This post is by ProBlogger expert Ellen Jackson of Potential Psychology
Have you ever uttered the phrase, ‘One day I’ll…’?
Of course you have. We all have.
One day I’ll schedule my social media
One day I’ll improve my web site
One day I’ll organise my images (a personal favourite)
One day I’ll start a podcast…
Next we say, ‘When…’
When I have more time
When I have more money
When inspiration hits
When I’ve developed my skills
When I feel more confident
When life is easier….
Here’s a thought: What if life is never easier? What if you never find more time, money or confidence?
What if tomorrow and the day after and the day after that are no different to today? How will you ever achieve your goals and get those ‘one day’ tasks done? What if ‘one day’ never comes?
Procrastination researchers have discovered that our tendency to put things off is a self-delusion designed to make us feel better about today.
‘We think that our future self will be better able to handle feelings of insecurity or frustration with the task,’ psychologist Dr Fuschia Sirois says. ‘That somehow we’ll develop these miraculous coping skills to deal with the emotions that we just can’t deal with right now.’
The Quick Win Goal Challenge
Recently I challenged my audience to see if together we could make some progress on our ‘one day’ goals. Science tells us that public accountability can help motivate you to achieve your goals, so we teamed up and made a commitment to work together.
We each picked a ‘one day’ goal – something that had been on the to-do list for months or longer. Tasks we’d been avoiding – important but not urgent. Goals that languished in the backs of minds, niggling, without ever launching forth to a point of urgency.
To follow five simple, science-based steps over five days to make major progress on our ‘one day’ goals.
The goals were diverse:
‘Make a plan to buy my first home’
‘Digitise my client files’
‘Tidy my spare room’
‘Write my ebook’
‘Build my potential client base’
We were all filled with enthusiasm, posting images to Instagram each day to share our progress.
The results were gratifying.
“I am well on the way to finishing my ebook. I produced 65 pages of a 100-page book, created the template, designed the cover AND worked out a distribution plan. All in five days! Prior to this I had done… not much for two years.”
“I have officially ticked off everything I set out to do this week. Feeling chuffed.”
And the steps to get there?
Let me share the five science-based steps to making your ‘one day’ today.
Step 1: Know EXACTLY What You Want to Achieve by the End of the Five Days
‘Fix my web site’ is a goal too overwhelming to contemplate. What does ‘fixed’ look like? How will you know when it’s fixed? Will ‘fixing’ one piece break another one?
No wonder you never start.
When you pull a goal apart and specify exactly what you want to achieve, you do two things:
- You get clear on all the little tasks involved. This will help you estimate the time you need, and help you figure out where to start.
- You paint a picture of what success looks like. A clear, specific goal like ‘By Friday I will have updated the background image on my home page, created links in the menu to my new product pages and rewritten my About Me copy’ feels achievable. ‘Fix my web site’ feels like a task you want to avoid.
Step 2: Take Conscious Action
A clear, specific goal is necessary but not sufficient if you want to achieve your ‘one day’ project. You need to know where you’re going, but it’s action that will get you there.
Step two involves two tasks.
Task One: Write it down. Did you know you are 42% more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down? It’s not clear how or why this works, but the evidence confirms that it does.
Task Two: Work on your ‘Why?’ For many of us, motivation comes not just from what we’re trying to achieve, but why. Studies have shown that if we connect our goal to something larger and more important (‘I want to make money blogging so I can spend more time at home with my children’) we are less impulsive, less likely to give in to distractions, and more likely to plan and execute the required actions to reach our goals. When you’ve articulated your goal, spend some time thinking about why you want to achieve it. Who’s involved? How will they benefit? How will achieving this goal improve your life?
Step 3: Stop Looking for Motivation
Motivation: We’re all looking for it. Somewhere along the line someone convinced us that when we find our motivation, goal success will be effortless. We just have to find it, and then making client calls will be easy. We’ll sit at the laptop and schedule our social media. We won’t procrastinate or be distracted. We’ll just get stuff done. Simple.
But motivation isn’t ‘thing.’ It can’t be found. Motivation, in simple psychological terms, is the desire to do something. You won’t find the desire to do something hiding anywhere. You have to create it.
Here’s a tip from the world’s leading researchers in goal-setting: Make your goal difficult.
Challenging but realistic goals – goals that stretch us but not quite to breaking point – activate motivation. They push us, encourage us and reward us when we achieve them. If a goal is too easy we don’t get the get up and go to… well, get up and go. If they’re too difficult we’re too overwhelmed to start. A stretching, challenging but achievable goal is like Baby Bear’s porridge – just right.
Step 4: Use my Favourite Productivity Tip
It’s called ‘The 15-minute rule’ and it rocks. I know because I use it all the time.
Here’s how it works:
If there’s a task on your list that you’re avoiding, commit 15 minutes to it today.
It could be:
- 15 minutes of writing
- 15 minutes of client calls
- 15 minutes tidying your office
- 15 minutes on that proposal you’ve been avoiding.
Why does it work? Because getting started is the hardest part of any task. The good news is that once you’ve started, you’re likely to push on beyond the 15 minutes you committed to. It’s called the Ovsiankina effect. Your brain doesn’t like starting a task and then stopping partway through. It will linger on your unfinished business, niggling at you until you get the job done. Get started and you’ll find the motivation to do more.
Step 5: Celebrate Every Step
What do you do when you finish a project or task? Do you tick it off the list and move straight on to the next one? Do you get on a roll, morphing into a task-completion machine? How long can you maintain momentum before you collapse on the lounge with the remote and Netflix?
A critical step in making progress towards difficult goals is celebrating the steps along the way. Yes, a big win feels great. But it’s the small wins – the incremental tasks you nail each day – that sustain your motivation and keep you happy and engaged for the long run.
Day five is all about reviewing your progress and celebrating your successes. Make a list of every little thing you’ve achieved on your ‘one day’ goal so far. Every little tiny thing. Give yourself a mental high five and put your feet up for a while. You’ve made a big start on a long-time goal. That deserves a reward. What’s more, you’re set up to rock on into next week.
Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology is a workplace psychologist, consultant, writer and speaker. Her mission is to help others to live, learn and flourish. You can join her next free Quick Win Challenge to nail your ‘one day’ goal here.