Goal setting is useless without behavior change, which is where most people go wrong. They think if they have a goal, their motivation and sheer will to achieve it will carry them all the way there. But the exciting momentum of starting something new only gets you so far. If you don’t put a system in place which will catch you and get you through the rough patches and all the way to the end, good luck. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
In order to post one article every week, I have to do one thing: write. If I don’t somehow integrate this into my day, there is no way I will be able to adhere to my desired posting schedule. Figuring it out “later” and doing it “when I have the time” means setting me up for non-compliance. Therefore I need to come up with a detailed plan to move me towards this goal and so do you. The following steps provide a good road map for that:
Carve out the time
Introducing positive change to your life requires time and space to do so. And yes, you do have the time. Don’t even try to tell me you don’t. Shift your priorities. Let go of less important commitments. You can always watch less TV. Get up 15 minutes earlier if need be. Decide on a time and make it a fixed appointment with yourself. I decided I will set aside one hour per day, seven days a week, for writing.
Do it early
To make it a little easier on yourself, it’s best to do your new behavior early in the day. The decisions, commitments, and sheer noise of modern day life will drain away your will power, motivation, and mental resources in no time. Doing it early also lets you start your day with a sense of accomplishment and takes away the nagging feeling of still having something to do when you get home. For me that means I will write first thing in the morning, right after I brushed my teeth and poured myself a glass of water.
Plan every minute
After deciding on the when, you need to figure out the what. In my case that’s easy, as my new behavior is just “sit down and write for an hour”. If your goal is a little more complex, for example if you would like to start working out in the morning, plan exactly what you will do. Will you go running? If so, which course? Will you lift weights half the time and do cardio in the other half? Which exercises will you do? Is it the same routine every day? Make a plan, write it down, be sure to have a clear image in your head.
Make sure you have everything you need in order to successfully do your new behavior. You will not go to the gym if you don’t have clean gym clothes or drink green smoothies in the morning if you don’t have a blender. Don’t go overboard and literally get “everything” (I’m looking at you first-time runner with the heart rate monitor, energy gels, and hydration backpack), go for minimal equipment. I don’t need anything but my laptop, a place to sit, and maybe a glass of water in order to write.
Track the sh*t out of what you are doing to make your success visible. This doesn’t have to be elaborate (so don’t procrastinate by finding the “perfect tracking tool”). An excel file, the note function in your smartphone or merely marking an X on your calendar every day you have done your thing is sufficient. You have no idea how motivating it can be to just see a number go up or down.
And that’s it. This road map should leave you knowing exactly what to do when. Interjection from the audience: “But I already know what I need to do, I just don’t do it! I don’t get started. I avoid it altogether.” Ah yes, the dreaded first step. Good point! We will get to that next. But please don’t yell at me again.
PS: On the same note as this article, Daniel from bevegt decided to change one thing about his behavior every month of this year. You can read more about his year of self experiments (German only).
Which is the concrete behavior you need to change or adopt in order to reach your goal? How can you plan it into your day? Tell me about it in the comments.
Image: Swen-Peter Ekkebus / Flickr