Our culture is so permeated by goal setting that you'd think by now we should all be master goal-setters. We know we need to set specific, challenging goals and record our progress. Making public commitments is also key to achieving our goals.
Yet, we still fall short of achieving our goals.
Distractions, procrastination and lack of prioritization all stand in the way to our goals. By combining introspection and action, the following goal hacks will set you up for success in achieving your goals.
Get started somewhere, anywhere
The Zeigarnik effect tells us that unfinished tasks stay in the back of our minds, nagging at us. According to Bluma Zeigarnik's research, people experience intrusive thoughts when a task is not completed. Because of this, you are more likely to get something done once you actually start doing it. When you're just getting started on something, it might be useful to think of small steps you can take, so that you don't feel intimidated by them. To achieve something, you simply need to get started somewhere… anywhere.
Don't get hung up on planning
There's a reason people suck at planning. The planning fallacy tells us that we often underestimate the time it takes us to get a task done, and we overestimate how long it takes others to get something done. What's more, when it comes to our own planning, we don't take into account past experiences that might indicate how long it will actually take to complete a task. It's because our ego requires us to be optimistic about our predictions in order to protect our self-esteem. Besides, when we make plans we can become unresponsive to change, because abandoning the plan means we're somehow failing.
This is not to say that you shouldn't ever make plans. Make plans, but follow them loosely - keeping in mind that you will always learn more as you work your way toward your goal, which will most likely cause your plans to change.
Find out why you procrastinate, then change your habits
Knowing what kind of procrastinator you are means that you'll be more likely to control your habits and less likely to abandon your goals. It will also mean that you'll be able to do better work, since many procrastinators complete their work at the eleventh hour, but without achieving their full potential. Understanding why you leave tasks until the last minute will help you understand how you can alter your habits to avoid this.
Prioritize goals and ditch busy work...
Start thinking how to separate your daily grind from your big goals. On your to-do list, you might have everyday tasks, or chores, and major goals, the two co-existing side by side (think doing the laundry vs. learning Spanish). The problem is that when you are faced with performing a relatively easy task or one where you need to put in more work, you will probably pick the first one.
Busy work is easier than slow, calculated work toward our goals. That's because everyday tasks show immediate results, while taking small steps toward a major goal is not that tangible. And in some cases, the more we do, the more we realize how much there is left to get done. However, that's no reason not to work toward our goals. It's as simple as committing to place the tasks that will take us closer to our goals at the top of the list, both figuratively and literally.
…but allow some time for menial tasks
When they take priority, menial tasks will move you away from your goals. But you also need time away from doing "big" work. Menial tasks provide a mental break that can allow you to reflect on your big plans. That's why you sometimes get your best ideas while vacuuming or doing the dishes. It's like a brainstorming session that can point you toward your next action steps, especially when you have reached a creative block.
Set aside time for leisure
Sometimes it can seem that taking time off for yourself means you're betraying your goals. You should be working, not playing. But working too much can drain all your energy and creativity. Leisure is closely connected to the creative process (the word recreation, a synonym for leisure, basically means returning to a previous state of 'creation'). Taking time for leisure allows you to generate a positive flow of creative energy, and taking this back to your work will help you to pursue your goals more passionately.
Don't reward yourself too soon
The Zeigarnik effect we talked about in the first point is actually undermined by reward expectancy. In other words, if you expect to be rewarded at a certain point in time, you will be less likely to return to an unfinished task. And when you do return to the unfinished task, you are more likely to spend less time on it. You can turn this to your advantage by allowing yourself a reward only when you have actually completed a task, versus after a certain period of time. Don't set up a reward system where you get something for every hour of work. Instead, reward yourself after you have checked off a specific task as completed. Each completed task will carry you one step closer to your goal.
Do you have any goal hacks that you'd like to add to these? Tell us in the comment section below.