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Can you dig through a hundred meters of solid rock alone?

“No,” a reasonable person would say – and they’d be wrong. The “Mountain Man” of India proved otherwise.

It took the humble laborer 22 years to break a road through a mountain, by himself, using only the most basic of tools.  When he finished, his village finally had access to medical care and transport.  Odds are pretty good that the toughest challenges in your life are not as big as the Mountain Man’s.  It should take us a lot less for us to break our big rocks.

Some people call them “dreams”. Some call it a bucket list.  I call them big, gray, looming rocks.  No matter what you call them, we all have them: the things we want to do and experience before we die. Making your own bucket list 100 Things to Do Before I Die: 6 Sites To Create Your Own List 100 Things to Do Before I Die: 6 Sites To Create Your Own List Read More gives you some perspective on your life and what you want out of it.  But writing bucket lists and creating vision boards around them can only do much. Emptying that bucket calls for action.

This is where treating that true story as a metaphor for our lives helps. So, can you carve through a mountain alone? Yes.  One rock at a time.  No obstacle can survive the steady onslaught of patience.

The 5 Rules That Govern My Goal Management System

When it comes to a goal management system 10 Websites To Help You Stick To Your 2015 Resolutions 10 Websites To Help You Stick To Your 2015 Resolutions If you're like the majority of us and need a little help sticking to your New Year's resolutions, these ten websites will help you accomplish your goals for 2015 Read More , it is never one size fits all. It is highly personal, but customizable. Set yourself some rules for your own system. It will help you select the productivity tool The 5 Commandments For Choosing The Right To-Do App For Productivity The 5 Commandments For Choosing The Right To-Do App For Productivity Different people organize in different ways. So choosing a to-do app really depends on what kind of person you are. Here are five commandments you can think about for your own productivity system. Read More that works for you. Here are the five rules for my system…

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Keep your goals in sight. Using Trello as a visual bucket list.

Break big goals into meaningful micro-goals. Begin with the end in mind and dissect your goals to the smallest steps.

Just get started. Use the Zeigarnik Effect (and dash of motivation) to build momentum and end procrastination.

The Zeigarnik Effect and productivity

Create routines that don’t box you in. Weekly goals leave room for unplanned emergencies and time to replenish your energy.

Leave it to time. Combine the magic of thinking big with the simplicity of thinking long. (Thanks —  Never Too Late To Be Great)

Using Trello To Break Down The Bucket List

Trello - Visualizing Goals

Of all types of productivity systems, the visual ones appeal to me the most. It could be because of the imagery – photos and diagrams – that help to paint a picture of the finished task. Trello combines the best of personal Kanban like features with the flexibility to create a vision board and visualize our goals.  Plus, it’s free — inspiration shouldn’t be expensive.

Trello works best as a collaborative task management tool, but it can be easily adopted for  a personal to-do system.

A “Bucket List” is a to-do list with a long term horizon. It can be a dream list – but it helps if you seed it with ideas that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). Otherwise, you’re just waiting valuable time thinking about your goals instead of achieving them!

I created a board called  unimaginatively – My Bucket List. The board is populated with vertical Trello Lists. Each list is the placeholder for the stages my goals will go through. Each card on the list holds a specific task / step that I take towards completing the goal.

Trello -- Create A Bucket List

The first column holds the biggest priorities. The BIG goals. The DREAMS. Each big goal gets a card which is illustrated with a photo and fleshed out with any information that helps the goal.

Trello - Bucket List - Description

 

The well-illustrated cards serve as  the vision board and the launch pad for the “Most Important Goals” that progresses step by step from here onwards.

Picking Your Most Important Goals

Moving the cards from left to right across the Trello board helps to intuitively visualize progress.

Following the rule laid down above, I pick the three most important goals that I desire to achieve first. Do note that they are SMART goals. The three goals make it to the next list titled – Goals In Progress.

Limiting goals to just three is a Kanban concept that stops you from taking on more goals than you can handle. According to the Kanban concept, everyone has their own WIP (Work In Progress) limit, but a smaller number is best for focus and quality of effort. An excessive WIP is exhausting and you don’t finish what you start How to Kill Motivation Sucking Vampires & Finish What You Start How to Kill Motivation Sucking Vampires & Finish What You Start Life projects that are stalled? Yes, we all have them. The story is always the same. We start with an idea but never see it through. Break the brittle obstacles and persevere with these tips. Read More .  Remember that you are human, and don’t push yourself beyond your own limits.  Think of yourself as an employee: a talented, productive employee, but one who can only handle so many tasks at a time.

Setting Mini Goals

Each goal is broken down to the easiest possible steps again. It’s time to point out again the value of breaking down big mountains one small rock at a time. Breaking down each huge task into effortless little steps also keep the goal in motion and resistance to do it at bay. Senia Maymin talks about goal-setting and the value of incremental steps

“If you want to accomplish something, break it down into smaller steps and go after them incrementally. Plan out the smaller steps before jumping into the big project.”

As you can see in the screenshot, using checklists helps me strike off the little tasks towards the goal and also visualize the progress I am making towards completion.

