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Goal setting is a great way to cut down on procrastination and boost productivity. If you don’t have goals, you don’t have direction. Without direction, it’s easy for you to feel lost and confused. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can keep track of your goals, whether you use an online goal tracker, an iPhone app, or even just a pocket notebook. There are even web communities where the members help each other reach their goals.
But what if your problem is more fundamental? What if you aren’t setting effective and proper goals in the first place? If your goals are sub-optimal, you may be impeding your own advancement. Here are some mistakes you might be making and how to avoid them in the future.
Mistake 1 : Goals That Are Not Specific & Not Measurable
Attend any seminar on goal-setting and often the very first thing you’ll hear is that goals must be quantifiable. In other words, measurable.
Your current goal might be to “lose weight”. How do you know when you’ve reached that goal? After you’ve lost 1 pound? 5 pounds? 85 pounds? Unspecific goals make it difficult to track progress. Without a sense of forward movement, you may lose motivation. And when you lose motivation, you stop trying.
The Fix: Whenever you set a goal, include hard numbers. Quantifiable goals give you a milestone or finish line towards which you can race.
Don’t just try to “lose weight”. Instead, “lose 25 pounds”. Want to run faster? No, you want to “run a 6-minute mile”. Aiming to “finish this coding project” is nebulous; “complete this program module by Saturday” is more measurable.
Mistake 2 : Goals That Are Unrealistic
So you’ve set a specific, measurable goal. Great! Now you must make sure that the goal is realistic. There is nothing that will kill your motivation quicker than an unrealistic goal.
Consider “I will read 1 book by Saturday”. Seems fine, right? The goal is measurable, and it is definitely attainable. You feel like you can do it, so you start on it.
Now consider “I will read 100 books by Saturday”. Instantly, you freeze. How are you going to read 100 books in such a short time? It’s too overwhelming, so you don’t even try. You procrastinate.
The Fix: It’s good to set goals that are challenging, but make sure they’re within reach. You know yourself better than anyone else does. You know your own limits, and you know how far you can push yourself.
Mistake 3 : Not Arranging Goals In Priority Order
Once you’ve started setting multiple goals, you have a decision to make – which of these goals am I going to tackle first?
Before you can answer that question, you’ll need to order your goals by priority. For some of you, this may seem elementary; for the rest of you, not doing this might be the reason why you don’t finish on time.
For example, is it more important to “fix the malfunctioning web server” or “fix the typo on the company website”? Obviously, one of those holds more importance. But even when the stakes aren’t so drastically different, prioritizing is important. It paves the way forward and prevents you from wasting too much time deciding on a task to tackle.
The Fix: So which goals should you prioritize? The most time-critical ones should be finished first. Always.
If deadlines aren’t an important issue for you right now, then you should prioritize core goals over peripheral goals. In other words, work on the things that will have a huge impact once completed before working on things that would be nice if completed but not entirely important.
Mistake 4 : Not Planning How To Accomplish Set Goals
Whether you have only one goal or a hundred goals, you should always have a plan on how you will accomplish them. Not having a plan leads to a state of mental paralysis where you don’t know what to do next – and that’s when you procrastinate.
It’s nice to set a goal to “read 10 chapters by midnight” but you won’t get around to it if you don’t set aside a chunk of time to actually read those chapters.
The Fix: Getting around this one is easy. When you set a goal, go ahead and set a bunch of “mini-goals” related to that one.
Take the chapter reading example above. Here are some possible mini-goals you could have:
- Finish the dishes by 7pm.
- Read from 7pm to 9pm.
- Relax from 9pm to 10pm.
- Read from 10pm to midnight.
Mistake 5 : Not Evaluating Progress On Current Goals
As you work towards reaching your goals, you must be careful not to fall into the mindset of “set it and forget it”. Every once in a while – not too often, not too infrequently – you need to evaluate your progress.
Are your plans and actions bringing you closer to reaching your goals? Are you any closer today than you were when you first started? Are your goals as measurable, realistic, and clear as you once thought? If not, then something isn’t working, and that calls for change.
The Fix: Set a frequency at which you can evaluate your progress in relation to your objectives. If you have weekly deadlines, you may want to evaluate daily. If your deadlines are months apart, then you may only need to review once a month.
Be diligent with your self-assessments and don’t be afraid to switch up your goals.
Do you set goals? If so, what sorts of problems do you run into? Do you have any tips and tricks that help motivate towards reaching goals? Share them with us!