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How to Really Achieve Goals

How to Really Achieve Goals
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Sometimes I wish I had a Life-GPS that would help me achieve goals. It would instruct me on my way, recalculate when I don’t take the suggested turn, and visually show me where I am all the time, including the distance left. Sadly, we usually don’t have the map of our lives, but there are important lessons to learn from that picture.

Life-GPS

What is the most important aspect of a GPS you may have in your car?

Think for a minute.

It’s telling you exactly where you are. You probably don’t even start driving without knowing your location. This is super important in our lives also. You can have a detailed map and a very clear goal in your mind, but when you don’t know where you are, you simply can’t get there.

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Before trying any goal-setting, motivational speeches and progress tracking, the most important thing is to sit down and honestly answer the question “Where am I right now?”

  • What is the vision for my life? Do I have it?
  • What do I have? What can I use?
  • What’s unique about me?
  • What’s important for me?
  • What are my priorities?
  • What strengthens me? What drains energy from me?
  • What habits do I have? What habits I would like to have?
  • What are my values?
  • What did I already try? How many times? (As Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”)
  • What aspects of my life are neglected?

When you are lost without directions, sometimes you need to look around, observe, maybe ask others to tell you, but without that knowledge you won’t get to your destination even if you precisely know where it is.

Goal Setting

When your internal Life-GPS is warmed up and you know where you are with some accuracy, you can precisely set your goal. There are three important aspects of goal setting that are described by Pareto Principle, Flow and SMART goals.

20% of your goals will usually define 80% of your outcome. This is why you need just a few clear, energizing goals. According to Wikipedia, Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.. You know it, right? And it is good to learn how to make that a conscious choice. SMART goals will help you being precise and avoid wasting energy.

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With that knowledge, you are ready to start your journey. You know where you are and you know your destination. Turn on the engine and start moving!

Hints on your way

Many things can happen when your journey has already begun. This is why you need signs and signals on your way.

Inspect and adapt. When there is “road construction” in your life and you can’t take the turn you wanted, don’t be angry. Simply “recalculate” and move on. Life is all about being flexible. Smile and just take a different road.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” wrote ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. It’s amazing that you can drive hundreds of miles during the night, when you only see less than 1% of the road in front of you. You don’t have to know all the details to start moving.

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Don’t hurry. It kills your creativity. And it drains energy from you.

Get rid of the garbage. In your computer. In your life. Habits. Relationships. Time. It won’t go away on its own. And it smells.

Don’t forget the fun. You are not a machine and you will achieve goals faster and with greater energy when you make things fun. Just an example how fun can change your behavior for better:

Fasting. When you take the same road over and over again, it starts to be boring. Also when you eat the same thing every day, you are losing the taste of it. Take breaks. Stop doing something—eating, drinking, reading, and meeting—for a period of time, just to get the fresh taste after the break. You will be more aware of where you are and will achieve goals faster.

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Turn off distractors. You can’t drive very fast and talk and text at the same time. If you want to be fast, you really need to focus. Your phone, social media and sometimes even other people can wait for some time. When you lose your focus, you need to slow down.

Be grateful. Another red light and you may start complaining. But do you do the opposite? If there is a series of green lights on your way do you silently say ‘Thank you’? Gratitude can open your eyes and you may fully enjoy the view while driving toward your goals.

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Piotr Nabielec

Author, CEO, Consultant

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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