Life coaches are crazy-obsessed big goal-setters. Coaching is largely about beginning with the end in mind (a goal) and creating an action plan to get there, wherever “there” is. I personally reset my goals every 6 months. They are pinned to my vision board as a daily reminder of what I’m working toward.
But a goal alone isn’t enough for success. You also need a system to get you there. Because systems work—they provide clarity and keep you on track.
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, best-selling author Scott Adams explains: “A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that achieves your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”
For example, let’s say your goal is to find a job. Your system might look like this:
- Research career websites every day.
- Have a networking coffee with someone new every week.
- Allocate an hour per morning to do some fresh outreach.
- Consistently polish your LinkedIn profile and resume.
A system makes your goal real. It’s concrete. It gets you moving. When you put your system into action, you’ll be very likely to reach your goal, because you have a map to get there.
The system is all you have to worry about to summit whatever mountain you are climbing.
Here’s an example of one of my systems in action: When I started my side hustle, my goal was to get five coaching clients. One way to attract new clients was to start blogging life advice, hoping that the right people would find me. To do that, I decided to publish one fresh blog post each week on a topic I felt mattered.
My system to do that was to write every. single. morning. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Just for 15 minutes if that’s all the time I had. Some of my writing does nothing—it tanks and attracts no readers at all! But I always write every day. It’s not “I’ll do it when I feel like it.” It’s “I’ll do it today.” Because it’s my system. Morning time is writing time. (It’s morning right now, and so I’m writing this column.)
Following my system ultimately got me featured in my dream publications and eventually even resulted in my first book being published. I scored my goal and then some through that process, because, unlike goals, systems never end (they also take away the guesswork).
What goal do you currently have that you could replace with a system?
- Could you replace looking for a relationship with going on two new dates per week?
- Could you replace a goal of losing 5 pounds with cutting out soda from your diet?
- Could you replace your revenue goal for your business with spending 20 minutes per day on marketing?
- Could you replace your desire for a deeper spiritual practice with a 15-minute morning meditation?
- Could you replace a goal of spending more quality time with your spouse with all screens off during dinnertime?
- Could you satisfy your desire for work-life balance with a massage every month and no email-checking after 7 or 8 p.m.?
Systems reduce decision fatigue; they provide you with an inner guidance system and a equip you with the power of habit. What system can you start this week?
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website.
It’s a commonly accepted sentiment that setting goals will lead you to success.
Many of us believe life will be better by reaching those goals, so we make our plans, put our nose to the grindstone, and work our butts off until we’re there.
Many high achievers I’ve worked with over the years reach their goals, but they end up missing their lives in the process–and not in a trivial “I’m-working-too-hard-to-have-friends” kind of way.
No, they reach their goals and discover they were the wrong goals and the wrong path to get there. No one taught them how to set goals that would give them the life and the career they wanted.
Here’s how to set the right goals for the life you actually want:
1. STOP SETTING GOALS FOR THE WRONG REASON
The first step to setting goals that will bring you an awesome life is to stop setting goals that will bring you a sucky life.
Most goals are about a destination. “I want a million dollars.” “I want enlightenment.” “I want a truck.” If you tend to set your goals based on the destination, and don’t consider the journey, try switching it around.
2. CHOOSE A GOAL TO CREATE A JOURNEY
Instead of setting life goals, think about setting a life direction. Figure out the things that would create a fun, meaningful, compelling journey.
- How do I want to spend my time?
- What daily activities make me want to leap out of bed?
- What do I want to learn?
- Who do I want to hang out with? Talk with? Collaborate with?
Now set your goal. Choose one that will create the journey you just designed.
In fact, the specific goal you set is almost arbitrary–it’s simply setting a direction so the pursuit itself gives you the life that you want. With the right journey, it won’t even matter if you reach your goal.
For example, Chris, a mid-career finance executive, had an original life goal of making a small fortune. That goal led to an education in securities and securities law, a life of financial analysis on Wall Street, and a community of financial professionals. Despite the money, Chris feels like life is slipping by in a gray fog.
