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How do you go about setting a goal when the end date seems like a tiny dot in the distance? About a month ago a set a lofty goal for myself: earn $500 monthly from my blog by the end of the summer. It didn’t seem like that much of a stretch. I knew I would have to put in a lot of hard work, but I didn’t know exactly how much, so I thought- eh, I can do it later.
But after a long while of my traffic increasing ever so slowly, I figured I’d better find out exactly how much work I would need to do to reach my income goal, so I sat down and used the small amount of data I had from the past 3 months of blogging to come up with some numbers. I determined that I would need to put in about 25-35 times as much work (in total) as I had done in the past few months. Uh-oh. That would mean a full time job.
So I had two choices as I saw it: be surprised when the last week of summer rolls by and I haven’t even come close to my goal, or find a way to break down the goal immediately. I chose the latter.
This is the method of goal-setting that works best for me, as a chronic procrastinator. You can easily use it to reach your own goals.
1) Set a goal that is difficult but achievable.
If your goal is so difficult that it seems impossible, you will find excuses get out of working to accomplish it. “I will make $3,000 monthly from my blog by the end of the summer” is a bad goal for me as a first-time blogger, because it is just not attainable. I will think “I can’t actually accomplish that, so I’ll watch a movie today and do a guest post tomorrow. I’ll get as close as I can to $3,000. If I get to $500, I’ll be happy with that.” Well, then $500 should be my goal. Pick something you know you can do, but that you will have to put in a good amount of effort to accomplish. This will provide a good balance between the time you need to spend working toward your goal and the time you can spend not thinking about it, which will greatly increase your ability to motivate yourself.
2) Set a goal that is specific.
A vague goal will get you nowhere. If I make my goal for the summer to “make a livable income,” then I have no idea how much work I have to do to accomplish it, so I will do the absolute minimum. I won’t be able to accomplish nearly as much. How could I expect to motivate myself to put in that extra hour of work each day when I have already met my vague minimum? Ah, I’m done for the day.
3) Break down the goal into smaller increments.
This is important. If you don’t break down a lofty goal into many smaller goals, your end date will sneak up on you before you accomplish anything at all. Don’t let that happen. What I did for my blogging goal was break it down by month, taking into account the amount of visitors and income I wanted to reach. Then I further broke it down by week, and at the end of each week I write out 5-10 things I have to accomplish each day that week. Smaller goals make your larger goal much more achievable, and your clear progress will motivate you to continue working hard.
4) Make an unbreakable to-do list.
Once you’ve broken your goal into daily or weekly increments, write them all down on a to-do list displayed prominently in your room. You can use a notebook that you leave out on your desk, a paper on your bulletin board, or do as I did once and write your goals on a mirror in dry-erase marker. Check off or cross out each task after you accomplish it- it feels great.
This is where you can really teach yourself to stop procrastinating. Make that to-do list an unbreakable vow to yourself. It might seem hard at first knowing that you have to accomplish everything you write down, but just take it a day at a time . If you are able to accomplish everything on your list the first day, you will feel great about yourself and it will be much easier to motivate yourself on day 2. Eventually it will become habitual and ingrained, and it will be hard for you to not accomplish the things on your list.
For example, when I was in high school I wanted to have stronger arms and do pushups every day. But I hated pushups. So I forced myself to do them for a few weeks straight, and after that I couldn’t not do them. It was like brushing my teeth before bed- just something that had to be done. Pushups became such a habitual part of my routine that I did 100 each night for 3 years straight. Unfortunately I hated them every single time, but that just goes to show the power of an unbreakable to-do list.
5) Publicize your goal.
There’s nothing like everybody you know knowing your goal to help you get it done. How embarrassing would it be if you had to tell all of your friends “I just sat on the couch and didn’t do anything about it,” after you told them multiple times about your exciting plans for yourself and how important they were to you? Telling people about your goals gives you a little something extra to work for and a little boost of motivation. And if you don’t have supportive family or friends, check out a motivational site online where people write down their goals and hold each other accountable for them. There are many of them and you may find one geared toward your specific goal. My favorite all-encompassing goal-setting site is 43 Things.
Good luck with your goals, and one final tip: start planning now! These tips are useless if you just say ah, I’ll get to them tomorrow.
Jacqueline Boss writes at Escape Normal to help you find information and inspiration to quit your 9-5 job, become self employed, travel the world, and experience life to the fullest. Need motivation to quit your 9-5? Read the “Top 8 Reasons to Quit Your Job to Enjoy Life”.
Photo by turkletom