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Reaching Your Goals – Dutch Style

Reaching Your Goals – Dutch Style
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    The famous ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ are upon us again, and those of us jaded enough to realize all our previous year’s failures may not even bother anymore. This is not a good strategy either, as it promotes fewer goals and dreams. It’s good to know the difference between a reasonable new year’s resolution – which is more like a goal – and one that is just plain silly: if you are 100 pounds overweight, you should probably not decide to run the marathon this year.

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    When you look at history, the Dutch have come quite far. Among them we have world famous painters, artists, explorers, and scientists. Can we learn a little something from the Dutch when it comes to reaching our goals? I think so…

    “Don’t Think, But Do”

    In Dutch there is a saying that goes: “Niet denken maar doen”, it means “Don’t think, but do.” Although it can be hard, it is this simple phrase that can get me through my most unmotivated moments. Whenever I have a long to-do list, and for some reason even the simplest task seems too daunting to tackle, I just try to stop thinking all together and start doing.

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    Easier said than done, you may think? Sure, but just give it a try. Often we are so busy finding reasons why we can’t (or don’t) do something, we spend more energy and time than we would just doing it.

    “He who isn’t fast, has to be smart”

    This is another famous Dutch saying. Because I grew up in Holland, I know all these little no-nonsense tricks in Dutch. This one is originally: “Wie niet snel is moet slim zijn.”

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    I’m sure a similar saying exists in English and most other languages, but few people really realize how true it is. If you know you have a weakness, you have to find a hack to get around it. Compensation, if you will, would be a good way to describe putting this old truth into action. If you know you are poor at organizing, go shopping for the easiest filing tools that will force you to be more organized. People who don’t have time to read books can listen to audiobooks while commuting. There are endless examples for this concept, and all it takes is just a tiny bit of creativity.

    “Procrastination leads to cancellation”

    Although this phrase is very loosely translated from “van uitstel komt afstel” in Dutch, the meaning is entirely preserved. It is one of my favorites, because it also happens to be true. How many times did you delay a task, just to basically fail to finish it altogether? Usually, I procrastinate with tasks that are important. This has come back to bite me more than once, often leading to missing a deadline to sign up for something.

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    The only way to reach your goals is to set reasonable sub-goals and tackle those as soon as you can. This goes back to the first saying. When we allow ourselves too much time to think about an unpleasant task, we are less and less inclined to actually get ourselves into gear and just do it.

    Why learn from the Dutch?

    Aside from the fact I am Dutch, and this is my first post on Lifehack (so you might as well find out a little bit about me), the Dutch are a very no-nonsense and unforgiving society that will always tell you things just the way they are. If a Dutch person thinks you are a bit lazy, you’re more than likely to hear it out loud. Is it a bad thing? Not always… we definitely get the job done.

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    Most importantly, and many people can learn from this, the Dutch have a “can-do” attitude and don’t easily make excuses. If you don’t reach a goal, you shouldn’t blame the weather, your job, or your health. Just do it, you are the only one responsible for your success.

    On this note: Happy new year, and good luck reaching all your hopes and dreams for 2009!

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    Reaching Your Goals – Dutch Style

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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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