Any number of goals could send Chris on a different journey. Here are his answers to the above questions:
- How do I want to spend my time? “Helping people.”
- What activities make me want to leap out of bed? “Problem solving, using my body, and public speaking.”
- What do I want to learn? “History, anthropology, and urban design.”
- Who do I want to hang out with? ”Creative, ambitious, motivated people who expose me to new ways of thinking and challenge my assumptions.”
Many possible goals can bring about this journey for Chris. He could help an immigrant neighborhood plan annual events to preserve its cultural identity; work on designing his city’s response plan for weather emergencies; or champion a real estate development in a historic section of town.
These goals are wildly different from one another, but what they all share is that the journey to reach them will motivate the activities, learning, and community that Chris really wants out of life.
3. IF THE GOAL DOESN’T WORK, CHANGE IT
As you can see, the goal is really just a way of making sure we take a meaningful journey. Some journeys are so much fun, people stay on them forever. My actor friends often say, “Why would I retire? What I do isn’t work; it’s pure fun!”
But if your job involves staring at a screen and filing TPS reports, you may not share that sentiment. As much press as persistence gets, keep in mind that you can always change your direction. Your goal is there to shape your life in a way that delights you, not enslaves you. If the pursuit of the goal is draining your life, then why keep it?
We adopt goals for one reason and one reason only: to change our lives. Rather than adopting a goal you hope will change your life once you reach it, do it the other way around. Choose the journey that for you would be awesome–the activities, personal growth, and friends. Then choose a goal that acts as a compass to give you that life as part of the journey.
And if you ever feel your direction needs changing, change goals. Because it’s not about where you end up, it’s about the life you live on the way. Your life is too precious to settle for less than extraordinary.
Stever Robbins is an executive coach and serial entrepreneur. He helps people live extraordinary lives and embark on big-vision, world changing projects. He is the host of the Get-It-Done Guy podcast, which has been downloaded more than 22 million times, and the author of bestseller Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.
Most folks called it Spanish class, but, when I was a senior in high school, I called it nap time.
I really had good intentions – trust me, I did. I enjoyed school and still do. If someone would pay me to just go to school all the time, that’s what I’d do.
I wanted to stay awake, but I just couldn’t. I remember it was my first class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. As soon as I sat down, my eyelids felt heavier than five dollars’ worth of food on the Taco Bell menu. I’d shake my head, pinch myself, or attempt to doodle. When I woke up, that doodling usually trailed off the edge of my worksheet – piercing through words like “llamo” or “coche.”
Spanish class was, of course, the lowest grade I made that school year. Was that my goal? No. My goal was to make all A’s. Why didn’t that happen? Why couldn’t I stay awake and get my learn on like I genuinely wanted to do? Well, honestly it comes down to organization or lack thereof on my part.
How about you or your business? Do you have goals? If so, how many times have you watched them fly out of reach like leaves in the fall? In my case with Spanish class, it wasn’t enough to have good intentions. I knew what to do to correct the problem – get to sleep earlier on average during the week. At the time I was averaging five hours of sleep nightly, which is not enough for me. My failure was a lack of discipline to correct the problem.
I want to focus on two things: clarity and discipline. Both are needed in order for us to have a reasonable chance of meeting our goals in life. If you pay attention, you’ll usually see a weakness in one of these areas within yourself and others. In my own example, I lacked discipline in the midst of goal clarity.
I have seen it the other way, too. I know someone who is great at multitasking. This person is in that 3 percent of folks who are more efficient multitasking rather than single-tasking. (As an aside, did you know that? Only 3 percent of folks are more efficient at multitasking and we all assume we’re in that 3 percent. The odds are against you! Most folks are more efficient pound for pound, focusing on one task at a time and seeing it to completion.)
Anyway, this person is a great multitasker, but having a clarity of the overarching goals Forget it! They have no clue!
