Science has proven that 92% of people don’t achieve their goals. Well, that’s based on New Year’s goals…. but still! Quite a scary statistic.
Can you count how many times you’ve thought about starting something and never followed through? Are there new hobbies or business ventures, new careers or skills that you’ve always fancied giving a go, or bad habits you want to kick, but so far it’s amounted to nothing?
I asked myself these questions, and knew I hadn’t been productive in achieving my goals much outside of my job. Through reading a few blogs, I discovered the best ways to dramatically improve this. I use all of the tips and tricks below and so far they’ve helped me to start my own blog, set up my Pinterest blog channel, master interviews and gain a new job!
Are you ready to start achieving your goals? Read my 10 tips below to start now!
1. Get up early
I’ve always been a night owl and so the thought of getting up early everyday always felt like a chore. I like to lie-in… why would I give that up?! But at the same time, do you have the same guilty feeling I get if I don’t get up until lunchtime? It feels like half the day has just vanished, and no matter how late I stay up I never feel I’ve gained that time back. I read an article today which put things into great perspective. It said if we got out of bed one hour earlier every day, we’d gain 15 days in a year! Quite eye opening when put so bluntly. I know you like your bed, I do too, but trust me it’s worthwhile getting up early! Let’s not waste our life in bed when we could be achieving everything we want in life.
Research has shown that we are all at our most productive in the first few hours of the day. Forbes details the top 10 advantages of waking up early in this great article. It explains that early risers have more optimism and satisfaction in life, whereas night owls are more pessimistic, depressed and neurotic… oh dear! That’s enough to make me change my sleep cycle if nothing else. Waking up early can help to create the right state of mind for the day and allow us more time to get jobs done, increasing productivity and helping us to achieve our goals quicker.
I’m a keen believer in meditation and its many different benefits. If I need to gain focus and productivity, I search YouTube for a meditation video to help me with that. Or if I’m feeling down, I use meditation to generate more positive feelings. I’ve used meditation to help me feel more confident in interviews, and I’m sure there are many other types created for whatever emotion or skill you need help with. I listen to a 10 minute meditation every weekday morning after I wake up. It doesn’t take up a huge amount of time, and just provides a little “me time” before starting the day. Studies have shown that meditation has a variety of benefits including boosting confidence, reducing stress and literally changing your brain! Create the time to meditate every morning, and it will help you feel more energised and ready for the day.
3. Create a mind map
Only 3 out of every 100 adults write their goals down, and yet it has been proven that people with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve them than people without. I first read about mind maps in a blog on decluttering the mind, and it gave me a great starting point to get a few projects’ going. Anybody would find it difficult to organise a project without making some notes. It’s easy to forget tasks that need to be done when constantly thinking about new ones. How are you supposed to keep them all organised in your head? You need a plan. And the best way to visualise that plan is a mind map.
All you need to do is grab a pen and paper and write down your goal in the middle. It could be anything! A weight loss plan, setting up your own business, blogging, guitar playing; whatever your focus is. What have you been putting off that you really want to do? Write it down. Now remember the tasks you’ve already thought of to help you to achieve this and add them around your goal. And that’s it! You have your initial plan.
As this study illustrates, there is clearly overwhelming evidence of the multiple benefits of mind mapping. Not only can mind mapping improve your writing skills, foster creativity and boost your memory, but the benefits of organising your thoughts can also help you to visually see the full picture and provide greater clarity. Remember to keep the mind map as visible as possible at all times as a clear reminder of your goal!
4. Little by little, every day
Imagine if for 7 days you took little steps towards your goal every day. How much better would you feel looking back and seeing how far you’d progressed?! This is how I started to make progress with my blog after procrastinating for months. Too often we put off starting things because what we want to achieve seems like a big daunting task. After I finished my mind map, I’d pick a task from it every day and get it done. Whether it was deciding to build my blog through Pinterest or Instagram or how to make my website user friendly, I completed a task each day and ticked it off. At the end of the week I looked back on my achievements and felt satisfied I’d progressed towards my goal. Little by little, in a week’s time you’ll be further towards your goal than you are today, so start now!
5. Structure your day
I’ve found I’m at my most productive when I plan my day the evening before. I write a schedule for the next day, block in regular breaks, and prioritise the most difficult jobs first. After all, studies prove we are at our most productive in the first few hours of the day. Look at your mind map and decide which task is the most difficult; that’s your highest priority. Block in 25 minutes to make a start on it as the first job of the day. It will give you the greatest sense of achievement once you’ve made some headway into it, and have a knock on effect in completing the rest of your easier tasks over the course of the day. Think how much better you’ll feel once you’ve started the most difficult tasks and completed them!
