Goals come in various sizes and types, from minor goals achievable in a matter of hours to big ones that require planning and mental preparation. We have all been there. New Year's resolutions gone awry, promises to yourself and others that are never fulfilled, or projects that end up being aspirational dreams. So, What can help you to successfully achieve your goals? Following two simple steps.
In last week's post, I wrote about the SMART criteria for stating a goal in a way that paves the road to success. Unfortunately, that’s only the first step. Next, you have to work toward reaching that outcome. And to help you, I borrowed two tips from the book Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg that you may find useful.
The first tip is to break down your goal into the smallest possible actions. For instance, let’s say you want to run a 5K race with your cousins to raise funds for your aunt Doro’s nonprofit. Since you’re not a runner, the idea of teaming up with your fit cousins to help your aunt's charity is both intimidating and appealing, so you make up your mind that you want in. Where should you start? You start by breaking that daunting goal into the smallest possible actions.
Depending on your fitness level, you may want to block time on your calendar to train, download a running app, and then run once to the street corner. Next, increase that distance by a manageable fraction each day. Fogg refers to his own experience and writes that to form the habit of flossing his teeth, he started by flossing one tooth one night, moved on to two the next day, and so on until flossing became routine. This may be too small of a first action for some, but you can adapt the premise to your own style.
The purpose is to avoid seeing your goal as a massive undertaking. Instead, focus on progress one small step at a time. In Tiny Habits, Fogg recommends starting with an action that’s so small it may even seem ridiculous. As I see it, there are two main approaches: the cold turkey approach and the baby-steps approach. For many, many years, my father was a heavy smoker; one morning, he woke up and decided he was going to quit right there and then. He quit cold turkey. It must have required an enormous amount of will power on his part, no doubt, but he never smoked again. Other people may prefer to start by cutting down one cigarette a day. Both routes are equally acceptable.
The second tip is to connect the habit you want to form to a routine you already have. Circling back to the runner example, if you’re not used to daily exercise, you’ll find it challenging to take the time to train. However, if you commit to running first thing in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you’ll remember to do it, and it’ll be easier to turn your good intentions into a routine. When you attach your new practice to a routine, it’ll also be easier to protect the time you’ve allocated to, in this case, training.
Fogg writes that when he decided to start exercising, he began by doing two push-ups every time he went to the bathroom. Here, Fogg combined both tips: he started small, and he attached the habit he wanted to form to an activity that was already established. Finding the best time for your new habit to develop is essential.
Despite so many time management and productivity strategies available, there is no one-size-fits-all system. All of them have pros and cons, and therefore they need to be adapted to your personality and lifestyle. I hope you find these suggestions useful and decide to try them next time you’re pursuing a goal. If you do, let me know how it goes!
What is your strategy when working to achieve a new goal? I invite you to share your ideas on this and any other time management and productivity topic. I’d love to hear from you! I hope you found this post useful, if you did, please like, share, and leave a comment below so others can see it. Thanks for reading, and may your planning bring you peace of mind this week.