So, how do we fix either a weakness in clarity or discipline? Let’s break it down…
Weakness in clarity, try this:
• Wake up 20 minutes earlier and use this time to reflect on short and long-term goals. We do our best deep thinking earlier in the mornings when we’re rested. Use this time to your advantage. As the day meanders on, you’ll lose the ability to think on this deeper level due to fatigue.
• Mindfulness. Download a mindfulness app, take an online course or purchase a book. Mindfulness has been used for centuries. For those of us who are easily distracted, this helps us tap into our full potential.
• Check out. Take a weekend trip somewhere new or get out of town for a few hours. Sometimes just removing ourselves from what’s familiar can help us tap into that deeper thinking required for clarity of goals.
Weakness in discipline, try this:
• Download a time-management app for your phone and start using it. There are several out there. I’ve used at least three different ones and haven’t found the perfect one for me yet. Don’t be afraid to try them. Most are free.
• Tell your goal(s) to a friend. Verbalizing the goals to someone else will lend to accountability. They’ll ask you about it next time you see them and you’ll have to answer. If you’re like me, discipline is your weakness. Telling a friend forces some responsibility to you.
• Write it down. Studies have shown that actively writing down a goal gives you a better chance of following through with it. So, get out that pen and paper and go to it.
Clarity and discipline. If you have both in your personal and/or business life, you’ll have the best shot at reaching your goals. And achieving goals is a rewarding experience. So, set goals then get out there and make them happen!
Dr. Thomas is a board-certified physician who operates Complete Health Integrative Wellness Clinic and Thomas Urology Clinic in Starkville. Is this column helpful or are you looking for more information? We’d love to hear from you. Go to www.CompleteHealthIWC.com
Before you clicked on this article, were you scrolling through your Facebook news feed? Or perhaps you were watching those crazy cats on Youtube? Better still, did you spend an hour Googling ideas about how to make dinner – quickly? Seems a bit counterproductive doesn’t it.
Before I wrote this piece, I absolutely HAD to do the laundry. But not just the laundry. It was also essential that I wash my hair, did some dishes and emptied the fridge of mouldy leftovers before I turned on my computer, watched a cute cat video on Youtube and (finally!) got to writing.
Procrastination can really mess up your day and it’s like kryptonite for creativity. We can all do it from time to time but, like any bad habit, stopping it is the really hard part.
Procrastination can affect more areas of your life than you might think. Here are just four:
- Friendship: Are you always the one who’s running late? Sure your friends joke about it now but after a while you might find the social invites start to dry up. It’s also time to make that long overdue catch-up for coffee (I’m guilty of this!).Procrastination destroys time management and potentially your friendships.
- Career: Filling out that job application or meeting that deadline might fall into the too-hard-basket for now but it could cost you that dream job or a payrise – see the next financial point!
- Financial: Paying bills late (and paying interest), buying gifts last minute (and paying more) or getting a taxi (instead of public transport, because you’re running late) are all little expenses that add up.
- Health: This could be one of the most serious consequences of procrastination. Not making an appointment with the Doctor about that strange lump? Prioritising a Google search over some gym time? I’ve been guilty of the latter!
On the flip side, however, procrastination can (very occasionally) work to your advantage. Like yesterday when I simply had to go to the gym before I put that presentation together. With a clearer mind for a more productive work day, my health and my clients all won!
Generally though, procrastination just leaves you feeling flat and unfulfilled. I know because I’ve been doing it for years.
I remember back in my school and university days when I still lived with my parents. My bedroom was never cleaner than at exam time. This habit followed me into the corporate workplace but instead of cleaning my bedroom, I’d ensure my email inbox was perfectly up to date and my collection of Post-It Notes was colour coordinated.
Now that my business operates (mostly) from a home office, distractions like the laundry have been known to take precedence over client deadlines (just don’t tell my clients that!).
Unfortunately, despite all the great technological advancements that have been made in this world, those brilliant men and women still haven’t discovered a way to make my work write itself!
