Advertising
Advertising

How to Reach Your Goals By (Almost) Ignoring Them

How to Reach Your Goals By (Almost) Ignoring Them


    We all have big goals–losing weight, starting a business, whatever. Big goals are great. They can transform your life. Problem is, after about a week, most of us lose motivation. Our dreams don’t die, but our gumption dries up. Then on your birthday or New Year’s Day or some other annual milestone, we look at our goals list and kick ourselves and feel like perpetual slackers for not achieving anything.

    It’s a common problem, and happens because you haven’t stoked the furnace of your passion so you can persistently move toward your goals. Willpower and passion alone aren’t enough. Scheduling time to work toward our goals is helpful, but still isn’t enough.

    SEE: Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Reach Their Goals

    Advertising

    So how can you reach your goal by ignoring it? It sounds counter-intuitive, but the strategies below really work.

    It’s easy to get excited about a goal, but that excitement won’t put enough fuel in the tank to take you down the long road so you can reach your goal.

    The trick to staying motivated and inspired

    It’s tempting to keep your eye on the prize, your goal. Some people like to make a collage of goal-related images and quotes, and slap in on their wall to constantly remind them about their goal. A concrete, visual reminder can be helpful, but again, it’s often not enough to keep focused on a goal over weeks, months, or years.

    Instead of focusing so much on your end goal–that thing far off on the horizon–focus on the immediate benefits. What you need is daily inspiration and reinforcement to keep you going. It’s like having your own personal cheerleading squad behind you every step of the way–even when you don’t feel like doing anything.

    Advertising

    Create immediate reinforcement for taking action toward your goals. If you have immediate reinforcement, you don’t have to keep your eye on the prize as much. You don’t have to rely on unreliable willpower. Immediate reinforcement stokes your fire to keep you on track toward your goal.

    How do you give yourself immediate reinforcement? By focusing on how you feel when you take action, no matter how small the action is. Pay attention to how you feel when you do something that’s related to your goal. Do you feel inspired? Excited? Responsible? Empowered? What are your thoughts when you take action on your goal? Maybe you find yourself thinking “This is easier than I thought!”, or “Look at how much I’ve done in the past week!”. Pay attention to these feelings and thoughts, since that’s what’s going to fuel your persistence, and what will ultimately make it possible to reach your goal.

    SEE: 3 Common Goal Setting Mistakes

    A bonus trick to make it easy to start

    But what if you don’t even know where to start? Maybe you’ve got a big goal you’re excited about, but are overwhelmed? Fear not.

    Advertising

    Here’s your bonus trick: spend 5 minutes planning what you need to do to start. In your plan, list tasks that are so incredibly easy and tiny, that you’re guaranteed to do them. To paraphrase a Kaizen saying:

    “You must be as certain you can do these tiny tasks as you are that the sun will rise tomorrow.”

    For example, if you want to lose 30 pounds, don’t start by trying to run a 10k. Start by putting on your exercise shoes. Make that your daily goal. If you can do that–and want to do a little extra–just step outside. If you want to do more, then walk around the block. But make those first tiny steps, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, and use them to give yourself immediate reinforcement for taking action.

    These ideas are partly derived from the book Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being by Michael Otto, Ph.D. and Jasper A.J. Smits, Ph.D. But even if you don’t suffer from depression or anxiety, and just want to get your butt in gear, the principles can be applied to any challenging task or goal.

    Advertising

    Daily action and immediate reinforcement will snowball and allow you to reach your goal–without having to rely on your shaky willpower. So feel free to–almost–ignore your goal, but make sure to take daily action, and then reward and reinforce yourself for taking that action.

    What’s your next action going to be?

    Do it right now. In the comments, share your task/goal, your daily action, and how you’ll reinforce yourself.

    (Photo credit: Penalty Shootout in Amatuer Football via Shutterstock)

      More by this author

      You should NEVER charge an hourly rate Why You’re Not Getting Any Business Results (But Still Working Like Crazy) How to Really Start a Business (or Why You Don’t Need Money to Make Money) How to Reach Your Goals By (Almost) Ignoring Them

      Trending in Productivity

      1 What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here 2 How To Use Goals and Dreams To Achieve Personal Success 3 Easy Tasks or Difficult Tasks First? Which One is More Productive? 4 7 Reasons to Dare to Dream Big 5 Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on June 2, 2020

      Easy Tasks or Difficult Tasks First? Which One is More Productive?

      Easy Tasks or Difficult Tasks First? Which One is More Productive?

      Procrastination is probably the biggest detriment to our productivity. Conventional wisdom dictates that the best thing you can do is make that procrastination constructive. When you don’t feel like doing one task, usually one that requires a lot of will- or brainpower, you do another, usually less labor-intensive task.

      Recently, though, conventional wisdom has been challenged with something Penn State refers to as “pre-crastination.”[1] After doing a series of studies in which students pick up and carry one of two buckets, researchers theorized that many people prefer to take care of difficult tasks sooner rather than later. That theory poses the question of whether this pre-crastination or the more widely acknowledged constructive procrastination is more effective.

      Here is a look at whether people should do difficult tasks early or later on to achieve maximum productivity.

      Advertising

      Doing Easy Tasks First

      The Pros

      One of the hardest parts of working is just getting started. Constructive procrastination eases this hardship, because working on easy tasks requires a smaller mental or physical commitment than if you tackled difficult tasks firsts.

      If one of the foremost deterrents to your productivity is simply getting going, it makes a lot of sense to save the difficult tasks for when you’re in more of a groove.

      The Cons

      If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day. — Mark Twain

      On the surface, there don’t seem to necessarily be any disadvantages to doing easy tasks first. However, in Eat That Frog, the book writeen by Brian Tracy challenges that.

      Based on the above quote from Mark Twain, Eat That Frog encourages avoiding procrastination, even if that procrastination is constructive. Tracy wants you to “eat that frog,” i.e. do your difficult tasks quickly because the longer it’s on your plate, the harder it will become to do the thing you’re dreading. If you have a habit of dreading things, Eat That Frog makes a solid argument to hold off on your easy tasks until later in the day.

      Doing Difficult Tasks First

      The Pros

      Brian Tracy postulates in Eat That Frog that if you do your difficult tasks first, your other tasks won’t seem so bad. After all, after you eat a frog, even something unappetizing will seem downright delectable.

      Advertising

      Tracy also recommends that, if you have to eat two frogs, you should eat the uglier one first. The metaphor is a very easy way to get your head around the new concept of pre-crastination.

      If all of your tasks seem somewhat torturous to you, you might be able to ease the pain by getting rid of the ugliest “toads” as quickly as you can.

      The Cons

      The primary disadvantage of doing your difficult tasks first is probably that it will make it especially hard to get started on your workday.

      Advertising

      A lot of people aren’t exactly at their peak performance mode when they enter the office. They need to ease into the workday, maybe have a cup or two of coffee to stimulate them.

      If that’s you, doing your most difficult tasks first would probably be a costly mistake. Hold off on “eating those frogs” until you have the willpower and fortitude to choke them down.

      Conclusion

      Should you do easy or difficult tasks first? It seems like a cop-out to say that it depends on the person, but sometimes that’s the honest answer, and that is definitely the case here.

      Advertising

      Hopefully this article helps inform you of what type of worker you are, offering clues to whether you fall into the constructive procrastination or pre-crastination camps. Good luck on your pursuit of maximum productivity!

      More Tips for Beating Procrastination

      Featured photo credit: Courtney Dirks via flickr.com

      Reference

      Read Next