This post is part of the Classics Week(s) feature, which will run for three weeks while I’m off overseas. Like last week’s resurrection, this is an old favourite of mine, updated for your reading pleasure.
One of my favourite things about New Year’s Eve is making resolutions. You know, those promises to ourselves that we can never seem to keep.
I like this ritual because I like setting goals for myself. One of my resolutions for 2010 was to have a new post up every Monday (a tradition I’ve kept to this day). I made other resolutions that year as well, and as ridiculous as it sounds, by March I was already planning resolutions for the following year.
That’s when it hit me:
Set goals more than once per year.
Why wait until some arbitrary holiday to set goals for yourself?
You can set realistic, helpful, attainable goals right now. And they don’t have to be scoped to a full year, either.
Mix it up and have some that are month- or week-based. Short-term goals are easier to keep, provide benefits right away, and can help build confidence to hit more lofty goals that take a bit longer to reach.
Here are some goals that I’ve set for myself recently:
- (for 2010) Write a blog post every Monday.
- (for March) Cook breakfast every morning.
- (for this week) Get up every day at 6:30am.
Each of these goals has taught me something interesting.
I’ve learned that writing blog posts gets easier the more you do it. That cooking a full breakfast helps me sort out my day (and is delicious). And that I am absolutely not meant to be up at the crack of dawn.
This brings me to my next point:
It’s ok to fail.
Many of my goals don’t play out exactly as planned, and sometimes they get completely cancelled if they turn out to be terrible ideas (6:30 mornings, I’m looking in your direction).
The point is to experiment and see what works for you.
Instead of becoming discouraged when you’re consistently not hitting a goal, pause and consider if this is really a goal worth pursuing. Did you over-estimate how much you could do? Is there a better way to get the result you were after?
Often it’s the goal that is the problem, not you.
Here’s how I hit my goals:
I use a few simple tricks to keep up with whatever goals my past-self may have signed present-me up for. This is what works best for me:
First and foremost, I try to be realistic. It won’t do me any good to set a goal that I won’t be able to reach, so especially for goals that are more than a week long, I’ll run my idea by someone I can trust to give me honest feedback.
This way if a goal is too ambitious, at least I’ll have a red flag telling me that I may need to adjust my targets. Of course, ultimately I know best; if I really think I can do something, I’ll still try it even if the feedback I’m getting back isn’t all roses.
Second, I find it helps to tell people if it’s an interesting goal (like breakfast). Maybe they’ll want to do it too, which makes motivation easier, or maybe they’ll pressure me into remembering to do it, which is nice when needed.
I find this works really well for me, for certain types of goals. However, it seems my opinion on this subject is not very popular. Your mileage may vary!
Third, I find it’s important to give myself visual reminders of my goals.
The tool I use most for this is a web-based task-management application called HiTask. For my month-long breakfast experiment, for example, I added a task to HiTask with a flashy-coloured label and a star, so that it really stuck out and was always at the top of my to-do list.
Low-tech works as well: At the start of the year I printed out a grid of every Monday in 2010, broken down by month, so that I could check them off after publishing each weekly post.
Does any of this sound useful to you?
I’d love to hear about what’s helping you hit your goals right now. What tools do you use? What strategies work for you?
If you haven’t set any goals for yourself lately, why not start now?
(What do you have to lose?)