action. You have an uncertain route to take on the way to a goal that is so big – that you can’t be sure you’ll ever reach it.

      SMART Goals are Concrete but Rigid

      SMART goals offer a concrete plan of action so people know exactly what to do to achieve the desired goal. They are more motivating because the plan of action demonstrates how the goal is attainable. They also make visualizing progress easy, and missed targets can be spotted quickly.

        However, the focus on specific set targets to reach the goal can result in people missing the bigger picture. If the goals are too easy to achieve, then the potential is lost to attain greater success. For creative types, the rigidity of SMART goals may prove to be too robotic or dull.

          Stretch Goals are Daring but Vague

          Stretch goals inspire people to think BIG and push their limits of potential and ability. They allow people to keep their focus on the BIG picture, and encourage creative approaches because often unconventional ways are needed to achieve herculean goals.

          Advertising

            But stretch goals can be demotivating. They lack concrete plans on how to get started, and how to progress and can lead to excessive risk-taking.

              Go SMART, or Stretch It?

              If you choose to go down the SMART goal route, you have the best chance of achieving your goal, but you may miss out on reaching your highest potential.

              On the other hand, if you choose to go down the Stretch goal route, you may push yourself to your limits, but ultimately fail to reach your desired destination.

                Clearly, SMART and Stretch goals have distinctive pros and cons. However, some circumstances will be best suited to one or the other.

                SMART goals are best when:

                • You have a vague plan, and have no idea how to turn the plan/idea into results.
                • You have a great idea/goal that you want to achieve, but you aren’t sure HOW to make it happen.
                • You need to kickstart yourself or your company into some action (e.g., reading one book a week, gaining 100 new customers a month).

                Stretch goals are best when:

                • You have a concrete plan, and you don’t see a problem making it happen. (It’s probably time to stretch it more!)
                • You want to break through stability and take your achievements to the next level (e.g., reading 3 books a week, gaining 500 customers a month).

                Discover the Sweet Spot

                Could there be a ‘middle way’ that combines the pros of each goal type while eliminating the cons? Yes, there certainly is.

                Advertising

                If you’re not sure what goal type to choose, then instead, try combining the two goal types into one.

                  For example, if your goal is to be a competent guitar player, that would lend itself to being a SMART goal. With lessons and practice you could become a competent guitar player in under a year. However, why not blend in some Stretch goal thinking to inject some excitement into your goal. Dream big and outside of the box, and set your Stretch goal as: “To become a full-time, professional musician within three years.”

                  Now you have the best of both worlds. A short-term attainable goal, backed by a bigger, more inspiring dream.

                  Again, see yourself in the maze. Walking slowly through it, you know that you can eventually find your way out. However, imagine if you found a rocket in the maze, and you could instantly blast your way to freedom!

                  Start Achieving Right Now

                  Ready to start on the road to success? You just need to do three things:

                  1. Stretch your mind.
                  2. Get SMART.
                  3. Get working!

                  I’ll give you an example of this, so you can see how it’s done.

                  Imagine that you want to take up running as a hobby and a way to boost your health and fitness. If you lack any goals around this, you may run a few evenings, but then become demotivated and give up.

                  However, there is another way.

                  Advertising

                  Bring drama and stimulation to the table by choosing a Stretch goal of completing your first ever marathon.

                  Sounds too much? It should do, as the goal is designed to stretch your potential and ability. However – and here is the real secret – set yourself some SMART goals that specifically prepare you for the end destination… 26 miles of nonstop running!

                  Your SMART goals could include:

                  • Specific sub-goal: Run 7 miles without stopping.
                  • Measurable: Run twice around the park, no walking.
                  • Achievable?: Sure, if I run three times a week.
                  • Realistic?: Sure, if I wake up early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
                  • Timeline: Run 3 miles this week, 4 miles next week, 5 miles…

                  I’m sure you get the idea.

                  By blending the power of SMART and Stretch goals, you can turn yourself into a super-achiever. And if you have your own company, you can begin putting it on the fast-track to major success.

                  So, Stretch, be SMART, and enjoy the journey!

                  Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

                  Reference

                  More by this author

                  Leon Ho

                  Founder & CEO of Lifehack

                  How to Set Professional Development Goals for Success Social Learning How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways how to make a life plan How to Make a Life Plan That Works (With a Life Plan Template) Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How to Tackle Them

                  Trending in Smartcut

                  1 How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways 2 How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem 3 4 Ways to Focus on Your Goals and Avoid Distractions 4 How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity 5 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                  Read Next

                  Advertising
                  Advertising
                  Advertising

                  Last Updated on September 18, 2020

                  How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

                  How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

                  Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

                  Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

                  Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

                  1. Meditate

                  We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

                  Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

                  Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

                  Fortunately, meditation can help.

                  Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

                  While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

                  Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

                  However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

                  2. Get Plenty of Sleep

                  If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

                  If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

                  Advertising

                  If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

                  Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

                  If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

                    Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

                    Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

                    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
                    • Don’t eat too late
                    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

                    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

                    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

                    3. Challenge Your Brain

                    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

                    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

                    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

                    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

                    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

                    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

                    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

                    Advertising

                    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

                    4. Take More Breaks

                    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

                    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

                    However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

                    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

                    One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

                    This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

                    When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

                    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

                    Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

                    5. Learn a New Skill

                    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

                    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

                    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

                    Advertising

                    Let me give you an example of this:

                    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

                    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

                    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

                    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

                    It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

                    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

                    If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

                    6. Start Working out

                    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

                    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

                    Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

                    Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

                    Interested in getting started?

                    Advertising

                    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

                    • Join a gym
                    • Join a sports team
                    • Buy a bike
                    • Take up hiking
                    • Dance to your favorite music

                    7. Eat Healthier Foods

                    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

                    This applies to your brain, too.

                    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

                    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

                    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

                    If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

                    • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
                    • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
                    • Nuts – Improves memory
                    • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
                    • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

                    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

                    Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

                    Final Thoughts

                    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

                    You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

                    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

                    More on How to Improve Memory

                    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

                    Reference

                    Read Next