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One of the Best Goal Setting Exercises

One of the Best Goal Setting Exercises

Someone very smart once said, “How we spend our days is how we spend our life”. Life doesn’t usually change overnight (as much as we would often hope it would). It changes, because we make little tweaks in our daily habits. Sometimes we do it intentionally. But a lot of times we just kind of start doing something differently, considering it to be insignificant minor change, but these small actions add up to huge life changes over time.

This partly explains why the goal setting exercise that we’ll talk more about in this post is so effective. But before we get to it, let me explain what I mean by “minor changes” leading to huge results.

Small steps matter

Nutritionists say that it’s enough to eat 250 calories less per day to lose 26 pounds a year. 250 calories are 2/3 of a Chocolate Chunk Cookie at Starbucks. This means that by not changing anything else in your daily routine except for eating 250 calories less a day will get you much bigger results than fad diets or irregular gym workouts.

The same is true for the finances. According to the Money Mag’s Millionaire Calculator there is no need to win a lottery in order to become a millionaire. It’s enough to save $5 a day for 40 years and you’ll hit a Millionaire status!

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When you think about it, putting aside a tiny part of your salary a day or passing on a cookie is do-able. And it pays off in the long run. But for some weird reason very few people actually do it.

The way we pick, set and pursue our goals is largely to blame

When we decide on what is it that we want to achieve in life, we rarely think ‘small changes over the serious period of time’. Usually it’s the other way around – ‘massive action, over the next two weeks’ (usually followed by the long breaks of inactivity and procrastination).

However, there is one very simple, yet powerful exercise that helps us to shift focus from short term-gain to smooth and steady long-term results. And no, it’s not the usual – picture what your life will look in 5, 10 and 20 years visualization.

The goal setting exercise I’m about to share with you is much more realistic, effective and creative. It’s called…

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The “Average Perfect Day”

The name gives the game away really. All you have to do is sit down, turn the soft lounge music on and ask yourself one question – What I want my Average Perfect Day look like?

perfect-day

    Take a piece of paper or open a blank document on your computer and write down your perfect schedule for the day.

    • What time do you wake up?
    • What do you do once you are awake?
    • Do you kiss your beautiful spouse?
    • Do you open the windows and head to the beach to do your 20 minutes of Sun Salutations and 10-minute meditation?
    • Do you say “Thank you” for all the blessings that you’ve been given?
    • Then what do you do?

    Write it down as detailed as possible, following your average perfect day step by step. Another key here is to focus on the word “average”. It shouldn’t be a day where you go on vacation, get married or bump into Johnny Depp while shopping at an antiques flea market.

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    It should be a day that you would re-live over and over again, without getting bored, exhausted or overwhelmed.

    If you dig deeper, you’ll take away quite a few insights from this exercise. First, you’ll clearly see little habits that you can start instilling today to get yourself closer to your vision of Average Perfect day.

    Some of the changes may seem bigger and more overwhelming. It’s okay. Just by having a clear goal of what you want your day to be like, will have your subconscious mind working to get you there. You’ll notice the opportunities that you haven’t seen before, you’ll do things a little differently and your set of circumstances will change, creating different, more positive outcomes.

    Start with the smallest changes and work your way up

    Pick something simple, that doesn’t require you to move to a foreign country or change your career. Begin by saying thank you for your blessings. Spend 10 minutes meditating. Read a bedtime story for your kids.

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    We all have enough time, motivation and determination to stick with one tiny habit for 30 days (that’s the time it takes to make it automatic). Then you can move on to the next little goal and so on.

    Go ahead and do it right now! This is one of the most powerful goal setting exercises ever and it can be eye-opening in terms of setting the right priorities. Why? Because how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. It’s really as simple as that.

    More by this author

    Arina Nikitina

    The author of "Real Goal Getting guide" and she is on a mission to help people achieve goals, and keep focused and motivated.

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2019

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

    With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

    So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

    1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

    Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

    So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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    You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

    If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

    Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

    2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

    Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

    Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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    Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

    Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

    3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

    If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

    This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

    Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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    When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

    If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

    Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

    4. Get up and Move

    We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

    When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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    If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

    Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

    It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

    Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

    The Bottom Line

    It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

    Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

    More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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