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Most people quit their goals soon after they set them. Here’s how to stick to yours.
1. Don’t make a list. If you need to write a list of goals it means you are trying to do too much at a time. That’s were most people go wrong and end up quitting a few weeks into their journey. They try to do too much too soon. It overwhelms them.
It’s ok to want to achieve as much as you want, I’m not telling you to lower your goals, I’m just telling you to not work on all of them at the same time.
We approach goal-setting like a wishlist when we should think of it more like a budget -We have limited time, energy, and willpower to develop and assimilate new behaviours.
Here are some reasons why trying to do too much is counter productive.
Not enough willpower. We don’t have enough willpower to change many behaviours at the same time. Willpower is exhaustible, it drains as we use it, so if we spend too much of it forcing ourselves to work on one goal we leave little less to work on another later in the day.
Unfocused energy. Working on too many goals dissipates our energy. We need to avoid constant goal and task switching, it breaks our concentration. Instead, we should focus on few changes at a time and give them as much attention as possible. They will slowly incorporate into our routine and eventually turn into habits.
Confusion. When we have too many goals at the same time we get confused about which one to work on at a give time. Even with a rigorous schedule our responsibilities will get in the way and we’ll have to chose to work on one goal at the expense of another. Just having to make that decision can lead to making no decision at all. Too many choices lead to confusion and procrastination.
Slow progress. Having too many goals at the same time makes our progress slower on each of them. This doesn’t seem like a problem -rationally we know we are making progress even if it’s slow- but our emotional brain is easily demoralized, it needs to see benefits and results. If it takes too long to see some progress we lose motivation and risk giving up on our goals.
2. Set up only 3 major goals at a time. If you achieve one or all of soon, great! Get it back to 3, but don’t focus on more than 3 at a time. I know you want to work on all your other goals and you will, but you’ll do it progressively, 3 at a time.
If you goals are habit or routine related -like going for a run 4 times a week- you are allowed to add new goals once the habit is formed.
Creating habits require consistent effort in the beginning but once established they demand little mental energy. At this point you can shift your focus and start working on a new goal or habit.
The 3 big goals you choose may have subgoals and action steps. If they do, apply the same concept, work on 1-3 subgoals or action steps at a time. As you complete them add more to get it back to 3.
You can use this rule for daily activities too. Set up the 3 most important tasks of the day and focus on completing them. You can then add another 3 or use the rest of the day for other projects. Working this way gives you clarity of mind and reduces stress. You’ll also be more aware of your progress, which will motivate you to keep moving forward.
3. Work on each goal at least 3 times a week. It’s better to work on your goals often, even if it’s a little, than a lot every now and then. Ideally, you should work on your goals daily -But we’ll use a minimum of three times a week (spaced out). Consistent action is what helps you form habits. The more you do it the less resistance you face and the easier it gets to do more of it.
Here’s from “Making Habits, Breaking Habits”:
Years ago, when Jerry Seinfeld was still on the comedy circuit, a young comedian asked him for advice on how to improve. Seinfeld replied that the key to being a better comedian was writing better jokes and the way to write better jokes was to practice. Seinfeld explained; it was about building up a habit: the writing habit. Seinfeld advised using a simple trick to get the habit going. You buy a big wall calendar with a box for every day of the year. Then, each day that you complete your writing task, you put a big cross on the calendar. As the weeks pass, the chain of crosses in the calendar grows longer and longer. Your only job, urged Seinfeld, was not to break the chain.
New beginnings -like a new year, a new job, moving to a new place, etc.- are good opportunities to create habits and make changes in your life, use them as they come, but don’t rely on them.
New Year’s resolutions take advantage of this new beginning “effect”, but you shouldn’t just sit and wait for a new year to set up goals for your life. That’s a passive way of living, and many times just another form of procrastination. You should be as motivated to set goals and start new projects on May 15th or September 22nd as you are on January 1st. It’s your life we are talking about, take the initiative.
Three simple rules to set and achieve your goals
1.Don’t make a list. If you have a list you are trying to do too much at a time. Think: Manageable
2. Set only up to 3 major goals at a time. If you complete one goal add a new one but don’t have more than 3 at any given time. If your goals have sub-goals and actionable steps apply the same concept, work on 3 sub-goals or actionable steps at a time. Once you complete one add another. Think: Focus
3. Work on your goals consistently. It’s better to work on your goal a little everyday than a lot every now and then. Think: Habits
To learn how to fail-proof your goals. Click here
PS: If one of your goals is to read more here’s how to do it: How to read more and remember what you read