Recently I got to wondering when I started setting myself big long term goals and I realised I’ve probably always done it. Most productivity commentators will tell you that you should have at least a 5 year plan. Personally I think you need a life plan! What is it you want to do, next week, next month, next year, the rest of your life!? Planning stuff and writing it down has been shown to make it more likely to happen. If you have a plan written down it sets it in your mind. You can refer back to it and when you’re ready break your plan down into manageable steps.
Starting with think big – what is that you want to achieve. I remember my first day at college studying social work, listening to my first lecture, and thinking about her, “I want to to do what you’re doing.” And 13 years later I found myself doing just that thing. When I started being a lecturer I decided I wanted to write and here I am 7 years later writing regularly about social work and a book in the pipeline! It’s important to have a growth mind set. In her book Mindset, Dr. Carol S. Dweck tells us that people fall into two categories – those with a fixed mindset and those with growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset you think that talent and ability is inherent. It’s something you either have or you don’t have. You think that you’re either intelligent or you not. But what Dweck shows in her book is that we can all do whatever we set our minds to. What it takes is hard work and dedication. Things aren’t easy but things are achievable if you have a plan and you apply yourself to that plan. Broadly speaking we all have the same potential, it’s our mindset that dictates what we do with that potential. So you need to think big! What do you want to achieve?
Then you break it down into small steps. Because, if you had to eat a whole elephant, the only way to do it would be one bite at a time! Those steps need to be small and achievable. By breaking things down into little steps you draw on the psychological power of small wins. Every time you complete a step you get a psychological buzz! A feel-good boost. If you don’t break things down into small tasks, firstly you won’t know where to start or what to do next. And secondly, you will only get to feel that buzz when you achieve the final goal. Write down the goal, break it down into smalls steps and write those small steps down and then start…..
And start you must! Breaking things down into small manageable steps will help you beat procrastination. But the thing when starting something is to simply do that – start it! Do something. Even if what you have to do is break down your first step into micro steps to fit into the time you have available then do that. But do something!
As i’m fond of saying – making a start is the hardest part! Because it is… but the reality is that once you do start you will keep going!
So here we go..…
Write down your long term or life goals
Think about which of them you want to tackle first
Break it down into manageable steps
Write these steps down (I’d put them in my electronic calendar)
And then… do the first thing.
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