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Keep a Diary of Your Achievements to Stay on Course in 2012

Keep a Diary of Your Achievements to Stay on Course in 2012
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    So, the New Year is upon us and you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in 2012. You’ve written your goals, made your plans and to-do lists, and you’re ready to go; marching onwards to success armed with an unwavering sense of motivation and some useful productivity tools.

    Once you’ve started, it’s important to ensure that you remain on course and the actions you take on a day-to-day basis are steering you towards to the ‘Promised Land’ known as Success.Writing down your achievements at the end of the day, rather than just crossing them off a to-do list as you go along has more benefits than you might think.

    How to record your achievements

    There are a number of ways you could do this; keeping a blog or paper journal , using a whiteboard of maybe a productivity app.

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    Alternatively, try using a week-to-view desk diary.

    Why use a diary?

    You easily glance over a week’s achievements and review your progress (more of which later).

    More importantly, using a week-to-view, you’ll find that you only have a few lines per day to note down your key achievements, which helps you to focus only on the things that really matter.

    What to do

    To start, take the first page of your diary or inside cover and list your goals so you’ll be able to quickly refer to them whenever you need a reminder of what you’re trying to achieve.

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    If you’re breaking these big goals down into weekly goals, you could write these across the top of each week in your diary.

    What to record

    Whatever your goals for the year, only record the tasks you’ve done that relate specifically to those goals. My main goals this year include running a marathon and writing at least 300,000 words.

    Each day I note how long I trained for, how many words I wrote and what I wrote them for (Lifehack or a blog post for example), along with anything else that supports those goals such as researching diet plans or brainstorming article ideas.

    What not to record

    You probably get through a lot of stuff during the course of an average day, but the idea of this exercise is to look at how much of that stuff is contributing to your goals. If you haven’t done much towards your goals, you may be tempted to fill your diary with other busy work to convince yourself that you’ve at least been productive.

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    Don’t, it doesn’t help.

    You may feel really proud that you spent all day cleaning your house from top-to-bottom and having a really good de-clutter, but unless one of your goals is to win the “Tidiest House in the World 2012 Award,” again, don’t put it down.

    What’s next?

    At the end of each week it pays to look back through your diary and review your progress. It’s always nice to look back and see that you’ve had a productive week working towards your goals, but your review should help you find room for improvement.

    If you haven’t written anything for a specific goal in a couple of days, is that a sign that maybe you need to work extra hard on that goal? Or maybe that goal wasn’t as important to you as you first thought and it’s time to reassess? If you notice that you haven’t been doing much goal-orientated work on a specific day each week, can you identify reasons for that and do something about it? If you’ve been cruising along nicely but haven’t seen much improvement, is now the time to think about taking things to the next level? Perhaps your training sessions for the last three weeks all ran to 30 minutes. Can you now maybe do 45 minutes?

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    If everything’s been going perfectly and you’ve been recording great progress with continual improvement, you can give yourself a firm pat on the back knowing that you’re well on course for great success in 2012.

    (Photo credit: Male hand drawing a chart via Shutterstock)

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    Chris Skoyles

    Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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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.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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