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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

17 Smart Tips on Setting Goals to Accomplish More in Life

17 Smart Tips on Setting Goals to Accomplish More in Life

We all know setting goals is the best way to give your life focus and direction. But did you know that by setting goals, it can also help you to get a lot more of your important work done?

Having clear and effective goals that are built around your values focuses your mind on what is important. It helps you filter out the unnecessary and gives you an ‘outcome mindset’ rather than a ‘task mindset’.

An outcome mindset is one where you are focused on the objective—the outcome— of what you are intending to achieve. A task mindset focuses on the tasks you have to do each day and this leads to completing unnecessary tasks (or spending too much time on the unimportant) and procrastination.

To help you with transforming yourself from being focused on the tasks and to be focused on the outcome, here are 17 ways having clear goals will not only increase your productivity but also supercharge your ability to get the important things done:

1. Make it a goal to have no more than 10 tasks on your to-do list each day.

One of the surprising benefits of having a small number of goals for the day is how frequently you find yourself accomplishing more.

When you have a random number of tasks to complete each day, the likelihood is you will not get them all done.

When you set yourself a small number of tasks to complete—your “must completes” for the day—and you restrict these to a set number, you are much more likely to get them done.

2. Decide what your monthly and weekly goals are.

What do you want to accomplish this month? What do you want to accomplish this week? These questions focus you in on the things that are important to you.

Most people are waiting for life to happen to them, after all, it is far easier to react to events around you than to create events around you.

When you create the events in your life by having weekly and monthly goals that reflect your objectives for the year, you are going to get far more of your important work done.

3. Having goals allows you to work on what’s important to you and it keeps you focused on your priorities.

Building your daily life around your goals is going to keep you on the path you want to follow.

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Without any goals directing you towards where you want to go, you will find yourself drifting off your desired path and aimlessly wandering through life wondering how you got to where you are. More often than not where you end up will not be where you want to be.

4. By having a set of goals, you find it much easier to eliminate the unimportant tasks that come up each day.

Every day throws up a lot of unexpected issues. These issues often come from our bosses, clients/customers and friends and family. It does not matter how well planned your day is, these things are going to happen.

When you have a set number of goals to achieve each day, these issues will not hijack your day and destroy it. You will find you can handle the unexpected while continuing to get on with your important work for the day.

5. Having goals gives you focus.

When you set goals, it means you have made a decision about what it is you want to achieve and what is important to you. This allows you to become a much more focused person because you are mindful of what you want.

Focus, in today’s world, is a skill in short supply and by developing your focus you are going to put yourself way ahead of everyone else.

6. Begin the day with a goal.

One of the best ways to accomplish more of your important tasks each day is to begin the day with a clear goal.

It could be to complete a specific project or to simply get outside and walk for thirty minutes in nature.

When you start the day with a specific goal to do something, you are much more likely to get it done.

7. Start small.

If you have never had an outcome-orientated mindset, then begin will small steps.

A simple goal to have each day, and a very healthy one, is to go for a thirty-minute walk.

Another simple goal to set for the day is to choose one piece of work that you will complete that day, then focus all your attention on getting that work completed before you finish for the day.

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These pieces of completed work add up over time and you find you are getting far more done than you ever did before.

8. Ask yourself: What one thing you could do today that would have the biggest positive impact on your day?

This is a great way to accomplish even the hardest of goals.

Asking yourself this question really helps you discover what projects and work are important. This question is not focused on completing the goal. This question is all about making progress on the goal.

Once you have completed that task, you will find the next step happens naturally. Before you know it, you have made a huge impact on your goal.

9. Small steps consistently taken leads to great distances being covered.

One of the biggest reasons why most people never achieve their goals is their goals seem impossible because of the time and effort required to achieve them.

The best way to make even the most difficult goals achievable is to break them down into small manageable steps. Even the smallest of steps moves you forward towards achieving the goal.

Just two or three little steps completed every day will, over time, take you towards where you want to be.

Want to write a book? Writing 500 words per day will give you a 60,000-word manuscript in around ten months.

10. Plan what you are going to achieve the day before with the 2+8 Prioritisation system.

This one always works. Before you finish your day’s work, take ten minutes or so and decide what two things you will achieve the next day. This is what I call my “two objectives”.

Once you have decided on your objectives, write down eight other tasks you want to complete the next day. These tasks I call my “focus tasks”.

You then make sure that whatever gets thrown at you the next day, you will complete these ten tasks.

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Over a period of one month, you will have achieved around 300 meaningful tasks all related to your goals and important work.[1]

11. Know what your majors and minors are.

This one is the secret of all highly successful people. They know what work has the most impact on their life and business and what work does not.

For example, checking email, while necessary, is not a major task. It does not move you forward in any meaningful way. Talking to your most important customer and reinforcing your strong relationship with them, that’s a major.

One of the best examples I’ve heard comes from Brian Tracy. In his example, Brian says a salesperson doing work in the office is doing minor work. A salesperson talking with a customer is doing major work.

Focus all your time and energies on your major work and reduce the time you spend on your minor work.

12. Having goals adds positive pressure to get more done.

When you have goals, you feel obligated to do something about them. When you do not have a goal, you are much more likely to procrastinate and spend unproductive time thinking about what to do next.

Goals give you clarity, goals give you purpose and when you have both clarity and purpose, you find you no longer procrastinate and you utilise your time much more effectively.

13. Having specific, clear goals incentivises you to move forward.

How you write the action steps related to your goals is important. If you have a goal that says “make an online course,” you will not achieve very much.

Writing your action steps out such as “make progress on the online course outline” or “make five slides for online course” is specific and is going to lead to action and achievement.

14. Making progress on your goals leads to more progress.

When you see you are making progress on your goals every day, you will find you begin getting much more done.

Momentum is created once you start and when momentum begins you find positive habits develop. Put momentum and motive together and you have the ingredients for massive progress towards your goals and your work.

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15. Goals give you accountability.

Something amazing happens to our brains when we set ourselves goals. Having goals we are very clear about and determined to achieve gives our brains the necessary incentive to focus on getting the goal achieved.

We have accountability to ourselves. That accountability gives us all the incentive we need to get the work done every day.

16. Invoke the power of Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

When you have set goals to achieve each day and you begin the day with a review of what you want to get completed, Parkinson’s Law will take over.

This means no matter what else gets thrown at you throughout the day, if you have set yourself a time you will finish your work for the day, you will find you will finish what you have planned for the day at that time. This one works brilliantly.

17. You become a highly focused, goal achieving individual.

Having goals you are focused on each day develops a ‘can do’ mindset. When you have a strong ‘can do’ mindset and the discipline to focus on what you want to get accomplished each day, you find work you previously thought would take weeks and months to complete soon start being completed within hours or days.

A great mindset and a strong work ethic, coupled with daily goals will make some very positive changes in your life.

These 17 tips are just the start. When you begin focusing your daily activities on your goals instead of on your tasks, you will see an incredible transformation take place in your life.

Your energy increases, you feel happier more often and you start to feel you are making progress on the things that are important to you which just leads to accomplishing more and more.

More Resources About Setting & Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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