Procrastination is like superglue for productivity. You get stuck doing <insert unimportant task here> and your day goes nowhere. Sure you might get to watch that cat video or get that hair out of the shower drain (WIN!) but you’ll also never get that promotion (LOSE!).
Being fully aware that I procrastinate has meant that, over the years, I’ve paid particular attention to anything or anyone with suggestions on how not to procrastinate. Basically, there is a lot of conflicting information so you have to find what works best for you. Here are some ideas that you might find useful:
- Write a list
You might already write a To-Do list but the next step is to prioritise the tasks on that list. From there, you might want to apply some of the next 4 steps to keep you going.
- Remove distractions
Distractions could be anything from social media to chatty colleagues. The first step is to be aware they exist then put strategies in place to avoid them. On occasion, I’ve taken my laptop to work from a café with no Wi-fi and put my phone on Flight-mode so that I can’t be distracted.
- Do small tasks first
Yes and No. It all depends on what the simple task is. Does it relate to the priorities on your To-Do list? Alphabetising your bookshelf is simple enough but it’s not going to help you get to the gym.
By breaking important tasks down, they’re not so daunting and don’t feel as overwhelming – which we know can lead to more procrastination.
- Publicise your intentions
I’m a big fan of accountability and its capacity to kill-off procrastination. In the past, I’ve even updated my Facebook status with intentions, to avoid procrastination. There’s nothing like the threat of a mass virtual butt-kicking to get me working.
- Start small
This is by far my favorite tip for pulverising procrastination and it’s very different to the first point about starting small tasks first.
Here, the focus is on doing something, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. “Just Do It” is how Nike would put it. “Just Start It” is how I would put it.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be started. Or as Elizabeth Gilbert put it, ‘Done is better than good.’
There’s also some interesting science to this concept that I think you’ll be interested in. The Zeigarnik effect was first conceived by Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik in the 1920s. It’s a productivity boosting concept that highlights the importance of just starting, even if it’s a small start.
Zeigarnik conducted a series of studies and showed that the brain actually prioritises incomplete tasks over completed tasks (you can read more about it here).
So if you just start small, at least your brain will be more likely to remember the task and keep that momentum going until you complete it.
If your procrastination was around writing a report at work (for example). Start small. Open a new word document and save it to your desktop so it’s there for later (unless you want to write the whole thing now – that’s ok too!). It’s a very small but it’s a start.
Or perhaps your procrastination isn’t so much around work but related to your fitness? Again the principles are the same. Start small. Start something, anything – just start.
You might not enter a marathon tomorrow but you can at least walk to the end of the street and back or even just do a few stretches in the living room and work up from there. It’s not huge but it is something.
Ok, it’s time you stopped procrastinating and reading articles online. Get back to work!
This article was written by Lisa Cox.
We can actually learn a lot by consistently asking ourselves a few simple, yet targeted, questions.
From a very young age, we are taught to ask questions. We’re told that being inquisitive is a good thing because asking questions will help you solve the problem faster. And that’s true. But one thing we never make a habit of, though we should, is asking ourselves questions.
We can actually learn a lot just by consistently asking ourselves a few simple, yet targeted, questions. Not only does it help us self-reflect, but it also helps us improve. Here are 5 questions you should always ask yourself:
What did I accomplish today?
At the end of every day, you should think about what you accomplished that day. And that doesn’t just mean what you checked off your to-do list. Accomplishments can be something big, like finally finishing a long-term project, or something small, such as writing an email you’ve been putting off. Celebrate all your accomplishments, big or small. It’s a sign that you’re moving forward to wherever you want to go.
How could I have done it better?
While you should give yourself a pat on the back for the things you’ve accomplished, you should also give yourself some constructive criticism. Out of the things you’ve done, how could you have it done it better? Constantly and consistently analyzing your thought processes and strategies can help you improve yourself going forward, which in turn maximizes your productivity and efficiency.
What will I do tomorrow?
