“Each year one vicious habit discarded, in time might make the worst of us good.”
Big changes can be difficult to implement. Human brains are wired to create and distinguish patterns, and our tendency to follow routines reflects this. Work practices are even more regimented—and often ingrained—than our activities at home. But, by slowly and incrementally changing workplace habits, it’s possible to quickly become a significantly more efficient and successful employee. In this article, I’m going to go through some simple ways to approach, set, and accomplish goals in both your professional and personal life.
The first important step in creating goals is to prioritize. There are lots of things that you need to do, but which are the most important? Which tasks affect your life on a regular basis? Are you always forgetting to check your email, or do you get sidetracked easily? Little habits that suck time away and constantly get in your way can make a difference. Figure out what you need to change now and what you can work on later.
Tactics to Help Achieve Your Goals in 2015
Another important tactic for goal setting is to set attainable goals. While “scale Mt. Kilimanjaro” sounds impressive, you’re better off choosing things you actually can and will accomplish. Smaller steps are better; if you pick something too big, it will start to weigh on you when you fail to make headway. Effort and ambition are commendable, but you have to know your limits and personality. You can plan to go to the gym every morning, but if you know you’re just going to hit Snooze on your alarm, you’ll only end up feeling lazy and unaccomplished. If you’re not a morning person, try going to an evening yoga class once a week; do what works for you.
You should also make your goals specific. Don’t aim to “be more outgoing”; instead, plan to host a dinner party once a month and sit with a new coworker at lunch every Friday. Make your goal something you can physically do—not just an abstract idea or general principle you’d like to incorporate into your life. Try to focus on objectives that are measurable and specific. Being specific will help to achieve your goals in 2015.
Write your goal down and put it somewhere you can see it. You don’t have to write a paragraph; a word or two is fine. But every time you see your note, you’ll remember to redirect yourself. Write your reminder on a Post-it and stick it to your desk or computer to keep yourself thinking about your goals throughout the day.
Learn to say “no” to yourself as well as others. Self-discipline can be difficult, but it’s impossible to accomplish anything without it. If a friend tends to text you during the day, and you know you’re easily sidetracked, leave your phone in your bag. Maybe you can take a coffee break after you finish writing that email. By putting your phone away, you are determinedly saying “no” to yourself, and it’s empowering when you’re able to follow through. And telling yourself that you’ll get back to your friend when you finish what you’re doing will probably make you work a little faster for your reward. Learning to say no will help to achieve your goals in 2015.
Forbes published an article entitled “Twelve Time Management Habits to Master in 2013,” and Habit 11 is to break large goals down into smaller metrics. Rather than focusing on an overwhelming task or even the payoff at the end, you should “[b]reak your goals into small units of work, and think only about one unit at a time.” Constantly apply one small change rather than sporadically toying with the idea of making a big one. For example, instead of converting to an all-organic, vegan diet overnight, just buy wheat bread at the grocery store instead of white. It won’t feel like a major upheaval, so you’re much more likely to follow through. Small, consistent efforts really do add up.
One way to ensure follow-through is to tell a couple of people about your goals. Talking about your aspirations cements them in your mind. Those people you tell will probably remember at some point and ask you about your progress. Accountability is likely to generate action—unless you’re willing to deal with the embarrassment of having to say, “I haven’t started yet.” Your friends or colleagues will cheer you on and encourage you when you need it, celebrate when you improve, and hold you accountable when you slip.
Another way to make your goals more serious is to set deadlines. Some life goals can be put on a “bucket list,” but the truth is that none of us knows when our time is up. Starting to work on those loftier goals right now by breaking them down into manageable pieces will bring more hope, joy, and fulfillment into your life. The same goes for your grander career vision; put a timetable on getting that advanced degree and take a tiny first step toward making it happen. When it comes to more ordinary goals, it’s helpful to pick a date and increase the urgency of the task somewhat. “Lose 20 pounds” can be put off indefinitely. “Lose 20 pounds by January 1, 2016″ sounds a bit more pressing and is more likely to motivate you to get to work.
Make mile-markers—places to check in on your progress and reward yourself for staying on track, or reevaluate your approach if you’ve gone off course. It can be discouraging to constantly keep track of everything and feel like you’re on a treadmill where nothing is changing, but if you break a goal down into checkpoints, you won’t feel as if you’re fighting an endless, uphill battle. You can envision a terminating point in the future, work towards it, and then look back at what you’ve accomplished once you’re there. Climb the mountain by focusing on getting from one little overhang to the next, and seeing just how far up you came each time.
These Tips Will Help Achieve Your Goals in 2015
Change is hard! But change is synonymous with life, and this is one of the most valuable lessons you will ever learn. Accepting this truth will increase your ability to adapt, reduce your stress level, and enhance your overall satisfaction. It is also the first step you must take to achieve your goals in 2015.
While some changes are not within our control, practice recognizing the things that you can adjust. By picking the right goals and working to properly measure and work towards them, you can ameliorate your life little by little—in the workplace and out—making, in the words of Mr. Franklin, “the worst of us good.”
Emma Iskowitz and Beth Wegscheider contributed to this article.