We love to dream about the future. Every year towards the end of December people sit down and write out their resolutions for the next twelve months. Then comes January first, they promptly forget about them and move on with their lives. Dreams on their own are worthless, you need to have a strategy to keep you on track, stay motivated, and turn them into reality.
Create S.M.A.R.T. Goals
One of the biggest problems with accomplishing goals is having poor goals in the first place. Avoid this problem by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, ones that are:
- Specific – Be as detailed as possible. If you want to earn more money, how much more? If you want to collaborate on projects, which projects and with who?
- Measurable – You need to be able track your progress and be able to tell when you have accomplished your goal. Otherwise you will lose motivation and give up before you’re done.
- Achievable – Be honest with yourself, can you actually achieve this goal? Do you have the resources, knowledge, and time? If not you first need to figure out how to get those things or make them non-issues.
- Relevant – What will accomplishing this goal add to your life? Are you doing it for the right reasons? Pick goals because they’re relevant to you, not because they’re popular.
- Timely – Having too much time can be worse than not having enough. Set a reasonable deadline for your goals and stick to it.
A friend of mine recently mentioned this exercise and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Most people, me included, work forward with their goals – we start in the present and figure out the next few steps. This inevitably results in more than a few missteps as you feel out the road ahead. Instead, try working backwards. Imagine that you have already accomplished your goal, what was the step right before that you had to do to get there? Do this working all the way back to the present. You now have a clear roadmap for achieving your goal.
Break it Down
Ambitious goals can be a lot to take in when you are starting out – things can get overwhelming very fast. Like any project be sure to break down your goal into small steps. By taking things on in manageable chunks you will see yourself move forward and don’t have to worry about the big picture all the time, just the next few steps.
Ask for Help
The people you know are perhaps your biggest asset. Ask everyone around you for help. Make it known what your goals are, most of the time at least a few people you know have been through the same thing. They’ll either help you themselves or introduce you to someone else who can.
Celebrate Small Victories
I read somewhere once that burn-out is long stretches of work with no feeling of accomplishment. Thus it is important to celebrate the small victories in some way. Luckily if your goals are measurable and you have broken them down into small steps, you will have plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Every couple of months you should look over your goals and make sure they are still relevant to you. People change with time so it makes sense that goals will too. If you find that one of your goals is no longer relevant then drop it, going through it just because you thought it was a good idea five months ago is stupid. Just be sure you are being honest with yourself and not trying to find a reason to quit because the going is hard.
I’m currently reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and there is one’s character whose valediction was “win awards.” I’ve taken it to mean something along the lines of – go on, be awesome. So create good goals, develop a strategy for achieving them, and win awards.
Write down three things you wish to accomplish by the end of this year. Work backwards and figure out what you need to do to get there.