Thirty-One Days of Goal Setting – Day 29

Day 29 of our 31 Days of Goal-Setting challenge! Yesterday, you brainstormed the specific activities you might take to accomplish your first-quarter milestones. Today’s prompt is, Finalize a realistic daily/weekly plan and milestones that will get you to where you want to be.

When you consider your day to day and week to week plan, make sure you’re taking into account efficacy and reasonableness. You want to choose actions that will move you in the right direction, because it’s discouraging to do work and not see the results you expected. You’ll also want to choose behaviors that you are reasonably likely to do, as often as you need to do them.

And you’ll want to come up with a rough plan of how, exactly, these tasks will fit into your schedule. And I do mean exactly. When, and where, and for how often will you do them? You’ll want to keep this schedule as consistent as possible.

Around this time of year, it’s easy to get overly optimistic about that latter point. You’ve got so much motivation! You’ll apply your willpower! So let me expand a bit.

Motivation is bullshit. Not that it doesn’t exist – certainly it does, and I encourage you to ride the motivation train when it’s available. But it’s maddeningly unreliable. Even more frustratingly, motivation generally comes from success rather than being a precursor to it. Not having motivation is not a good reason for not getting things done, and I don’t recommend relying on motivation to accomplish your long-term goals.

Willpower is limited. Willpower is very useful, don’t get me wrong! And it’s particularly valuable when you’re trying something new and need to work past the initial discomfort, or on those days where you’re “just not feeling it” (see also: motivation is bullshit). But willpower is finite; studies have indicated that using willpower during one activity has a measurable drain on your ability to apply willpower in another area soon afterwards. So the idea of continually powering through a bunch of activities that you dislike through sheer willpower is a fantasy. Save your willpower for when you need it.

To supplement your motivation and willpower, you want to develop habits; hence the explicit scheduling of regular (daily, biweekly, weekly, etc) practices. A habit is any action that you routinely do and that you don’t have to fully, consciously think about doing. Building good habits is so, so useful. It lets you step away from needing conscious motivation or an expenditure of willpower to accomplish a task. Instead, you are simply doing the thing you always do right after work/as soon as you wake up/every Saturday morning.

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