Turning Them Into Weekly And Monthly Action Plans

Monthly & Weekly Goals

Personally, setting daily goals day in and day out is a recipe for mental drudgery. Monthly and weekly goals gives just enough of a deadline to complete a task and leaves space for life. Many a time this space has allowed me to bounce back after falling off the wagon or a commitment failure. Also, a week is just right for bigger thinking.

The Monthly and Weekly Goals list on Trello is a “container” for some of the steps from the Goals in Progress we saw above. Manually write the goals or convert checklist items into cards and move them to the Monthly/Weekly lists.

Convert Checklist To Cards

Here’s a screen from my monthly breakdown of learning photography. Use the individual monthly goals to set goals for each week.

Monthly Goals

The BIG goals shouldn’t fall prey to monotony. One of the ways to keep your motivation going is to set mini-challenges or try gamification Points For Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification Points For Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification My brain is stupid. It thinks I can get done tomorrow what I need to do today, and that I can do this afternoon what I need to do this morning. It puts everything off.... Read More with something like HabitRPG.

Gamifying achievements is open to creativity. I set a few rewards if I manage to meet my weekly and monthly challenges. You can award yourself points and “encash” them at the end of the week or month for a list of rewards set up on a separate Trello list.

To-do's and Gamification

The trick here is to be objective and award the rewards according to the difficulty of the task. I know I can enjoy the rewards without needing to go through the tasks…but connecting them together builds accountability.

Kevin Lee at Buffer has compiled a few pointers on how to use gamification as an anti-procrastination tool.

Dealing With The Enemy — Procrastination

A separate Trello list called Procrastinating On holds all the steps where I have stalled. Due dates on the cards are effective reminders. Checklist items converted to cards can go here. Any ideas to break the bottle neck can go into the “Description” of the cards.

Card Aging on Trello automatically tells you about the cards that haven’t been touched in a while. Enable the Power-Up and  cards become progressively more transparent and “fade out” the longer they remain untouched.

Trello -- Card Aging

In pirate mode, cards will tear, yellow, and crack like an old pirate map. The card will return to its usual when it is active again.

The DONE List

The DONE List

Tasks that you’ve accomplished go into a Trello Done list. This is the anti-procrastination device because keeping a Done List Ditch Your To-Dos: How To Use A "Done" List To Achieve Your Resolutions Ditch Your To-Dos: How To Use A "Done" List To Achieve Your Resolutions Resolutions come from a part of yourself where you feel lacking. Instead of a to-do list, try a "Done List" for a positive mindset to achieve your targets. Read More is a motivation in itself. One idea is to fill the cards with pictures of your accomplishments.

Visualize Progress

Visualization again becomes useful when you need to see your progress towards the goalposts. The Kanban styled layout of Trello cards is in itself a good way. But there are a few more tricks you can employ.

  • You can use the Calendar view to take an overview of the tasks.
  • You can use differently colored labels (red-orange-green) to showcase your progress.
  • You can link to third-party sites like Progress Visualizer and Ollert to visualize your Trello board.

How Do You Plan Your Big Goals?

The visual left-to-right movement of Trello cards helps make your effort concrete. The sense of accomplishment going from  from the musty to-do to the kinetic Done is something that we all can relate to. But like all productivity systems, it is not perfect.  At some point, the missing element is you: your drive, your desire, and your ability to rise above your own demons of procrastination.  Vision boards are like a well-worn family car.  They’ll get you there, but they need somebody in the driver’s seat.

Is your bucket list a simple to-do sheet 7 Single-Page Productivity Planners To Organize Your To-Do List 7 Single-Page Productivity Planners To Organize Your To-Do List The simple act of ticking the box is therapeutic. If paper is your calling, the Internet has some helpful single-page productivity sheets you can print out for daily planning Read More  or is it embellished with visual triggers? Do you have a system in place to achieve the goals you have set? We would love to hear about your process.

Image Credit: Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

  1. Amy
    June 11, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    This is very helpful. I'm new to setting goals but I realize that if you continuously remind yourself, you will take advantage when opportunity presents itself. I am making a vision board to reach my yearly goal. On it I'll keep track of my progress on a chalkboard and also post up inspirational quotes. Thanks for the tip to make weekly and monthly goals. Rewards are a great idea as well. It makes reaching your goals more exciting, and that is easily added to my vision board!

    • Saikat Basu
      June 12, 2016 at 5:46 am

      Hey Amy, you are welcome.

      Yes, that is the precise utility of a vision board. I also use it sometimes to "validate" some ideas or a decision. For e.g. a purchase decision. I keep the image of something I want to buy in front of me, and decide over the course of few days if buying that particular item will serve any purpose or not. Really helps to avoid impulse buys.

      By the way, what's your biggest goal?

  2. Lindsey
    February 18, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Really nice article! Definitely gave me some great ideas as I look to ramp up my Trello use and achieve those writing and life goals.

    • Saikat
      February 19, 2015 at 4:51 am

      Well, if it's about writing then you can do a lot more. You can no only set up an editorial / writing calendar but also outline your book or article. The best thing is that you can make it as big or small as you need it to be.

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