Goals are meant to help you grow. In order for growth to happen, there must be change. Therefore, an ideal goal should be one that changes you. It’s normal to fear change. There is comfort in staying within the known. That is why you will always find proponents of this is the way it has always been done philosophy. However, if you seek to become a better version of you over time, you must learn to set goals that:
Challenge you to improve
The ideal goal is one that is just beyond your comfort zone. It should be tough enough that you can’t get it done without trying just a little bit harder but not so tough enough that you lose hope and give up. Picture it this way. If you were teaching a four year old how to be a goalkeeper and kept kicking the ball towards him with all your strength, that child will soon give up football (if you don’t damage him first). The ideal thing to do will be to kick the ball towards the child with just enough force that the child can find it fun and actually react to. If it’s too easy, the child will get bored. If it’s just challenging enough, the child will want to try harder. If it’s too hard, the child will give up and cry.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, a lot of people are still working from home. If you have failed to put in place a system for keeping track of the hours you clock in while working from home, you might find yourself working longer hours than you used to yet still achieving less. People have told me they have attended back to back online meetings all day. On the surface, this looks like a productive day but if all they did was attend meetings, when are they supposed to work on their important tasks. No one is hired to attend meetings.
How are you holding up? If you are still alive and healthy, that’s a lot to be thankful for this year. The pandemic is still ongoing and different places are adapting to it differently. Earlier in the year, you probably had to accept the painful reality that you are no longer on track to achieve your goals. No one was prepared for the pandemic. It was a lot to take in.
Not all people and industries adapted fast enough. Some were able to come up with ways to ensure they continued working. Many teams had to learn to work from home. The transition has not always been easy and some people do not have the luxury of being able to do that. If you have found a way to continue working remotely, that’s great.
We all had great plans for 2020. We all had things we wanted to accomplish. We wrote them down and got started. Then the pandemic got in the way. A lot of our plans had to be shelved. We had to deal with the fear of a disease that no one had a cure for. We had to adjust to new ways of working. We also had to adjust our priorities. We reviewed what was most important in our lives and came to appreciate the security having a roof over your head, food to eat, healthcare and the ability to continue working from home provided.
It doesn’t always require a pandemic to disrupt our goals. However, the coronavirus pandemic provides a very good example of how activities outside our control can affect our ability to achieve our goals. At some point this year, you probably had to shelve old plans and make new ones. Even without a life changing event such as a pandemic, there will always be constraints to some of your goals. Being aware of them can help you set more meaningful goals in your life.
Longterm goals often require you acquiring new skills or upgrading your knowledge. In a world where new knowledge is generated at an astounding rate, one can feel overwhelmed. It is no longer a safe option to rely on overburdened HR departments to ensure you get the training you need to stay relevant on the job. You either shape up or ship out.
I have been asked a few times whether I think paying for a productivity app is worth it. All the personal productivity apps I have used have been free and I am still yet to pay money for any productivity app. I know people who use a notebook and pen for all their planning. Some of them are the most productive people I have ever known.
Nobody likes doing dishes but most people would agree that dishes are tasks that need to be done. If you don’t, you’d eventually run out of clean cutlery to use. We all have repetitive tasks that no one particularly enjoys but can acknowledge they need to get done. Tasks like these are the ones we are more likely to procrastinate on either.
Unpleasant but necessary tasks such as doing the dishes are best done by batching them. For example, if you washed all the cutlery you used for breakfast before getting out of the house, you wouldn’t have to come home to an overflowing sink. If you tried to wash each item immediately after you use it, you might get bored but if you made a commitment to wash each item after meals, you would be committing to doing the dishes only three (or 2) times a day and this seems more manageable.
Wearing a seatbelt can save your life in the event of a crash but the act of putting one on is so simple, you don’t think about it when you get into the driver’s seat. Any goal worth fighting for must be one that scares you. Any plan worth following must be one where the next step is so simple you don’t have to think too hard about it. Dentists promote better oral health among the populace not by telling us of the dangers of thousands of unseen microbes but by encouraging people to brush their teeth every day. You don’t have to think too hard about brushing your teeth every morning. You probably do it on autopilot most days. Brushing your teeth is a simple task yet the rewards are enormous and add up over a lifetime.
Happy New Year. This is that time when many people create a to-do list for the first two weeks of the year. I have written earlier about why New year’s resolutions are generally a bad idea for most people. Instead of creating a resolution, I advocate writing a personal development plan for the year. It takes longer but is more actionable than resolutions and you will achieve better results.
I’m sure you have a goal. You wouldn’t be reading a personal productivity blog if you didn’t (Thanks for reading my blog by the way). The greatest power of a goal is that it allows you to put down on paper (or cloud) something you would like to accomplish and chart out how you plan to get it done. You can track the skills you would need to acquire to achieve your goal, how long it would take, how much money you need to invest etc.