In my last blog post of the year just gone, “2010 – My Year in Review”, I mentioned how I set goals and then regularly measure myself against them to help me as I try to grow as an individual both personally and professionally.
I do this because by nature I’m a lazy, lazy man who is also impulsive and dis-organised. I acknowledged that fact a long time ago, and so whilst I still wrestle with procrastination on a daily basis, I realised that by setting realistic goals for myself I’d go some way to doing something more than just doing the stuff I feel comfortable with doing, instead becoming focused on the stuff that’ll help me to be successful in life.
But where to begin on setting goals, and importantly, ensuring you have the best chance of achieving them?
Here’s a few of the tips I’ve picked up over the years:-
The most important tip on this list. If you do NOTHING ELSE, do this one. Don’t try to keep your goal in your head. Write it down! The act of writing down a goal makes it feel more realistic, and you’re subconsciously more committed to achieving it. Having written goals also helps you to review them regularly.
I’ll share more on the methods I use to record and track my own goals in my next blog post.
Be Specific with Your Goal
The style in which you write your goal down is important. I see many people keeping To-Do lists with endless lists of little things such as “Dave” or “Shopping” written on them – none of which ever seem to get completed. What I’ve learned is that if I write “Call Dave on 0121 12345678” and “Buy Bread, Milk and Butter” on my To-Do list, I’m more likely to do them.
This goes for bigger goals too. Instead of saying “I want to be more confident”, be more specific with what you really mean, such as “I will learn to speak in public”.
If you aren’t specific about your goals, it’s hard to know if you’re achieving them.
Ever heard the phrase, “How do you eat an Elephant? One Chunk at a time!”. I like that phrase! If a goal seems too massive to begin tackling, why not “Salami” it and cut it down into individual chunks.
So if your goal is to “Holiday in America in 2011”, then the first step might be “Collect US Holiday brochures from Travel Agents”. That single step feels a lot more achievable than having to do everything in one go, and you’re more likely to get on and do it.
I use this tip a lot when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Just having the enthusiasm to begin work on a large goal is made easier by saying to yourself you’ll begin with a small step that is easily achievable. The rest of the steps will follow rapidly.
Set a Deadline for Your Goal
If you’re serious about achieving a goal, set a deadline. This is especially important if, like me, you’re a procrastinator – keen on putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.
There are some things we have immovable deadlines for. Tax Returns, for instance, have to be submitted by a certain date every year. But if you can set a deadline for the process of collecting the information for your tax return specifically two months before the return is due, giving you plenty of time, you’ll not be panicking as tax return deadline day looms.
Better still, why not combine this tip and the last, and “Salami” the work you need to do – I set goals of compiling the various bits of information needed for my tax return with separate deadlines throughout the year, so when my Accountant reminds me it’s due – I simply send across the various work I’ve collated throughout the year.
Think Positively When Setting Goals
State your goal in a positive fashion. For instance, which of these two statements seems more positive to you?
“I want to lose weight”
“I want to be a 32” size waist”
A negative goal often focuses on what you need to stop doing, rather than the benefits you’ll enjoy from achieving the goal. Simply wording goals in a positive fashion will encourage you to stick with those goals.
Likewise, make sure your goal is inspiring to you. Most people set “New Years Resolutions” because they think they should, not because they want to. Instead of saying “I’ll start going to the gym” – instead try to think about why you think you should go to the gym and the benefits you’ll see from achieving that goal. Then try to visualise yourself achieving that goal – in your minds eye, picture yourself looking fitter and more energetic in snazzy clothes. You’ll find that a positive way of expressing that goal then comes to you.
Reward Yourself for Achieving Goals
Final tip – my favourite. Make sure to reward yourself for achieving goals. Going back a few years, I set myself growth goals for my business, and upon completing them, treated myself to a First Class flight to the USA. This was a big treat, but then, I’d set myself a big goal!
If you’ve set your eyes on acquiring some new clients at work, when you acquire them, buy yourself that nice Executive Leather Chair you’ve had your eye on!
If you’ve set out to lose weight, buy yourself some new clothes when you lose that weight!
But probably best not to treat yourself to a Big Mac each time you complete your daily health walk.
I hope these tips go some way towards helping you to have a fantastic 2011!