Quitting smoking. Saving money. Finishing that online Photoshop course. Some have big dreams that require major efforts of willpower and determination. Some are seeking smaller victories where what’s needed is a daily doggedness; a stubborn refusal to quit. We all want to achieving our goals and better our lives in some way. Every goal is different and there are varied paths one can take to get to the finish line. But all goals require focus; which is easier said than done. Here’s some great tips on how to stay focused on goals.
We live in an amazing age of distractions. It goes without saying that focus requires minimizing distractions. That phone in your pocket can be an excellent tool for progress toward a goal, or it can take up most of your day as you toggle between Words with Friends and YouTube. Try an all-devices app such as BlockSite; which literally blocks distractions. A ‘scheduling’ feature on BlockSite lets you set days and times when you can access certain sites and apps. Its time management planner also comes in handy. And don’t forget the distractions disguised as work. Sure, it may be “work,” but is it the work you need to be doing now? Is it work you need be doing at all? As the cliché goes, work smart, not hard.
New research is challenging the idea that willpower is depletable. You don’t need to be a scientist, however, to know that staying focused requires tremendous determination. It’s more likely than not a myth that some are naturally born with an extra supply of determination, while others are presupposed to giving up quickly. Interview a successful person and you’re unlikely to hear stories of innate ability. What you will hear are stories of people who found strategies that aided their determination, how they developed tools that effectively harnessed the talents they had naturally and how they discovered methods that compensated for their deficiencies.
Staying focused on your goals demands some honest self-evaluation. Let’s say weight loss is the goal. Are you really the kind of person who is – with just an hour lunch break in the middle of a hectic work day – going to walk three blocks to that place with healthy options? – Oh, and there are three fast-food joints across the street from the office. If so, congratulations, you superhuman. If you’re an average human, however, preparing a diet meal the night before and taking it to the office is a strategy that’s actually going to work.
Parents who tell their kids to “do the hardest homework first” have hit on a key psychological stagey we can all use. Do the hardest thing, the assignment you hate or the job dislike first. By just digging in, you won’t waste precious energy dreading the thing you least want to do. And after the hardest job is done, it’s done. The satisfaction and relief will only propel you as you tackle the next thing, as, it can’t be as bad as the last thing, right? Research shows that most people’s brains are sharpest in the mid-morning, so it makes sense to attempt the tough stuff reasonably early in the morning. Then, take a breather and those more routine work matters that don’t strain the brain – or the body – are going to be a whole lot easier.
The world’s most energy-saving devices still require recharging at some point. We are hardly energy-saving creatures and replenishing is something to be taken seriously – for both body and “spirit.” One of the simplest ways to recharge is to move. Get up and stretch, walk around, drink some water. Or maybe you need a quick nap; a short brain shut-down before a re-boot. Recharge at regular intervals and then get back to attack mode.
We all say we have goals. But why? Seriously. Why do we have goals? Why are we trying to lose weight or save money for a down payment? Keeping the answer to the “why” question front and center allows for a visualization of a goal, which is much more motivating than a to-do list. Picture yourself being a fluent Photoshop user and how much more valuable the skill would make you to the company and how much more you’d be able to guide the ascetics of your brand. That’s why you have the goal of finishing the darn online course.
Nearly every article on goals or motivation mentions multi-tasking, with good reason. We are terrible at it. One goal at a time – or for a time. Consider breaking down your days into blocks of time, with each block dedicated to a specific goal. Few of us can work effectively on the same thing for 8 hours straight. Don’t jump between projects too often, but do map out your time.
Businessperson Arnold H. Glasgow is credited with saying, “Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” That may sound like an oversimplification, but it’s accurate: finding the right what, the right when and the right why are the keys to staying focused on your goals.