For me, 2016 is a year to reach goals. In fact, I have a few large goals I expect to reach by the end of the year, and the only way I’m going to do that is by planning, being proactive and not procrastinating. Easier said than done, right? It’s easy to get off track, distracted and miss deadlines. Here are a few ways to stay focused and get where you want to be, with relative ease.
Set (Realistic) Goals
When setting goals, be realistic. If you don’t set attainable goals, they’ll feel out of reach, and you’ll be more apt to give up. It’s okay to have big goals––in fact, you should! The key here is to break them down into manageable pieces that make sense to you. For example, if you’re hoping to restore that sweet ‘65 Impala SS that’s been sitting in your garage for years, plan it out. Inspect the car, figure out what type of restoration it needs––what you want to handle or hand off to a professional––and how much each phase of the project will cost. Attacking each goal this way makes it much more achievable.
Deadlines Can Be Your Friend
Many of us can benefit from having specific deadlines built around goals. They help keep you on-task and focused, while allowing you to lay out a realistic plan. In order to set those realistic deadlines, look at each manageable goal, how long it might take to complete (always considering important things in your life, like family or your day job), then plot out a completion date. As you do this you’ll have a visible plan that will help you reach your goal.
Keep in mind plans change and you need to be flexible, especially with goals that are still three-, six- or nine months down the road. Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, you can’t really tell how your project will look by then.
You’ve set the goals, put together timelines and you understand what’s needed to get you there. How do you keep on track and streamline the process? Get organized! To-do lists, calendars, post-its––whatever you can use to track progress, add notes, and keep some kind of history of what you’ve already done, is great. It’s vitally important to make sure whatever tool you use for organization is something that fits into your day-to-day lifestyle. If you’re always on your smartphone, using your calendar and to-do list could be a good way to go. I personally use a combination of my calendar, my phone’s to-do list, and a tool called Basecamp, which is made for making large projects manageable.
The hardest goal for me? Being proactive. Sure, you’re most of the way there if you’re doing the things listed above, but being proactive is more a state of mind than anything. It’s about seeing opportunities and going after them before they come to you. It’s about reaching out, making connections, doing things above and beyond what’s on your list to help get closer to your goals. It might take you out of your comfort zone, it definitely did for me, but once I started doing it, I realized it can be a pretty positive change.
I’ve gotten opportunities I never thought I’d have because I simply went after them, sharing my goals, and my passion for what I’m doing. Anybody can do that, though few people actually do.
Celebrate Your Successes
When working on these big, long-term projects, it’s easy to look at reaching milestones as something to just check off a list and move past. It’s taken me a few years to learn this, but you need to celebrate those successes. If you don’t, you’ll get burnt out. Burning out means that you’re more apt to put your goals aside and never complete them.
I’m not saying throw a big party every time you meet a small milestone. For example, I like to try unique and hard to find craft beers. Each time I hit an important milestone, I go search for one beer I like, buy it, and go home to share it with my wife. It’s a good way to celebrate success and keep things in perspective…and keep motivated.
These are the guidelines I’m using to reach my goals in 2016. How am I doing so far? Amazingly, I’m ahead on most of the projects I’ve set for myself. Give this process a try––you might find that it works as well for you as it has for me.