I’m a firm believer in goal setting. Establishing an end objective to work toward is a great way to motivate yourself to buckle down and stay focused. But there’s somewhat of a fine line to walk when it comes to establishing goals that are a help instead of a hindrance.
Set goals that are too simple, and suddenly they don’t serve their purpose–they aren’t pushing you to be your very best. But create goals that are far too lofty? Well, then you’re left feeling disheartened, unproductive, and totally unmotivated.
Yes, striking a balance to set helpful goals can be tough. But it’s not impossible. Here are four tips to help you do just that.
1. Focus on meaning
Reaching a goal feels great, doesn’t it? That high you get when you cross something off your list is an awesome reward. However, that doesn’t mean you should focus all of your attention and energy on easy wins that will give you that false sense of accomplishment.
Instead, effective goals have a deeper-rooted meaning than just something you can scratch off your list before moving on with your day. Remember, the purpose of goals is that they inspire you to accomplish something that is truly important to you.
I know, the concept seems painfully obvious. But think of a few of the goals you’ve set previously, and I bet you come up with a handful that you set out of a feeling of obligation rather than interest.
It might take some time to think of an objective that you really want to work toward–and that’s all right. That will be time well-spent, because you’re much more likely to stay committed to a goal that you actually feel passionate about.
2. Set deadlines in days
Any effective goal will have a deadline. After all, if you really want to accomplish something, you likely want to do it in a reasonable amount of time. Plus, that more rigid structure will help keep you focused on the endgame.
While you already know that deadlines are important, the way you structure those end dates can have a big impact as well. Studies show that deadlines set in days are more motivating than those that use weeks, months, or years.
Researchers believe that the more immediate timeframe better connects our present selves to our future selves, further inspiring us to get those things done. So don’t say you want to have the first draft of your book done in three months–say 90 days instead. You might be surprised at how much that kick-starts your productivity.
3. Establish mini goals
Here’s the thing about goals–if you’re taking the advice from the first point, they shouldn’t be easy to accomplish. They’re larger objectives that are going to involve a fair share of work and elbow grease.
While this can be motivating, it can also be incredibly intimidating. Sometimes, that goal seems so lofty or that project so large, you have no idea where to even get started–which usually ends with you throwing your hands up and saving any progress for tomorrow.
When setting a goal, it’s important that you think beyond just the end objective and also develop your action plan, with mini goals to track your progress along the way.
For example, saying that you want to have that book finished in 90 days is the overarching goal you’re working toward. But, within that, you could set a timeline for each chapter or a number of words.
Breaking a large goal down into these smaller chunks makes the entire thing feel more manageable, meaning you’re more likely to continue taking steps forward–rather than winding up frustrated and discouraged.
4. Constantly evaluate
Like anything, goal setting involves a lot of learning. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get it at it–as long as you’re willing to continuously evaluate your progress and learn from your mistakes.
When you finally reach the finish line of a goal you set for yourself, pause to reflect on your experience. You can take a page from the book of big players like Google and Intel and use Objectives and Key Results to determine how you performed.
Using that method, you assign your performance a number between 0 and 1–with a score of 1 meaning you knocked it out of the park.
While you might think that’s the number you’re aiming to achieve time and time again, the sweet spot is really 0.7. Anything lower than that, and you know your goal was too ambitious. If you score yourself higher? Well, then you have some room to think a little bigger and push a little harder with your next goal.
Goal setting is an effective strategy to stay motivated. But actually setting the goal can involve a bit of thought and consideration. Use these four tips and you’ll learn to set goals that inspire you–rather than discourage you.