This is a picture of gym attendance by day of the week.
People love fresh starts.
People want to create change in their lives. They want to set and achieve goals. They want to accomplish things.
This feeling is the strongest at a ‘fresh start’. New Years Day people create resolutions for the year. At the beginning of the month, subscriptions to gyms go up. And at the beginning of each week, more people want to attend the gym.
People want a difference in their lives, and this fresh start gives them the illusion that things will somehow be different.
But, looking at the chart, this isn’t true. People start going at the beginning of the week, but they fall off over the week, to the point that almost 25% of the people are still going at the end of the week who started at the beginning.
So how can we achieve goals? We want to make a difference in our lives, but there’s something missing. An element that’s preventing us from making that leap.
No longer. Let’s make a difference.
List (and trim) Your Goals
Create a list of 10 things you’d like to accomplish over the course of the next year.
Maybe you can’t think of that many, which is fine, because you need to narrow it down to two. One would be better, but at most pick two.
These will be the goals you will focus on. The rest go on the back burner.
For me, I’m deciding to work on developing Mess to Less as well as sticking with a workout schedule.
The other things I’ll take small strides toward, but my main energies will be spent on these two goals.
By spreading your effort and attention thin, you won’t be able to give enough attention to any one goal. The only thing you’ll end up accomplishing is stressing yourself out.
Break it Down.
Now Break it Down Further.
Saying “I want to go to the gym” isn’t a goal. It’s a wish.
Even creating a highly detailed schedule can still be a wish.
Creating a schedule, knowing what workouts and what weights to use, and writing it all down; that’s a goal.
Take your goal. Maybe it’s to write a novel. Now break it down.
Phase 1: Create Milestones
Maybe each chapter being completed is a milestone.
Then going through the editing process is another milestone.
Maybe finally getting the book published is a milestone.
Whatever those may be, define your milestones.
Milestones should be big points of success to you. If you’re just starting out exercising, a milestone may be to squat your weight.
You want to know exactly what you’re aiming for, and you want to know when you’ve reached it.
Phase 2: Create Steps
Break down the first milestone you wrote down.
What does it take to write the first chapter of that novel?
Well writing is definitely part of it. That requires getting on the computer and hammering out some words.
A step should look like something that can move you toward your milestone. If you’re exercising, doing squats would be the step toward squatting your weight.
So maybe your step to achieve this first milestone is to set aside time for you to do writing.
Phase 3: Create Tasks
You know that to create your first chapter, you need to write words. So break this down into daily or weekly tasks.
Maybe your task for 5 days this next week is to write 800 words a day, every day. You want 4,000 words by the end of the week.
If you’re exercising, putting squats into your normal workout schedule (then doing them) will be a task.
Now we have a real goal.
The Finished Product
At the end, you’ll have something like this:
- Write 10 chapters
- Write 800 words a day, 5 days a week.
- Spend 1 hour each day, 3 days a week, thinking up alternate storylines.
- Spend 1 hour each day, 3 days a week, giving characters weaknesses.
- Creative Exercises
- Spend 2 hours a week writing a 1,000-word side-story using the same characters as the novel.
- Edit 10 chapters
- Find people to proofread
- Put book information on Facebook, asking people to proofread.
- Create online forms for easy feedback from people.
- Contact 3-4 people with a physical copy to mark up grammatical issues.
- Edit book myself
- Spend 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, making suggested changes.
- Spend 5 hours a day, once a week, re-writing portions of the novel.
- Send book to professional editor for review
- Find people to proofread
- Publish book
- Research self-publishing options
- Contact publishing companies
- Call 5 publishing companies every week.
Now that’s a goal!
Personally, I’m a geek for spreadsheets. I love compartmentalizing and organizing my life.
For my goals, I use an awesome little app called Trello. It’s totally free to use, so check it out!
If that’s not for you, and you’d rather write things down with a pen and paper, do it. Just make sure that your goals are written down somewhere and not floating around your grey matter.
Utilize a Commitment Device
You know what your goals are now.
You even have them broken down.
Now how do you stick to it? Like so:
- You’re not allowed to eat any candy until you do all the dishes in the kitchen.
- If you get below a B on this test, you’re not allowed to play video games until the next test.
- You can’t read that novel until you’ve gone to the grocery store.
- Pay someone $200. Tell them to only give it back to you once you’ve gone 30 days without a cigarette.
These are all examples of a commitment device. Rewarding yourself for doing things you don’t want to do.
If your goal is to write a novel, don’t allow yourself to watch any TV until you’ve written at least 500 words for the day.
By “gating” these things you want to do, you’re able to get more done and not feel bad for indulging.
The key is sticking with it.
Utilize Temptation Bundling
The average American spends 5 hours a day watching television.
That’s a lot of potentially wasted time that could be spent achieving your goals.
How can we still allow ourselves to watch TV, but accomplish our goals at the same time?
This idea combines things you’re tempted to do, such as watching TV, with something you should do, but don’t want to, like going to the gym.
While similar to a commitment device, temptation bundling combines these two activities.
Instead of watching TV on your couch for 5 hours a day, only allow yourself to watch your favorite show while at the gym.
The time goes by faster while at the gym, you still get to watch your show and not feel bad about it, and you are getting fit in the process.
Here are a few other ideas of temptation bundling:
- Watching TV only while folding laundry.
- Listening to your favorite music only while cleaning the house.
- Eating your favorite food only while visiting someone who you should see more often.
- Snacking on junk food only while writing your novel.
By bundling these things up, you’re creating an incentive to accomplish your goals.
Track Your Progress
On the long road to achieve your goals, you will get discouraged. You’ll want to give up.
In those moments, you need a measuring stick. You need to know that it hasn’t been for nothing that you’re doing this.
You’ll need to look back at where you’ve come from and see the progress you’ve made.
So track your progress!
As your workout progresses, write down the increased number of weight that you’re doing, and keep a log of how you’re improving week over week.
When you start to get discouraged, simply look at that log and see how far you’ve come. Surely you couldn’t give up now?
Personally, on Trello, I have a separate list that’s marked ‘Done’.
When I accomplish something, I move it over to the ‘Done’ column, and whenever I feel down, I can scroll through the list and see all the things I’ve accomplished.
Create New Goals
Once you’ve accomplished a goal, don’t let yourself settle into apathy again.
Go back to your list you created at the start. Maybe there were 8 things on that list, maybe there were 20.
Pick one and start at the beginning!
The quest to better yourself only ends when you say it ends. So start on the next leg of your journey, and don’t forget to track how far you’ve come!