Once you’ve set a goal, the next step is to create the time and motivation to do the tasks necessary to achieve it.
Going After Your Goals
Continuing our Dream to Done mini-series, this time we’re looking at what to do once we’ve created a goal: how to make time to take action on it, and how to stay motivated to keep going until we’ve completed it.
What does it take to achieve a goal?
In order for a goal to be something that you can actually achieve (and know when you’ve done it), it needs to be well articulated–with a clear, specific, and unmistakable outcome. It needs to be worthwhile–you need to believe it’s worth your time and effort. And it needs to be realistic–something you can accomplish with the resources and knowledge that you have or can acquire.
When you’ve created a goal like that, all that’s left is to take action: make the time to do the work, and set up the structure, system, and support to keep yourself motivated.
Assuming you’ve created a goal you’re committed to, you have to make time to work on it. Otherwise, it’s just a dream. (And that’s okay. Just be sure to tell yourself the truth about it.)
First, manage your calendar.
Consider tracking your time for a week or so, then evaluate what you’re actually spending your time on.
Does your calendar reflect those things that are most important to you?
Next, create space to work on your goal.
Usually this means that something else will have to go.
What’s on your calendar that you can delete? What things are you doing–at home or at work–that simply don’t need to get done? If you’re looking for time to spend on an important goal, then look at what can be left undone.
What can you defer? (“I’m going to do this, but I’m not going to do it now.”) If you really want to make time to work on your goals, look seriously at what you’re doing that can wait until later.
What can you delegate at work or at home that will allow you time to work on your goals? Are there tasks at work or at home that others can do? Check your thinking here. What are you doing because you are afraid no one else will do it “right”? Is this attitude serving you, or is it costing you time you could better use to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself?
Sometimes things just need to get done, not necessarily in a particular way. What can you hand off?
What if you feel you don’t have anyone you can delegate to? If we’ve set a goal to accomplish something that’s important to us, then there must be time for us to do something about it. However, we must be willing to set aside the things that matter less. If a family member can’t take it on, can you pay someone to help with other tasks such as cleaning the house so you can have time to work on things that matter most to you?
No matter how many people are relying on us, there is enough time to do the things that really matter IF we are willing to carve that time out. We need to look honestly at how we’re spending our time, energy, and attention, and see what really needs to be done, and what can be set aside, delegated, or deferred so we can work on those things that matter most to us.
What are you willing to let go of to make the time, space, and energy for that thing you’ve dreamed of?
Next, schedule time to work on your projects and goals.
How much time can you commit to your goal? 20 minutes per day? Two hours per week? The amount of time doesn’t matter nearly as much as consistency. You can make a lot of progress in small increments of time, consistently dedicated to working toward your goal. Make an appointment with yourself and honor it.
I admit to struggling with keeping my commitments to myself to set aside time to work on the things I’ve committed to do for myself. We are trustworthy to other people, but not always trustworthy for ourselves. Write your commitment on the calendar and honor that commitment.
Deadlines versus Time Commitments
A good, actionable goal is “time-bound.” Traditionally we’ve thought of that as meaning it has a deadline, but there are other ways to “time-bind” a goal.
Not all deadlines are helpful. There are real deadlines and made-up deadlines. Real deadlines are usually external and some circumstance or outside third party (a boss, a client, an upcoming submission date) creates the deadline.
For example, if you have a dream to write a novel and you want to submit your manuscript to a contest so you can get some feedback, the contest submission deadline is real.
If your dream is a new career, and the perfect job opening was just posted, it probably has a real deadline for applying.
If you have been asked to speak at a conference, then the conference date is a real deadline for having your speech prepared.
When you’re dealing with real deadlines, make sure you build in some cushion to allow life to happen. The unexpected happens, so don’t wait until the last minute to work on it.
Less helpful are the arbitrary deadlines we make up for ourselves. We think, “If I don’t have a deadline, it’ll never happen,” so we pick a random date to write that first draft, or launch that new website, or lose that 10 pounds. These kinds of made-up deadlines might motivate you, but they also can sometimes sabotage us because we know nothing will happen if we don’t meet that deadline, so we put it off, over and over again, and then kick ourselves for not meeting a deadline that didn’t actually mean anything. This can create a cycle of not trusting ourselves.
If you’ve fallen into that cycle (I know I have), perhaps instead of picking an arbitrary date for a deadline, just commit to spending a regular specific amount of time to work on the goal or project. For example, instead of committing to losing a certain number of pounds by a certain date, commit to eating healthy and exercising a certain number of days a week until you accomplish the goal. Instead of creating a made-up deadline to finish writing your (un-contracted) novel, commit to writing X hours per day (or week) for as long as it takes to complete the manuscript.
We need to know ourselves. Are you self-directed or externally motivated? Do you find satisfaction in simply achieving your goals, or do you need other people’s acknowledgment? Knowing these things about yourself will help you craft your goals in a way that will motivate you.
Know your why
In order to stay motivated all the way to completion, it’s important to know your why. Write it down, or make a vision board. Why this? Why you? And why now? Know these things and write them down so you can remind yourself, when challenges come, why this goal is worth the effort.
Celebrate every small step forward
Be realistic about the amount of time it will take to get from here to there. In setting expectations for completion, it’s important to take into account the other commitments you’ve made. (If you have a full-time job and young children, it’s probably going to take you longer to write that book or start that business than if it was just you and the business plan.) It’s better to make consistent small amounts of progress over a period of time than to set an unrealistic expectation that you can’t meet, and then feel discouraged. You could create a tracking chart that helps you give yourself credit for the small bits of progress that you make. Every single step, no matter how small, takes you closer to where you want to be.
Find a support team.
Pursuing important goals without support can be tough. Having even one person to advise and encourage you could make all the difference.
Consider looking for an advisor (or two) who has knowledge and experience you lack. You want an advisor who believes in you, but is realistic and has common sense. If you’re moving into an area that you don’t have experience in, the right advisor can share her (or his) experience and knowledge.
Also consider finding an accountability partner–maybe someone who’s working toward the same goal you are, or a close friend or family member who doesn’t share the same interest but who is supportive and honest. The idea is to have someone you can check in with regularly, who will hold you accountable (in a kind way), remind you of your why, brainstorm solutions when you come up against obstacles, and encourage you to keep going.
If you can’t find an accountability partner locally, consider looking further afield. Reach out to the like-minded women in The Productive Woman Facebook group to find someone who’s looking for an accountability partner and who would support and encourage you in return for you doing the same for her.
Perhaps you’d benefit from participating in a mastermind group. Weekly check-ins with like-minded people can provide encouragement to keep going and accountability to stick with your goals.
You can form a mastermind group of people you know who have similar goals, and set up regular in-person or virtual meetings.
Sometimes the investment in a paid mastermind will help motivate you to stay on track (you’re going to do the work so you get your money’s worth!). I’ll be starting new Productive Woman Mastermind groups in late April or early May; feel free to check out the Work with Me page for more information.
But the TPW Mastermind groups aren’t for everyone, and there are lots of other alternatives for mastermind support. For example, if you’re starting a business you may consider working with Natalie Eckdahl, founder of BizChix, in one of her entrepreneur-focused mastermind groups. If you have a public speaking goal, consider working with Carol Cox of Speaking Your Brand. I’ve worked with both of these women and can vouch for the quality of their programs.
The point is to find someone to encourage you, to brainstorm solutions, and to hold you accountable. If you’ve been stuck in hitting your goal, a mastermind group could make all the difference.
What do you think?
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to making time to take action in accomplishing your goals?
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