Think about the present and how you’re making the most of your now, but also plan for the future. What will you do tomorrow? What are you aiming to accomplish? Having a solid plan for the short term will help you plan accordingly for it now, instead of letting it creep up on you later on.
Where do I want to be a week from now? A month? A year?
You should not only think about the short term but the long term as well. After all, what you do now affects what you’re able to do later. So think about it: where do you want to be a week from now? A month from now? Or even a year from now? Create challenging yet realistic goals and start planning out how you’re going to reach them.
What makes me happy?
We’re always trying to move ourselves forward and be better versions of who we were yesterday. But slow down and take a moment to appreciate today. Think about the things that make you happy and the things you are grateful for. The more we do that, the more attainable our futures will be.
This article was written by Curt Mercadante.
“Come on, it’s only 10 minutes,” said author Lorne Holden, speaking to me from her home in Stockbridge, Mass., on Monday afternoon. “You always have 10 minutes.”
She was channeling the inner voice that she said chided her whenever she was tempted to procrastinate when writing “Make it Happen in Ten Minutes a Day: The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done,” a 2012 book that entered the pantheon of “… minutes a day” inertia-busting guides.
Among the titles available in the self-help sections are: “Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day,” “Take the Leap: Do What You Love 15 Minutes a Day and Create the Life of Your Dreams,” “Increase Your (SAT) Score in 3 Minutes a Day,” “Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day,” “The 10-Minute Retriever: How to Make an Obedient and Enthusiastic Gun Dog in 10 Minutes a Day,” and “The Five-Minute Renaissance: How to Have a Fuller, Richer, Happier Life in Just Five Minutes a Day … Really.”
The idea behind these and many other similar books is that getting started is the hardest part of forming a new habit or taking on a new project. And that many of us are intimidated by the implicit time commitment involved in, well, say, training a gun dog.
We’re busy. Really busy. Our email inbox is overflowing. Shows we want to watch are stacked up in our DVR queues. Magazines and newspapers beckon seductively, as does the pillow at the end of the day.
The incrementalists believe in setting the bar for daily accomplishment almost absurdly low (the authors of the SAT guide admit in their introduction that they “exaggerated slightly” when promising improvements with just three minutes of effort a day) in order to eliminate the main excuse most of us give for not getting started in the first place, thus overcoming Newton’s First Law, which states that an object at rest tends to remain at rest.
And then, often, ideally, the next part of Newton’s First Law comes into play: An object in motion tends to say in motion.
“Once I start I actually find myself enjoying it and work much longer than the 10 minutes,” reported Eileen Donnersberger, among four dozen readers who responded to the 10-minute challenge for 2015 that I issued in my column on the day after Christmas. Donnersberger’s goal is to finish knitting an afghan that she began several years ago as a housewarming present for her son.
“I’d say I work (on it) an average of 30 minutes a day,” she wrote when I inquired how it was going.
The range of goals is quite broad. I have an assortment of declutterers, novelists, memoir writers and aspiring instrumentalists.
Mary Dobbins intends finally to fill out “The Story of A Lifetime,” a book that asks older people to answer a series of questions about their life and times for the benefit of future generations.
Paul Mouw plans to write “short notes of encouragement to friends, acquaintances or people who could use a kind or helpful word” every day.
Barrie Hinman is going to study herbal medicine using “an ambitious online series of courses I have already paid for.”
The complete roster is online at chicagotribune.com/zorn, and if you want in on it, I’ve extended the deadline to Friday. Write to me at email@example.com.
Once you’re on the list I won’t bug you, but I will check in at the end of the year to see what sorts of projects and goals this micro-effort idea seems best suited to.
The idea is that 10 minutes a day is the floor, not the ceiling, and that with a minimum of 60 hours of effort over the course of a year you can get a lot done that you’ve always been putting off because you tell yourself you don’t have enough time.
But you do. Because, as Lorne Holden insists, “You always have 10 minutes.”
This artcile was written by Eric Zorn.