All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible. -Orison Swett Marden
Big goals work because they’re inspiring
Little goals? Wimpy goals? Those are neither motivating nor inspiring nor worth your time.
Set goals that are scary and challenging and you’ll have something worth waking up for.
You know that you start by taking that big goal and smashing it into itty bitty pieces. That’s where you start. Here’s how you continue.
5 keys to reaching those big goals
1: Focus on 1 – 3 steps at a time.
I should probably say 1, because that’s usually smarter, but I know you over-achievers. You’re not gonna be happy with just 1 step at a time.
So I’m giving you up to 3. No more, because no matter how much of a productivity superhero you are, you can’t do everything all at once. [Actually, really, you can only do ONE thing at a time.]
It is wise to limit yourself to 1, 2, or – at the most – 3 steps that you are actively pursuing at any given time. In many cases, the steps you need to take to reach your goal will be consecutive, so you can’t really do more than 1 at a time.
If you can do more than one at a time, fine. Do 2 or 3. But that’s it. Finish step 1 before you jump to step 4.
2: Make your steps a matter of habit.
I cannot say enough about the power of habit to increase your productivity.
Making something a habit takes all the effort out of it (okay, 90% of the effort).
If you want to get up early in the morning, and you put forth the enormous effort to make it a habit, you win. For as long as you want to maintain that habit, you will, and without the Herculean effort that it took to establish the habit.
The steps you need to take to reach your goal should become habits. When you reach the end of one step, replace it with the next. It’s habit transfer, and it makes your life easier.
3: Break each step down into the smallest (sensible) components.
Several years ago, I was browsing a forum on productivity and came across a thread on morning routines. People were sharing their examples, commenting, advising… The norm.
I will never forget this one gal’s “morning routine,” which included all the following line items (plus about 25 more):
- brush teeth
- moisturize face
- moisturize arms
- moisturize legs
- moisturize feet and hands
Um, okay. We have officially moved past sensible and into the land of crazy. There is no good reason to give more than one line to “shower and dress.” I think we all know what that means without further elaboration.
Break your big goals down into big steps, and your big steps down into little steps, but don’t break your little steps down into crazy. Okay? Stop where it makes sense.
A good rule of thumb: if it takes you longer to write it than it would to DO IT, you’ve gone too far.
4: Schedule each step.
There are two components to scheduling the steps you’re going to take.
The first scheduling component is when this step will take place in your daily or weekly routine. Give it a regular time (this is key to making it a habit) and stick to that time.
The second component is the deadline. When should the step be complete? Figure that out, and put it on your calendar. Assigning a deadline gives meaning and urgency to those daily blocks of time.
After all, if you don’t have a deadline, why does it matter if you skip a day or two or fifteen?
5: Set mile markers.
Big goals can be discouraging because it takes a long time to get all the way there.
So when you go through that process of breaking a big goal down into intermediate steps, pick out a few points alone the way.
Those are your mile markers.
They’re important points in the process when you should stop, reward yourself, evaluate your progress, adjust your vision as needed, make sure your steps still make sense, adjust deadlines as needed, and kind of take a deep breath before you continue.
Mile markers help you to see how much progress you’ve made before you get all the way there.
When you’re writing a book, say, getting 30,000 words under your belt is pretty huge. So is finishing a detailed outline. So is completing a first draft. So is writing a book proposal. All of those are valid mile markers.
Mile markers help you to stay focused and not get discouraged when your big goal still seems big and far away.
You’ve got to spend your time on something…
Might as well be on something big, something that matters to you. Or you could watch another episode of Cupcake Wars…
I’m off to take another step. Right after I moisturize my elbows.
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