Every year there’s a rash of blog posts, news articles and social media updates about goal-setting for the year ahead. They’re full of ra-ra motivational excitement, and they get you juiced to get a jump on January.
There’s just one problem.
While goal-setting is key to ensuring that your year unfolds as you want it to, just defining what you want isn’t enough to make it happen. We talked about that here in our recap of the GPS system.
In case you’re unfamiliar with GPS, here’s a quick overview:
- Goal – Choose one big goal (your ONE Thing).
- Priority – Identify three priorities or milestones you’ll need to handle to reach your goal.
- Strategy – Find five strategies for hitting each of the three priorities in a timely way.
As you can see, the goal-setting is just one part of the process, but this is usually where people stop. They get a nice new journal at the start of the year, write down their goals and then become completely distracted.
Instead of mapping out three milestones to work toward, and the strategies that would help them achieve those milestones, they jump straight from the goal-setting into action.
This bias for action gets us in trouble. It feels good to start moving, but it won’t help you if you’re moving in the wrong direction! You’ve got to spend time thinking about the process attached to your goal-setting, so that you’ve got a clear plan that will consistently move you toward your goals.
So, a question for you:
What goals did you set at the start of the year, and are they actually serving you?
Did you get swept up in the ‘New Year, New You’ mania, or did you keep your focus only on the real priorities in your life? At the beginning of the year, there’s an endless supply of content published online that’s focused on overhauling your whole life, and it can make it hard to stay focused on the handful of things that really matter to you at the start of the year.
Reflect on the goals that seemed so important a few weeks ago — are they still relevant and realistic now that the emotion and excitement have worn off?
If not, why not? What are the goals that would serve you better?
If you realize that you got a little distracted from your main priority during your first round of goal setting, don’t worry. It happens to the best of us, and it’s just an opportunity to practice shifting your focus back to what really matters to you.
Ask the Right Questions
The first thing to do before committing to your one thing, your three milestones and five strategies is to ask yourself the Focusing Question:
“What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Use this question to clearly define a single goal in each key area of your life, including your health, relationships, professional growth and spirituality.
Once you’re clear on the ONE thing for each area, then it’s time to think of three priorities that will let you know you’re on track to achieve each of those goals, and then to map out the five strategies that will help you hit each milestone.
For example, the one thing you choose to focus on might be working out more. Once you know that’s your one thing, you can build out your three priorities, such as running a specific number of times each week, lifting a certain amount by a specific date, and being able to complete an obstacle course or physical challenge at the end of the year. The five strategies for your first priority (running a specific number of times each week) might be:
- Enlist two friends to join your new fitness regime to keep each other accountable (two is better than one, since you’ll always have a failsafe).
- Block out a specific time in your schedule each day for your fitness routine.
- Set an alarm half an hour before you are due to start each workout so you have time to wrap up whatever you are doing and still make it on time.
- Pack your bag with your workout gear each evening so that you never forget your stuff or need to change your routine to make it happen.
- Plan your workouts for the week ahead each weekend so you’re never at a loose end, wondering what you should be working on.
Both of your other priorities — lifting a certain amount by a specific date, and being able to complete a physical challenge at the end of the year — should also have their own five strategies, so that every element of your ONE Thing is covered.
The GPS is your roadmap for the year. Draw it up for each of the four categories of your life, and put it somewhere you can see it, or save it and refer back to it daily.
Writing it all down is a critical step toward getting it done, but again, it’s not the whole battle. You need day-to-day strategies to make it all happen.
“The best knowledge workers view their time like the best investors view their capital, as a resource to wield for maximum returns.” — Cal Newport on the power of time blocking.
Time blocking is one of the most powerful daily tools you can use to make sure you’re on track to your goals. This is the practice of setting out a specific period of time to work on your one thing each day.
Having a specific time each day when you work on your ONE Thing has two powerful effects: firstly, it moves you quickly toward the desired outcome. The goal is getting clear, undivided attention every day. You can’t help but make progress. Secondly, it creates a virtuous upward spiral. You make progress, so you feel positive about the goal. You feel positive about it, so you want to keep up your momentum, and thus make more progress.
A study that came out of California’s Dominican University a few years ago found that planning for action without accountability is counterproductive. People who shared their goals and action plans with a supportive friend were significantly more likely to achieve the outcomes they wanted — and that’s why it’s so crucial that you get people around you that will help keep you on track. Having someone to call you out when you’re getting distracted, or can help you see a solution when you’re too deep in the weeds is an invaluable asset in achieving your goals.
We established the Living Your ONE Thing so people could belong to a private accountability group where all the students support each other and ONE Thing Coaching for one-on-one accountability. It’s why almost every entrepreneur and effective business person will tell you that they couldn’t do it alone. The more brains going to work on your ONE Thing, the better.
Be Ruthless with Distractions
The single most difficult thing about achieving your goals is maintaining your focus and avoiding the myriad of distractions that bombard you every day.
This is hard. Really, really hard. Social media, email, family, friends, weather — anything can be a distraction. Learning to control your environment is mission critical for achieving your goals. Your time blocks are sacred. Nothing must be allowed to encroach on them, and everyone in your life must understand this.
Take the time to explain to people what you’re doing and why to increase the likelihood of having their support.
Think of this as ‘distraction destruction’. Most people will ignore your requests unless they really understand your thinking, so while it might feel annoying to explain it — sometimes repeatedly — it’s an important process to protect your future progress.
Turn off your Facebook newsfeed so that even when you compulsively open a new tab on your computer, no new information shows up. Log out of your email every night so you don’t just open your inbox out of habit in the morning, when you should be focusing on your ONE Thing. Leave your phone in another room, turn off the wifi, put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, wear big headphones. Do whatever it takes to protect your precious time and attention, and to make consistent, useful progress toward your goals for the year.
Make sure you’re asking the right questions, time blocking for ultimate productivity, keeping accountable and be ruthless with distractions.
Here’s the document we use to ensure our priorities line up to us accomplishing our goals for the year.