How can thinking small help you accomplish big things? Why do most new year’s resolutions fail? And how can you baby step your way to a better 2015?
I’ve been spending some time thinking of ways to be more productive. And that’s not about accomplishing everything, but rather accomplishing the most important things.
For example, I’ve wanted to publish a book for years. I have countless ideas and have started countless fiction and non-fiction books. I’m working on one right now. But it’s frustrating because it’s simply not getting done. If you’ve ever written a book, then you know that it’s a real commitment of time and concentration of effort. You can’t do that unless you make it a priority.
We know that most people don’t accomplish their new year’s resolutions. Everybody is motivated to accomplish great goals at the beginning of a new year. But a few weeks later, we forget we even made resolutions.
A lot of the time that’s the outcome because the goals we hope to accomplish are simply too large – they may not even be doable from where we are right now. For that reason, we should set smaller goals, ones that we’re much more likely to accomplish.
For 2015 I’ve decided to set daily goals. These are goals that I need to accomplish every day, rather than big hurdles that will take all of my time and effort to reach.
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There are four reasons why thinking about daily routines can help us reach our goals:
1. Action: Daily goals force us to think in terms of concrete action steps, rather than just lofty goals. For example, committing to write every day, even if it’s just a page or a paragraph or two, is better than just having a big goal to write a novel. Goals can’t be pie in the sky – something you’ll never do. The basic idea is to get you moving toward your goal on a daily basis.
2. Prioritization: There is a limit to the number of daily goals you can realistically accomplish. That’s a good thing because it forces us to decide what really matters. Clear out the clutter and isolate what it is you really want to accomplish. The longer your list, the less likely you’ll accomplish any of them. Concentrate on no more than four daily goals at a time.
3. Mini-goals: Daily goals must be limited in time. We can’t have three daily goals that each take an hour. It’s not realistic. Yet mini-goals are powerful when repeated daily. They can relate to your finances, health, relationships, or any area of your life. Because mini-goals are doable, you increase the likelihood of accomplishing them and making progress toward larger goals.
4. Routine: We accomplish big things by consistently doing small things every day. The key then is to convert your mini-goals into daily habits.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
My Daily Goals
Goals will be different for each of us. I’ve come up with a list of 15 to give you some ideas. The first four are on my list of daily goals for 2015.
1. Make my bed – It adds order to your day. It’s the beginning of my daily routine, and everything else will flow from that one initial act. It may seem silly, but it really does set the tone for the day.
2. Read – I want to read 52 books for the year, but I’ll have to do that by reading every day. The amount of time spent doing this will vary each day, but for me, it’s important to add this to my daily goals.
3. Write – I write all the time, but the daily goal here is specific to the book(s) that I want to write this year. This will enable me to make progress every single day toward my larger goal of publishing a book. Some days I may write a few thousand words, others just a few hundred. But I want to make daily progress.
4. Stretch – Even though I exercise every day, I’m not very limber, so this is important to me. It may only take one or two minutes each day, but it’s a goal that I want to move toward.
5. Write down what you eat – This is especially important if you’re trying to lose weight. Knowing exactly what you eat can be eye-opening, and it can help you to make beneficial changes in your diet. There’s an application called MyFitnessPal that can help you record what you eat as well as your exercise and weight.
6. Write down what you spend – This is the same as #5, but applying it to finances. It will affect how much you spend, and how you spend it. You can try using a budgeting software program, like YNAB to help you do this. Seeing what you spend your money on, and how much, is powerful. It can help you to see where you need to make changes, and make it easier to reach longer-term financial goals.
7. The One Big Thing – Pick one thing to accomplish each day – it gives your day purpose. This makes you do something significant and new, apart from your daily routine. It can actually be either big or small, but it will add a new dimension to your day.
8. Meditate/pray – This can be faith-based but it doesn’t have to be. It will have a profound effect. Life is hectic and pulls us in multiple directions. Taking a few minutes each day to take a time out – away from the continuous motion that causes so much of the stress we face – can help you to stay centered. Think of it as a respite that allows you to slow down and re-focus yourself on what’s really important, including some of the goals you’ve set for yourself.
9. Exercise – We should get some form of exercise, even if it isn’t a big plan, like joining a gym. You can do something as simple and low-stress as just taking a walk for a mile or two. Exercise improves your overall health and energy level, and that has benefits for every other area of your life.
10. Learn Something New – This doesn’t mean learning calculus! You may learn something new from casual sources like the newspaper or the internet. It could be something that will help you to be more productive, but it can also be something that simply interests you. Write down what you learn – you can use a system like Evernote to make it easier. That will allow you to look back and see your progress and assess how to blend what you’ve learned into your life. It also helps to keep you on a path of perpetual learning, and that’s one of those habits that keeps paying dividends.
11. Do something different every day – Go to work a different way; go to lunch somewhere new; try something new – anything. It can be big one day, and small the next. This helps you to break out of your routine in at least small ways.
12. De-clutter one item (or one space) – Throw it away, give it away, or sell it. Pick one item, one space, one room, one closet, one drawer, one box, and clear it of all but the most essential content. Why is this a good goal? Because when you simplify your physical environment, you simplify your life.
13. Drink 64 oz. of water – I do this already, and I’m actually trying to reach 100 oz. It doesn’t take any time at all, and it has so many benefits. It cleanses your system, keeps your energy level up, and fills you up so that you don’t feel a need to eat in between meals.
14. Write down something or someone you are thankful for – There’s plenty to be thankful for, even much more than we think. It could be people or situations or accomplishments, or maybe something in the world you’re happy about. We’re inundated with negatives all the time, so this is a chance to focus on the positives, and develop a thankful attitude.
15. Master Your Mornings – More specifically, master the first two hours of your day. Morning time is critical because it sets the tone for the whole day. It’s about living the first few hours intentionally. It may not be related to production. It could be spending time with family, or even spending some important “me time”.
Come up with your own list of three, four or five daily goals that will make a difference in your life. Forget about your new year’s resolutions – adding productive daily goals to your routine can be life-changing.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu
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What are your daily goals for 2015?