Do you use goals to motivate yourself to get working? Do you also live in shame as you look back at all the goals you used to have, each and every one unmet? The problem may not be your motivation, per se – it may be your goals weren’t good enough. As such, it’s a good idea to set goals that are healthy for your productivity rather than ones that act as reminders of all the things you’ve never done. Let’s cover some ways to set goals you can actually achieve.
Note that we don’t mean your goals and aspirations are bad – it’s good to have something to work toward. However, setting a goal can go wrong, which creates something you eventually get sick of, forget, or get lost in trying to meet.
1. Break Down a Goal into Bite-Size Chunks
Lofty goals are great to set and even better to meet. However, if you set an ambitious goal and leave it as is, it can take a toll on your motivation.
For example, let’s say your goal is “become a freelance programmer full time.” Let’s assume you’ve never touched a bit of code, let alone have knowledge of how to market yourself.
This is a great goal, but the “jump” is too large. If you constantly have “become a freelance programmer full-time” as your only goal, it’s easy to get lost and confused.
As such, you need to work out how to become a programmer. That involves settling with a programming language; so you need to choose one that fits the career you want. Then you need to learn it, develop a portfolio, and market yourself until you become full time.
From this brief introspection, we can see that “become a freelance programmer full time” has these “mini-goals” you can meet:
- Determine which language to learn
- Learn enough to be proficient in the language
- Create portfolio
- Send portfolio to clients
- Ramp up business until it earns enough to become full time
That’s far more manageable than trying to go from A to Z in one jump!
2. Set Goals You Can Really Achieve and Measure Them
Let’s analyze one of the mini-goals we created above: “Learn enough to be proficient in the language.” This is a murky goal, as “proficient” is very subjective. At which point do you say you’ve learned enough to begin marketing your skills to clients?
It’s best to set goals you can actually meet – something with a tangible result that you can point to when saying “this goal is complete.” For example, in the above example, perhaps you can take an online course. Maybe you could even go for a degree. These are things you can complete and thus can use as a basis for your larger goal.
Likewise, measurable goals can prevent slacking. “Send portfolio to clients” is a very vague goal; sending your portfolio to someone every day meets that but so does sending one every month. As such, without a way to measure your progress toward that goal, you may move the goalposts to meet it.
Saying “Send portfolio to a potential client every weekday” cuts through this vagueness and gives you something you can more easily achieve.
3. Set a Deadline
Deadlines are the bane of happiness for some people, but it’s important to have them. Without a deadline, the above goals can be pushed back and delayed as much as you please.
Set a date for when you’d like each goal to be met. Then, work to meet those dates. If you succeed, great: your goal dates worked. A better way is to gamify the process. Create a leaderboard to see if the “today version of you” did better than the “yesterday version of you” or “last week version of you.” And don’t forget to reward yourself when you do actually achieve those goals.
If, however, you didn’t meet the deadlines, don’t use that as an excuse to beat yourself up or quit. It just means that reality didn’t match your expectations, and you need to reflect on how to better tweak the goals. For example, if you set aside six months to become professional-level at C# code, but you only complete the basics by then, you’ve learned that languages take time to study.
4. Tell Someone Who Will Hound You
Now that you have your goal set, tell someone who you know will continuously ask for updates. Nosy parents? An interested spouse? A close friend who loves to chat about you? Let them know what you want to do and when you’ll do it.
Personal goals are easy to sabotage. You can always make excuses, delay goals further, or adjust what counts as a “completed goal.” A friend, however, will hold you to what you claim. If you try to weasel out of your own commitments, they’ll want to know why.
Making Goals a Reality
In conclusion, to set goals that you will actually achieve, you need to be realistic and not set unattainable, unclear goals that will make your life more miserable. Follow the steps above and you will be on your way to better productivity and life.
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