As I was cleaning out my desk drawer recently, I came upon a list of goals I had written years ago (yeah, it’s been a while since I last cleaned out my desk).
Looking over the list, I realized that I had not accomplished much of what was on it. Not only that, but the items on this list weren’t even on my radar any more. I kept looking and found list after list of things I wanted to accomplish but never got around to achieving them.
I stopped looking for more and tried to figure out why I gave up on these goals. I didn’t like the answer I came up with, but I think it applies to a lot of people. Most people, in fact:
Some goals are just “too hard”, and/or I am too lazy to accomplish them.
We all have things we are want to get done, but can’t do them today. Big goals such as moving to another country (one of mine) or even smaller ones such as that huge pile of laundry that has been building for weeks turn into unimaginable mountain of tasks.
We always have reasons (aka excuses) why we can’t get them done. We’re too busy, we don’t have enough money, or we can’t take time off work. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you, as I’m sure you can guess where this is going.
So I decided that day to make a new set of goals, but this time, I made it with a promise to self that I was going to keep them. While I haven’t accomplished everything on my new list yet, I did fulfill the promise more than I could with the earlier “to-do”. In short, I turned the “someday” list into a “today” list. Here’s how:
Simplify and Break it Down.
Find the biggest item on your list, the one that seems the most unattainable. Now simplify and break it down. List the steps it’s going to take you to get there. For example, if the biggest thing on your list is to buy a house, your sub-list might include getting a better paying job, setting a budget, and saving for a down payment.
Once you have a sub-list, try to come up with a reasonable time-frame for making each of those things happen. Set dates for each of the smaller goals. Mark those on the calendar. Now treat each of those things as separate goals on their own. Figure out what you can do today to start the process, and then tomorrow to continue the process, and so on until you’ve completed the first part of that big goal.
After you’ve completed the first part, you’ll be amazed at how good you feel. You’ve accomplished something. Accomplishment, no matter how small, will make you feel good about yourself. You’ll feel you can tackle anything. Keep going and eventually you will have reached a larger goal.
You can’t do everything, no matter how much you want to or how much you try. Grab a pen and paper and just start mindlessly listing things you want to do. When you go back to look at it, you’ll probably see some of it is ridiculous (I was going to start a bonsai collection—this was the first thing off my list) and needs pruning.
Choose the things that are truly important to you right now. You can come back to those later if you want, but be realistic. Think about the person you are and the person you want to become. Don’t make a long, unattainable list—you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure.
Tell Someone About Your Goal.
Especially someone who will keep up on your progress. If you have to tell people, you will be held accountable. Talk about your goals to anyone who will listen. Give them details; tell them your due dates. Tell your good friends to ask you about your progress on those specific dates. How do you think you’ll feel if on your deadline if you have 10 people ask you how you’re doing and you have to tell them you gave up? Not so good, huh?
If you’ve reached the first milestone of your biggest goal, don’t let the day go by without a mention. Have a party, go out to your favorite restaurant, buy yourself something nice. Just something so that you and those around you know that your goal is important, and that you crossed a milestone successfully. Be careful not to make your celebration something that counteracts the goal you’re trying to accomplish.
Push Yourself Harder.
Just because you said you were going to save x amount of money by Jan 1, doesn’t mean you have to save only x amount. Set minimums, but don’t set limits. Anything you can do to get ahead today counts positively.
Don’t Worry About How Long it Takes.
The idea isn’t to make things harder than they have to be, and that’s exactly what you will do if you try to speed through a major goal. Decide how long you think it will realistically take to accomplish each part of your project and then add a little time on top of it to find the right deadline.
The goal is to get to the finish line, not start a race you can’t win.
Don’t Stop After Your First Goal.
Once you’ve finished one thing, get started on the next. Or better yet, if you can accomplish two things at once, then do it. Don’t try to do more than you can do (only you know that limit), but don’t be a slacker either.
You can turn your “someday” list into a “today” list by following these tips. Do you have any tips you’d like to add?
Photo by Yogendra174 via Flickr.
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