Goals rarely help us find motivation. I mean, of the thousands of us who set new year’s resolutions, how many actually stick with them until the following January? Plus, it takes so much effort to come up with the perfect goal that it almost isn’t worth trying. We fail for 3 reasons: Our goals are too long term, too stressful, or too unrewarding. And for these reasons, many people choose to dismiss goals altogether. But I think that they can help anyone, they just need some tweaking. If you make your goals short term, only slightly stressful, and rewarding, you might find motivation you never knew you had.
Related: How to Set Goals and Achieve Them
Part 1: Short-Term Goals
(daily, weekly, monthly) Setting long term goals can be more attractive, but short term goals are much more achievable. If you ever plan your day, you are already using short term goals. It may sound a little silly, but when I think of simple daily tasks as goals, I can easily find motivation to complete them.
So how do I make them into goals?
I write down my goal, draw a checkbox next to it, and check it off once I finish it.
Draw a checkbox – daily goals
Whether you use a planner, post-it notes, or an online to-do list, the idea is the same:
- Write down a task
- Do the task
- Check it off
Once you do that, you’ll feel good, so you’ll do it again and again. That’s how to find motivation.
Once you’re regularly setting and achieving daily goals, you’re ready for weekly goals. They can be simple (ie. vacuum) or difficult (ie. study psychology every day). If you choose a larger task, it helps to break it down into daily goals.
- Weekly goal: study psychology every day.
- Daily goal: “study psych”
- Weekly goal: finish an article.
- Daily goals: Sun: ready to publish.
You could also make your weekly goal to check off a certain number of daily to-do items for that week.
In my opinion, any goal that lasts longer than a month is a long-term goal. So how do you prevent your short term goals from turning into long-term demonic beasts that absorb your every waking moment? 1. Pick the right kind of goal
Lifestyle goals (study more, exercise more, etc.) work pretty well because they can be easily broken down into weekly/daily goals.
Aspirational goals (learn basic Spanish, get organized, etc.) are often too difficult to accomplish in the short term.
2. Break it up into pieces
Make your goal specific: don’t make your goal to read more, make it your goal to read 5 pages a day for a week, then 10 pages, then 20 pages…
The key is to start small.
Part 2: Not Too Stressful Goals
You: Crap! I have 20 pages of notes to take tonight! TV: Yes, but wouldn’t you rather watch 2 seasons of the Office and call it quits?
You: Count me in!
Setting difficult goals can lower your chances of achieving them
However, when goals are too easy, we fall into the habit of thinking that we’re doing work when we really aren’t. Find the middle ground: pick a goal that you have to work hard for but that doesn’t cause you to burn out. Creating the right goals takes some trial and error. That said, one of the easiest ways to predict how stressful a goal will be is to figure out how much extra time it’ll take up. If you want to read 30 pages a day, that could take 30-60min/day. Before you start, figure out where that time will come from. If it doesn’t exist, make your goal smaller; if you have extra time, consider adding more to your goal.
3 things to do when you get behind on your goals
1. How far behind am I? If you can make up for your missed goals within a week, I wouldn’t worry about them. If you can’t, it’s a good idea to tweak them. 2. What isn’t working?
- Are you taking on too much?
- Do your goals lack urgency?
- Do your goals lack importance?
3. How do I fix this? Once you’ve figured out what went wrong, use that knowledge to fix old goals or make new ones.
- If you’re often left with a lot of goals unfinished, set fewer goals or make each goal easier to accomplish. You’ll alleviate stress, which should help you find motivation.
- When you need to start studying for a test, but it isn’t for another week, it can be very difficult to get started. Start small and to remind yourself why you need to start early.
- Goals are only worth pursuing if they are important to you. If they aren’t, wave goodbye.
Part 3: Rewarding Goals
While it’s certainly possible to accomplish a great deal with little to no reward, it isn’t easy. Often, the goals we set have some inherent value: they’ll make us stronger, smarter, happier. Sometimes, these thoughts are enough to keep us going. Other times, the effort seems pointless. In this section, I’ll do my best to give you a lot of options. They might not all work for everyone, so pick the ones that seem right for you.
- Use checkboxes: They may not seem like the best way to find motivation, but they’re enough of a reward to make a difference.
- Ask: Why am I doing this? Is your goal part of your long term plan? Do you want to impress someone?
- Make your goal public: Tell people about your goal. Use social media to share it.
- Buy yourself a reward: Something inexpensive, like a used book or piece of candy.
- Let a good friend control your reward: Play video games with them only after you’ve finished your weekly goal.
- Give yourself a treat: Eat some chocolate or watch a movie.
- Take a break: Kick back and relax after you finish your work for the day.
Note about rewards: Although it might seem like a good idea to turn something you do every day into a reward (ie: eat dessert or take a nice warm shower), I’ve found it to be unhelpful. These daily habits are so present in life already that you’ll probably do them even if you don’t reach your goal.
What You Can Do Now To Find Motivation
Goal #1: What is one thing that you want to do today? (optional: share it in the comments below)
- Walk the dog?
- Do your Laundry?
- Read 10 pages?
Finish today’s goal, then you can set two tomorrow, then three…soon you’ll be conquering the world. Remember to make your goals short term, only slightly stressful, and rewarding.