Here are some things I do to ensure I stick to my goals:
- Think about your goals all of the time. Wake up and think about them. Think about them drinking your coffee. Think about them driving. Print out your goals on a piece of paper and take them with you wherever you go. Whenever you have a spare minute, review them and mentally imagine them being successfully completed. Dream up just how good you want it to be and then follow through.
- Make lists. One of the things I fill out every night is a plan for the next day which has blocks available for scheduling activities and contacts, along with the major objectives that I want to achieve. By filling it out the night before, it both clarifies the goal and programs your brain to think about it while you are sleeping. Once you wake up you will be ready to get into action immediately. This is a very helpful practice.
- Journaling. Start to use a journal on a daily basis. And have specific things that you journal about, make it structured. Most people journal like “Well I had a good day today and X Y and Z happened.” It’s better to journal in terms of your goals. Have a structure and stick to it. Ask yourself how well you’re doing on your goals, every day. Where in your time line to get your goal are you?
- Routines. Get in a routine of doing personal development every day. It’s the most important part of your day. Personally I prefer very early in the morning (like 6am) but some people work also well at night. If you can do it at night and stick to it, then fine. Otherwise schedule it when you know you’ll follow through.
- Map out your goal completely and continue to map it out as you go. Review the goal constantly and update it. This is easy for guys who for example have a weight training schedule, you’re always moving up in how much you can handle. It’s continuous. Do that with all of your goals.
- Time trials. Steve Pavlina recommends doing 30-day trials in which you adopt a behavior pattern for only 30 days. This is a great approach that represents chunking down and time blocking.
- Organize as much as you can. It’s possible that it’s just me, but I feel much more motivated when I know exactly where everything is and what is going to happen. To give you an idea, right now I have a stackable inbox in my office on 4 different shelves; I have a filing cabinet and an expandable folder. I use Appigo’s ToDo app for my iPhone to schedule everything I need to do (”next action items”) and I have a calendar on there of what I expect to have happen.
I also have a tickler file, a bunch of virtual documents, and different notebooks filled with information and things to remember about the most important subjects. My organizational system has developed over years of practice, so you don’t have to start like I am all at once. Gradually build it up and get a workable system. That’s what you want to develop.
- Think long-term. Have a running list of the things you want to accomplish this week, this month, and this year. Most people only do daily planners, but how can you possibly make a plan for your day without knowing what you ultimately want to achieve? Make long-term goals and review them. Review your monthly goals once a week, and your weekly goals once a day. Make a routine out of it and you will be solid.
- Clean off your desk constantly and consistently. I don’t know about you but my desk is clean for about 30 minutes. Develop the habit of continuing to clean it. Before you leave the office or go to bed, clean off your tables and desks. When you return you’ll be more inclined for productivity because you can work easier.
- Put reminders of your goal everywhere. If you work at a computer, put a note on your computer monitor. If you have a bathroom, put your goals right where you can look at them when you have nothing else to do. Hold a copy of your goals with you at all times.
- Use time blocking. If you hesitate even slightly about starting on a new project, give yourself only five minutes to start it. When you know that you will only have to work for five minutes in order to make some progress, it becomes much more likely that you will follow through. It’s important to train yourself to just get started on whatever it is. Ask the question, “What is the very next physical or mental action that needs to happen on this for me to get completion?”
- Take action. Your subconscious mind only believes what you put into action. Conscious mind chatter is going on all the time and while you might think that your thoughts are important, there is a part of you that only believes what you actually do. When you put your ideas into action, you make it much more likely that you will stick to them. There’s a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. If you aren’t in action, you don’t know it. You might understand it, but you don’t know it.
In summary, use what works for you. I’ve found that sticking to your goals requires some discipline and stiff upper lip, but it also requires flexibility.
The main thing to remember is to persist through your hurdles and keep going even when you think it’s not working and you are getting no external rewards. Most people quit when they are right of the doorstep of achieving their goals. Persistence in the face of adversity is the sign of a master. Being persistent yet flexible is not easy but it will teach you life lessons that are as important as the goal itself. If you follow my suggestions, you’ll find that your goals are getting met faster and with more clarity.