Imagine a big goal that you’ve always wanted to achieve.
Now imagine what it would take to get there.
What do you see? Do you picture yourself toiling away at your desk from morning till night? Or spending hours at the gym to get into shape? Or sacrificing time with family and friends to work on your goal?
When it comes to goal-setting, we usually think in terms of extremes. We think we need to dedicate an entire day to work on a goal. Or that we need to deny ourselves pleasure and entertainment, eliminate all distractions and social outings. We think we need to give 110% each and every day in order to succeed.
How many days do you think you could realistically keep up that pace?
If you are being honest with yourself, you know that is a recipe for burnout.
Yes, goal setting does require discipline and enthusiasm, but that doesn’t mean we have to fire on all cylinders at all times.
Instead of trying to be a workhorse every day, focus on being consistent instead.
Consistency may not sound all that exciting or revolutionary – in fact, it sounds rather...boring. But that’s exactly the point. In his memoir Open, tennis player Andre Agassi describes how he reached success by listening to his new coach Brad Gilbert’s advice to be consistent. Agassi was told to stop striving for perfection, and instead, focus on the fundamentals, “the meat and potatoes.”
Success isn’t about striving to be the absolute best all the time. You just need a regular, meat and potatoes routine to help you win.
If we want to move in the direction of our goals, we need to take small, consistent steps to get us there. Here’s how you can stay consistent so that you can conserve your energy and use your goal planner to make your goals a reality.
How to make small steps
Examine your current goals and ask yourself: “What can I do to make this as easy as possible?” Then find the smallest thing you can do today to move towards your goal.
This exercise in thinking small might seem awkward at first, especially if you’re a high achiever who likes to swing big and perform at a high level. But big goals don’t come with grades; you don’t have to strive for that A+ and extra credit every day. The idea is to do the minimum so that you can stick with it and build momentum over time.
Writer and podcaster Tim Ferris also approaches his goals in a similar way. He aims for the smallest step possible so that it removes any pressure or anxiety surrounding his goal. He explains:
“Alleviating that performance anxiety… allows you to overshoot that goal, continually succeed, and sort of build that confidence and momentum.” He continues, “The feeling that you’re winning, is a precursor to winning on a really large scale.”
Here are examples of small steps that will have a cumulative effect over time:
- Read 10 pages in a good book every day (that's over 3,000 pages a year, or about 12 books!)
- Put away $5 a day to help you save nearly $2,000 by the end of the year
- Write 1,000 words every day to help you finish a draft of a novel in 3 months
- Run for 5 minutes every day to build your strength and endurance
Make it so easy on yourself that you will actually do it and succeed. Then you can build off that momentum and gradually add more intensity until you reach your goal.
Make micro-decisions to reach your goal
Our everyday decisions can impact the outcome of our goals. Whether it’s deciding what to eat for dinner or attending a team meeting, these small choices can influence our success over time and help make our goals a reality.
Here’s how to make micro-decisions during the day, so that you can consistently serve your goals in a small, but impactful way.
- Instead of attending a general office meeting that doesn’t impact your team or yourself, use that time to work on your goal.
- Instead of watching an extra episode of your favorite TV program, use that time to dive into a book you’ve been meaning to read.
- Instead of scrolling on your phone before bed, use that time to make a to-do list for tomorrow.
- Instead of going down the rabbit hole of social media and feeling bad, meditate or write in your gratitude journal for 5 minutes.
These may seem like insignificant, mundane decisions, but they will help you develop a routine over time and get you that much closer to your goals.
How to use your planner to keep an eye on your goals
Like a lot of people, I used to wait until the end of the year to check in on my goals. But by waiting an entire year to hold my review, I was unconsciously letting my goals fall by the wayside, or sticking to action plans that weren’t actually yielding meaningful results.
It’s essential to check in with your goals on a consistent basis.
Not only is this a great way to cheer yourself on and measure your progress, but it’s also key to learning what’s working or what’s not, so you can stop wasting time and start regularly enhancing your performance.
You can identify any patterns, take note of systems that are benefiting you, and examine the obstacles standing in your path. And instead of quitting your goals because they seem too hard or challenging, you can refine your approach so that it works for you.
Here’s how you can review your goals and create milestone markers in your planner:
- Conduct a midyear review to assess your progress and give your goals a refresh.
- Add a note in 3, 6, and 9 months to revisit your yearly goals each quarter. You can also use our free goal planning worksheets to help you do this exercise. Take note of accomplishments and challenges. Do you need to revise your action plan?
- Do a Sunday planning session every week and use your planner to review your work from the past week and to set yourself up for the upcoming week.
- Write down your favorite quotes and mantras in your planner so that you can use them as motivation whenever you need an extra boost.
- Each month, write down a book, article, or movie you want to check out. Or write down a recipe you want to try.
By being consistent and taking small steps everyday, you will be that much closer to your goals and achieve more than what you thought was possible.