It’s February and if you’re finding that the optimism you started the year with is starting to fade and the progress you thought you would be making towards that cherished personal goal (you know the one you promised yourself that you would do this year) is not great then it’s time to reboot yourself and your plans. I’ve put together 10 tried and tested tactics that will help you achieve those goals you really want reach.
#1 Don’t set targets for goals you’re uncommitted to
If it’s someone else’s dream then why are you following it? Setting yourself a personal goal has to be specifically something that you care about. If you don’t then when it gets tough you’ll slow down and stop. You need to be passionate enough to keep at it despite set backs and to do it in place of other short-term more appealing distractions.
#2 Make regular action easier
You’ll have read about how doing something everyday makes it into a habit and that you won’t have to decide whether it’s a “doing day” or not if you do it everyday. But what if it’s hard getting started? Then make it easier! If you want to ride your bike regularly don’t store it in a shed down the garden buried underneath your camping gear. Put it near the front door (inside or out). Same goes for running shoes. If writing is your thing make sure you’ve got a space to do it that is all set for instant action – a small desk in the corner is all you need. Whatever it is make sure the transition from thinking about it to doing it is quick with no physical barriers.
#3 Know what it is your aiming for and plan steps that give early wins
Even finding out what you want to do with your life is a clear thing to aim for and steps towards that can be planned. Those actions might be reading 3 books on the subject, including completing all those difficult exercises that are formed of tough personal questions. If you’re refurbishing an old house then identify the things that you can get organized quickly and will signify progress (get the roof fixed, decorate the first room). Getting a roof fixed is a good example of what should be an early task as it requires little decision making (you shouldn’t be agonizing over color schemes) and means that other actions can proceed (decorating the room that had the damp patch on the ceiling). Other early actions could be getting your workspace sorted or moving the bike out of the shed.
#4 Keep going when you feel like stopping
Say you’re building your fitness for a marathon you’ve planned later in the year. This week you’ve planned to run three hours over four days. It’s the fourth day you’ve been running for 45 minutes and done the three hours. Don’t stop, run on for another few minutes. Push past your target. If you plan to write a 1,000 words don’t stop, write another hundred. Just pushing a little more, stretching targets a little bit will mean you’ll get to your goal with more certainty.
#5 Incrementally build momentum
Doing just a little more each day incrementally builds momentum. If what you’re doing is new and a little scary don’t start big. Just sitting at the writing desk for the first few days might be enough to start with. From there build up in sustainable steps. Whatever you do don’t start off with a big bang and then fizzle out all to quickly. Building up your strength, skills, endurance, and enjoyment takes time. Don’t force it too quickly.
#6 Make it easier to start again
One writing trick I’ve heard is called “leaving a ragged edge”. Instead of finishing a chapter or even a paragraph just stop mid-sentence, This makes it easier to start again as you’ve got a point from which to continue and you haven’t got to think about what the next bit of work is. This could as easily apply to coding software or landscaping a garden. Whatever your project is make sure that it’s easy to get going again.
#7 Make the personal cost of not doing it high
If you want to do something then make yourself accountable for it. Generally, we’re better at meeting externally set deadlines so for a personal target we can improve our chances of getting there on plan if we create some external pressure and accountability. Now don’t make it too scary but do something so that not doing what you’ve committed to will make you look a pathetic wimp. Find a good friend who will gentle nudge and nag you about progress. Find a few more and tell them what you’re doing. Don’t waste time describing the intricacies of your project just tell the overall goal – the date of the marathon, when the book launch party is, the moving-in date for the rebuilt house. This way not doing it starts to look unpalatable – you’ll be letting friends down, you’ll embarrass yourself. You’ll have no option but to do it!
#8 Get yourself some cheerleaders
So you’ve got some friends who’ll hold you to account. You’ll also need some (who may be the same) who believe in you and what you’re doing. They’re there to help you believe you can do it and to encourage you to carry on when you don’t feel like it. I’m not talking about indulgent people who will tell you that your rambling words are those of a Novel laureate but people who know you and can honestly provide supportive feedback. They should be there to genuinely build your confidence by reminding you of what you’ve already achieved and how much you really care about what you are doing.
#9 Understand what the core things you need to do are
Often we can get sidelined on marginal activities that won’t make a big difference. If you’re rebuilding you’re house then worrying about the fabric for the cushion covers on a new sofa you’re planning to buy isn’t a core activity. Core activities are things like getting the building secure and watertight. If you’re writing a book the title can come at any point so get a working title and focus on getting the words down. Don’t spend ages looking through sports good catalogs when you should be out running.
#10 Understand why you get distracted, procrastinate and your what your favorite displacement activities are
If you’re spending more time perusing sports goods catalogs than running then you’ve discovered a displacement activity. It could be that you feel you need to get the housework done before you sit down to write and using this belief you’ve managed to neatly sidestep getting round to solving the real problem of why you’re not writing. In dealing with distractions and activities that help you to procrastinate it’s helpful to bring then out in the open. Name and shame them. Be honest with yourself and challenge the things you believe that are stopping you from making progress. It may be that there’s something about your project that isn’t making it easy to spend time on it. Not spending time on it isn’t going to make it easier. Who said it was going to be easy anyway? That’s why you have to really care about what you’re setting out to do. If you don’t care about your personal goal then it’s unlikely to ever get done.
What tactics are you employing to get to your personal goals?
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