This is part 6 in the series How to double your productivity.
Goals in of themselves donÂ´t seem to provide what I for many years thought. I thought that you set a goal and when you reach it there will be some great emotional payoff. Your life will be happier. Like in the movies.
Well, thatÂ´s what youÂ´ll be. For a while. Then it wears of, and you might think ”is this all there is?”. So, I think the value of having goals is that you have something to aim for, a direction in your life. ItÂ´s also a way to see how long you have come, how much you have grown. And even though it wears of, for a while it does feel great when you reach a goal.
Having goals is vital to increase our productivity. Without them, thereÂ´s a big chance of us just running around doing a lot of unimportant things. Things others have told us are important or things we have a vague feeling might be important. Or just the thing that popped up in our head or on our desk a minute ago.
As this series is focused on increasing productivity IÂ´ll refrain from the larger goals in life. Having them are likely to increase productivity but that topic is more suitable for another article (or series of articles). This time, IÂ´d just like to focus on smaller goals.
Details and planning
In setting goals, one often forgotten task is to actually figure out and set a goal. And then to ask: how can I get there?
When setting the goal, make it specific. The more detailed and concrete picture you have of where you want to go, the more likely you are to actually wind up there. Set fuzzy goals and you might loose your sense of direction. For example, specify how much more money you want to make and by which date. DonÂ´t just say that you wanÂ´t to earn more money.
Then, before you start acting, make detailed plans. Ask yourself:
What is it I want to do? How shall I go about it? What information and what people might I need to reach my goal?
Write down the answers in detail, write down a specific plan on how to get from where you are today to where you want to go. And write down the actions that you can start to take today, right now, to get going on your journey towards that goal. Always have practical steps you can take written down so you know what to do next.
When setting goals itÂ´s easy to place the focus on what you want to get out of it. But often we have customers or bosses that we work for. Think about what is most important to them when setting the goal and youÂ´ll become more productive for your customer. In at least some parts of your life this can help you keep your priorities and focus on the right track.
Identify and prevent the problems
Before stumbling on them, try to figure out what problems you might run into while trying to reach your goal. There will almost always be problems. If you are prepared for them with a plan youÂ´ll have less anxiety from day to day. And hopefully you can avoid having to come up with a solution in a somewhat panicked state. If you try and figure out possible solutions or preventive actions in advance your life and reaching the goal will become easier.
Here are some common snags and roadblocks while trying to reach your goals:
- Having the plan to be perfect – Avoid perfectionism. Plan but donÂ´t plan so much that you never get started. Instead, start and then adjust along the way by learning from your mistakes, new information and the real feedback you are receiving.
- Procrastination – ItÂ´s easy to fall into a state of procrastination when the intial enthusiasm is starting to wane. If thatÂ´s the case, a look at the article 7 ways to move beyond procrastination might give you a boost.
- Time-frame set in a state of initial enthusiasm – when you first set a goal, itÂ´s easy to think that youÂ´ll have great success almost immediately. First instance, I think the reason many bloggers give up within a month or two is because they are really enthusiastic the first week or three. But the thousands of readers they had hoped for doesnÂ´t show up. They get handful of visitors a day, feel disappointed and abandon their website. This of course applies to other things too like for example dieting. Marketers or the latest buzz might pump your enthusiasm through the roof. But progress is seldom as quick as they might claim. If you want, use the initial enthusiasm to get started. Then do some research online for more realistic time-frames. Then adjust your expectations to avoid an emotional crash.
- Too rigid focus – review how itÂ´s going once in a while and adjust. If you donÂ´t then you might veer of course and you might also miss a better, easier, more enjoyable way to get where you are going.
- Doing the job too fast – then youÂ´ll have mistakes you have to go back and fix later. Do the job thoroughly, at a steady pace and let it take the time you need.
Set deadlines to get the job done
Often, when setting goals one important part is to set a deadline. When someone else sets a deadline for your project at school or at work you will most likely will have it done before the time is up. Setting deadlines for yourself is often necessary or youÂ´ll never get something done. YouÂ´ll think: “Eh, IÂ´ll do it tomorrow”. And the tomorrow youÂ´ll think: “Eeeh, IÂ´ll really do it tomorrow”. And so on.
When setting deadlines, itÂ´s good to give yourself some wiggle room. If you are, for example, doing a project at work then set a deadline with a bit of margin. If something goes wrong, which it often does, you are prepared and youÂ´ll have time to correct it.
And try to set realistic deadlines. If you donÂ´t there will be a lot of stress which leads to problems and tasks completed in a haphazard fashion. Setting unrealistic deadlines wonÂ´t save you time, because youÂ´ll be forced to go back and fix all those problems and mistakes after youÂ´ve passed that deadline.
A couple of ways to help you reach your goal
Besides persistent work every day there are a couple of ways to help move yourself towards your goals.
- Mental visualization – Just like the athletes, clearly visualize your goal already accomplished. Do this over and over again and youÂ´ll keep your focus what you want and lessen anxiety and worries. When visualizing make that picture big, vivid, animated and three dimensional. Make your goal come alive.
- Take 100% responsibility – youÂ´ll become more effective and procrastinate less through rationalizations. And youÂ´ll feel better about yourself.
- Keep your focus on the important tasks – donÂ´t get sidetracked by unimportant things. Use tools like the Pareto Principle and future impact for help in prioritizing actions and tasks.
- When you feel a lack of motivation, pull out a piece of paper and write down all the ways that you will benefit from reaching your goal. Some of them might be: the money you will earn (and what you can do with that money), respect, a sense of wellbeing as the project is completed, praises from your boss and co-workers or whatever reasons you can come up with. Often we get so wrapped up in what we have to do and our worries that the reasons for doing it can become lost and forgotten. You can also have a look at these 10 ways to change how you feel. Just a simple thing like listening to music that motivates and inspires you can have a big effect.
Goals focused on the process rather than the outcome
Sometimes, when setting goals, it might be more effective to focus on the process rather than the outcome. If you for instance want to lose weight or build more muscles I think it might be better to just focus on working out letÂ´s say three times a week rather than setting a goal to lose or gain 10 pounds in the next 5 months.
This will keep you focused on your tasks and not so much your outcome. If you focus too much on your outcome it can become painful and discouraging. Perhaps to the point that you just want to give up. If you just focus on each workout you will, over time, lose/gain the weight as a sort of by-product. Well, provided that you eat right too etc.
Tomorrow, in the final part of this series I will add a couple of additional ideas on how to become more productive…
How to double your productivity: