Knowing how to set goals is the first step in holding yourself accountable and, eventually, putting a plan together in order to achieve success. Problem is, all too often, people — especially millennials — hold their ambitions too high, too soon, setting themselves up for failure before even setting up a step-by-step plan.
Buying a house. Getting a promotion. Publishing a novel. We’re all driven by our ambitions and our vision for how our lives will look. Big goals are great, but focusing on significant milestones by comparing yourself to others can become difficult, frustrating and even unattainable. That’s why learning how to set goals, particularly small ones, can help you achieve your larger ones.
The Harvard Business Review found that deciding upon micro-goals, often classified as those that take five to ten minutes to complete, can make people happier and more productive in the long run. While the concept of micro-goals might sound like the gimmicky tagline to accompany a new wave of self-help gurus, HBR notes it’s founded in science, often because the most difficult challenge to accomplishing anything — whether creating a killer presentation or a new business — is just getting started.
Here are some of our favorite ways to start to break down our biggest ambitions into manageable chunks that set us up for a better future.
Restructure Your To-Do List
You might have mapped out your goal-setting checklist, even breaking them down into smaller chunks, thinking of influential people in your industry to consult, and drawing on reservoirs of determination. Throw out the checklist. Go even smaller. Instead of thinking of the 20 pounds you’re going to lose, plan to eat a healthy breakfast each morning, or gradually replacing your daily Chipotle with a lunch you packed at home. If you’re about to tackle the next Great American Novel, ignore the alluring promise of completing the first draft, or even meeting goals of 500 words a day. Instead, focus on simply opening a Word document. Naming said document. Writing that first sentence. Writing another… and, well, you know what to do from here.
Celebrate Your Own Successes
In a world where phones and laptops link us to the office at all hours, taking the time to stop and appreciate how far we’ve come can be difficult. But you deserve the reward, and having tangible, achievable milestones to celebrate can help spur your determination and bring you closer to your long-term goals. Hell, it could simply be something like having a great meeting with someone at a coffee shop that could feel successful; it’s just a matter of self-appreciation.
Appreciate Your Progress
The real secret behind micro-goals is allowing us to see progress, providing a sense of success and productivity that can be the motivation we need. Psychology Today states that this can help rewire our brains to increase dopamine production when these small goals are plotted and achieved. Tracking how much we’re able to accomplish, and how much closer it’s bringing us to our larger goals, is critical. It also allows us to re-evaluate our micro-goals, restructure them as we’re able to run farther distances, integrate healthier meals and put together a more concrete business plan. “The more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run,” states the Harvard Business Review.
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