Why do some people have an easy time achieving their goals and others don’t?
In the past, I’ve managed hundreds of projects – large and small – from creative projects to creating products. During that time, I learned how to get things done in short order, on time and on budget. (I didn’t have a choice, it was either that or I would be out of a job.)
Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me I could use this same skill set for my own personal goals. Being able to take large goals, break them down into smaller, doable steps and make them happen is a very useful skill. Over time, it became so second nature to me, I was a bit shocked to find it wasn’t obvious to everyone else. And, then I saw an opportunity for me to share my knowledge of what works with all of you. If you have ever wondered why you reach a road block when trying to reach your goals, here is a step by step guide to taking a big goal and making it happen.
How to Achieve Your Goals
(1) Get clear on what the overall project or goal looks like.
Spell it out as clearly as you can. You can use fancy words like “parameter” or you can just ask yourself – what is included in this goal/project and what is not? That way you will know if you have succeeded or not. You will also be aware of when you are adding on to the project (which is a big NO by the way, as adding on items is what tanks projects, budgets and timelines). If it is outside the original project’s/goal’s parameters – it is a new project/goal! With its own timeline, budget, etc. Keep it measurable and manageable. One project or goal at a time.
Here is an easy example: if I want to clean out the family room bookshelves, cleaning the mantel that is adjacent to it is not included in this project. We tend to stack the deck against ourselves when we decide to “add on” other items. You can decide to clean the mantel, that is just another project. You need to have a clear idea of what success looks like. In this case, organized family room bookshelves equals success.
(2) Figure out when you need to have the project/goal completed by.
This is your timeline. You want a start, finish, and then the time in between is known as the “duration” of the project/goal. A duration of one hour versus one week – those are very different timelines.
In my bookcase example, I’m going to give myself a timeline of 2 hours. I may do it all at once or I may break it up into 20 minute chunks as I have time.
(3) Think about all of the steps that go into your project/goal.
This is when you make a long list and brainstorm all of the tiny pieces that go into the project. The fancy word for this is called “tasks”. Try to keep items that are the same together.
In my example above, the steps include: Removing all of the books and knickknacks from the shelves, dusting off the shelves, organizing the titles, sorting the titles for any that need to be donated, and putting the items back on the shelves.
(4) Now, it is time to prioritize your items.
In fancy terms, these are called “predecessors”. You need to label each of your items/tasks with a number for when they should occur. Are there any tasks that can’t be completed until you complete another? These are called “dependent” tasks.
Using my example again, I can’t dust the shelves until I remove the books. So, dusting is a dependent (successor) to it’s predecessor of removing the books. In my list above, I should also sort for donations before I organize the titles (or else I will have to organize them twice).
(5) Next, it is time to “assign resources” to the tasks.
In other words, who is going to do the work? If it is all you, know that you can’t do more than one thing at a time (or if you do, know that you won’t do it very well). I know you are super human, but realistically, doing one thing at a time is the way to go. 🙂 You need to consider everything else this person has going on. In the work world, we had parameters for resources – they can work so many hours a day, not on weekends, etc. Think of how much time you have available for your project/goal. Are you the only resource available? If so, don’t assign yourself more than you can realistically do in one day/week/month. Think reasonable, not ridiculous. At the planning stages, you want to set yourself up for success. Allow some wiggle room for when things don’t go as planned.
(6) Once you have the smallest steps and the resources assigned, these items are placed on your calendar and get done.
No procrastinating and do it a little at a time. Before you know it, you have completed that big project and you are done!
(7) Finally, set “milestones”.
You can have these at the beginning, middle and end. These are points that you want to note and celebrate. Like noting when you begin and especially, noting when you end your project/goal successfully. There needs to be an end date so you know if you reached the milestone! If you have laid out your project/goal as above, it should be easy to see if you made it or not according to the criteria you set.
And, going forward, use the information you have gathered from this project/goal as you setup your next project or goal. It is like a muscle, the more you use it the better it works. You will soon have a bank of history/experience to know what realistically can and cannot be done in a time period and plan accordingly. (There was surely a time where I would have thought I could clean those bookshelves in 20 minutes – wrong. Not when I take into consideration all of the interruptions I am going to receive, etc.)
Once you know how to accurately predict the scope of a project/goal and break it down accordingly, you will not feel overwhelmed and you will have a plan of action to achieve your biggest goals.
Please let me know in the comments below your experience with setting and achieving goals. Do you think this information is useful? Now, go get that next big goal or project!
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