How to stay on track with goals
It’s that spooky time of year…
Did you grow up believing you just had to show up to a neighbour’s front door and get a treat? It’s a rude shock, isn’t it, when you realise that ‘adulting’ means you have to work for your treats! If you’re like me, easily distracted, you’ll know the feeling of frustration trying to stay on track with your goals. It’s enough to drive you batty. Setting and reaching goals relies a lot on us knowing our own motivations. It turns out, adulting can involve a bit of trick or treating too.
The trick to making your goal achievable
Motivating yourself toward a goal begins with being clear on why it’s meaningful to you. Who are you doing it for? What will doing this thing mean for your clients, your business, your life? It usually helps to write that down (so it haunts you throughout the day!). When you’re off track, taking a quick look at your desired result can help you snap back in focus.
But what if the deadline seems too scarily far away to stay motivated? Inspired by Time Management expert Christie Flora of flor&order, I’ve compiled a Halloween list of my go-to tricks and treats.
Tricks to staying motivated
To get back on track after a spell of low motivation, you might need to trick yourself into action. It’s not so much about changing the situation, it’s all about changing the way you think about it. I’ve used all of these tricks at various times and they tend to get me out of my rut:
- ‘Pomodoro’ technique
Maybe you’ve heard of the ‘tomato timer’? This is about setting a timer for short ‘sprints’ of work. The principle is 25 minutes’ work, then a 5 minute break. But at times it needs to be shorter. If I can just spend 10 minutes on this one thing, it’s achievable, it’s got a quick deadline, and it quite often is the trigger to get into flow and carry on past my 10 min alarm to finish the job.
- The 5-second rule (made famous by Mel Robbins)
Don’t leave yourself time to think. If you’re prone to letting your brain take you off on a tangent as soon as you pick up a to-do item from your list, get in the habit of counting down 5-4-3-2-1 and just do it. This can sometimes be enough to tear me away from the ghosts of projects past and future and just get that thing done now.
- Pick your most alert time for the ‘heavy-lifting’ in your work
Are you a morning person? A night-owl? A vampire lurking at your desk in the dead of night? Just go with that. Don’t try so hard to fight it and slog through tasks in the morning that need focus if you do your best work at night. Many of us slump after lunch… do some routine tasks then that don’t tax your brain so much. Doing deep work when feeling at my best does amazing things for my productivity, giving me a much-needed sense of accomplishment.
If a theoretical deadline isn’t enough to get you moving on a project, you could get a friend to help you by checking in on you. Sometimes I’ll schedule a progress meeting with my client to give me an actual deadline.
Motivate yourself with treats
OK, so maybe we would work better with a bag of sweets at hand, but this is about saving the treats until you’ve done the work. When a deadline is far away, try setting milestone targets and assigning a reward to each.
- Matching a boring or tough task to something enjoyable
Once you’ve completed that boring spreadsheet you get to watch an episode of your favourite TV show. It’s The Addams Family isn’t it? Or have some chocolate.
- Eat that frog
Productivity buffs will be familiar with this one, which means something like: ‘eat a frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you the rest of the day’. So if you have a big scary task you’ve been putting off, knock it over early and enjoy the rest of your day. This is one of my favourites, because I often find the task wasn’t as big and scary as I’d imagined.
- Work from a library or your favourite café with the to-die-for brownies
Dust off the cobwebs, get away from your boring workstation and work from your local café. (Or I love my library for a quiet, focused stint). And if you’re feeling bad about taking up a table with just a coffee – go ahead and get the brownie. You deserve it.
- Take a nap
No, seriously. If you can get through that boring task, you’re probably about to fall asleep anyway. It’s a great reward with the added bonus of re-energising you as well. Remember to set an alarm – if I’ve napped for more than half an hour it’s like trying to wake the dead…
Staying on track with your goals
We all need a little help from time to time and we can draw on a witches’ brew of external cheerleaders and our own brain power. Whether you need to deploy a few tricks to get yourself back on track with your goal, or focus on a reward at the end, you can help yourself to get across the line with a few tricks or treats!
When your to-do list has you dragging your feet
A few quick hacks will be hard to beat
Whether you work by reward
Or you’re easily bored
Ask yourself, for today, will it be ‘trick or treat’?
Connectjen: Helping solo service providers create their own achievable marketing plan, starting with getting clear on ‘who you help and how you help them’.