I discovered a new technique in this blog which helped me greatly in managing my time and keeping me focused. The Pomodoro Technique breaks tasks down into smaller chunks with frequent breaks. The idea is to work solidly for 25 minutes and follow this with a 5 minute break. I build these breaks into my daily schedule, and I find this method keeps me focused on each task and reduces multitasking which can be detrimental to your productivity. I also believe it helps me to work faster and more efficiently. When you’re aware that you’re working to a deadline and only have a certain amount of time to get as much done as you can, you’ll work harder to make sure the task is completed.
6. Have treat breaks
As mentioned above, it’s important to introduce regular breaks using the Pomodoro technique to help stay productive. This is also the time you get to do anything you want, whether it’s just for 5 minutes or a half an hour lunch break. Watch your favourite TV show (but make sure you stick to schedule!), message your friends or eat your favourite food! It’s important to reward yourself when you’re doing well. I believe that giving ourselves treat breaks can have a positive effect in helping us to stick to our good habits. After all, who wants to work all day long and not enjoy some sort of reward along the way?!
7. Keep it sustainable
Don’t get overwhelmed and do too much at once. I made this mistake when I decided to start my blog, become a pro in interviews, learn two new marketing skills and apply for as many jobs as possible. It all got too much! I wanted to do it all, and thought it would be easy. The trouble was when putting a schedule together and building all of these tasks into it, I found I’d get behind and go over my allotted time for a certain task. Once I’d done that, everything else slipped as a result and I fell behind schedule.
Be realistic with your time slots and stick to schedule. If you want to spend more time on something, block in more time for it tomorrow. I think going off schedule can have a potentially negative impact and lead to distraction and even giving up. Sticking to plan will keep you focused and you’ll gain new found energy when you start you’re next task. Focusing on one or two goals at a time will keep your brain refreshed, energised, and as a result more productive.
It’s too much hard work to become a cooking expert by creating a new recipe every single night, gyming it 7 days a week or cutting out all cigarettes at once! I’m not for a second saying that no one can achieve that, there are plenty I’m sure that can, but some of us just need a more subtle approach. Maybe have a goal of 1-2 new recipes a week, cut out that last cigarette before bed, or knock your 2 hour hardcore workout everyday down to half an hour 2-3 times a week. A steady sustainable approach will stop you running out of steam at the start.
8. Don’t be distracted by technology!
This can be the biggest time waster when trying to achieve your goals and I’m definitely guilty of it myself! It’s all too easy to pick your phone up to reply to a message, check out a news post or read your emails. Are any of those things helping you to achieve your goals? If not, put the phone down! Your phone can be a massive disruption to your work; it’s proven that multitasking is bad for productivity so trying to achieve your goal and use your phone at the same time will only slow you down.
The best way I found to avoid distraction was putting my phone on silent and keeping it out of sight. If you can see or hear temptation, you’re more likely to cave! At break times, you can pick your phone up and reply to messages. It’s important for your productivity to keep your phone and your goal separate. If you’re still struggling to fight digital distractions, why not try the Forest App? I read about this in a recent blog and think it’s a great idea! It allows you to set the amount of time you’d like to work for, plant a tree at the start and if you touch your phone during the allotted work time the tree dies. The aim is to build a forest, providing a sense of achievement in the app and towards your goal!
9. Stop making excuses
Either do something about it or let it go. Because let’s face it, it’s probably not making you feel good constantly thinking about goals you never got round to. Accept it’s not the right time for you to start it, or start it. Don’t hover around in the middle making yourself unhappy. I’ve wanted to learn the guitar for many years now, but I’ve realised I just don’t have the patience, so I let it go and turned my focus to writing. And I feel better for it! I’ve started something creative I enjoy, and let go of something that just won’t happen yet. And I think that’s a healthy way to be. Release the guilty feeling you get when you think you’re not doing everything possible in life that you could be doing. Let things go, start the goals you want the most, and feel better for it.
10. Praise yourself / quit putting yourself down
We generally have a tendency in life to keep focusing on what we haven’t achieved. I’d find myself doing this on a daily basis. If we had a rare warm sunny day outside and I didn’t go for a walk, I’d be annoyed with myself for wasting a nice day when they didn’t come around that often. Regardless of whatever else I may have achieved that day. If I didn’t sit down and blog today, I’d tell myself I’d missed an opportunity. We can all get caught up in negative thinking and focus on what we didn’t achieve instead of what we did. This is why I believe reflection is so important. Sitting down at the end of the day and looking back at the tasks that have been completed instead of those that haven’t will provide the sense of achievement needed to keep spurring you on.