How do you stay focused on your goals?
June 27, 2005 5:14 AM   Subscribe

How do you keep yourself focused on your "big picture" goals when immediate desires and whims keep trying to get in the way?

I have been trying to work at staying consistently focused on a handful of goals (weight loss related, finance related, and creativity related) that are very important to me in terms of my entire life. I tend to stay focused on one of these goals at a time, before something gets in the way and I switch my focus to one of the others, letting everything else drop.

I also find it hard to stay focused when little things get in the way.

Does anyone have any tips or tricks on how to stay motivated to reach your goals on a consistent and long term basis?
posted by tastybrains to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A related question.
posted by grouse at 5:33 AM on June 27, 2005

I have a technique that I'm currently testing. Consequently I can't vouch for its effectiveness at actually achieving focus on set goals. But it has helped me list them and formulate my plan of attack.

It's a very simple approach, pen and paper.

Take a sheet of paper, create a column for each of your goals. So you may have columns titled "lose weight", "save more money", "be creative" or whatever.

Under each title write why you want to do it. So, in the order above you may write "to get some action, and prevent heart attacks", then "more cash to spend on cream cakes", and finally "to impress my parents". Or whatever. Just make sure they're not contradictory - so in my example, eating more cream cakes isn't going to help you lose weight. If they are contradictory, well, you'll need to work out what's more important, and adjust your goals accordingly.

Now draw 3 rows across the columns, creating a grid. Depending on your goals, the timescales may differ, but you will probably want to label these rows "6 months from now", "1 year from now", "2 years from now". Or similar.

In each square in the grid, fill in some simple tasks. So, column 1, row 1, you may write down:

1. join a gym
2. weigh myself every morning
3. buy low-fat food
4. etc

Column 1, row 2, may be more ambitious:

1. join a running club this year
2. cycle to work every day
3. eat only raw fruit and veg one day a week

The important thing is that these items should be simple and easy to achieve. You may only fill in the first row to begin with. You may miss some out - I have one task, "learn to fly" which has a 3 year gap between "find flying lessons" and "buy a share in a plane"!

There are variations on this which are more precise. So for "losing weight" you may substitute "lose 6 pounds in 6 weeks". You'll want to vary your chart accordingly. I think it's important to keep the chart fairly rigid, so draw up something you're not constantly changing. Constant change means you won't be sure you're actually achieving anything.

The final step: Put the chart somewhere you'll see it regularly. Above the toilet; next to the front door; tattooed on your palms. Somewhere you're going to notice it an pay attention, but not somewhere that's going to piss you off, or where you're going to become conditioned into ignoring it. Or perhaps just look at it every weekend or every month. Whatever works for you.

Update it every 6 months. Drop things that aren't important. Add things that are. Be realistic.

Good luck, and I'll see you back here in 1 year for a progress comparison :-)
posted by ajp at 5:15 PM on June 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

grouse - Thank you for the link to that question ... while it wasn't quite the same thing I was asking, there is definitely some information in the answers that I found useful.

ajp - Thanks for sharing your seems like a good plan and if nothing else it's a great way to sit down and brainstorm the why's and how's and put it all down on paper. It is simple but simplicity often works wonders.

posted by tastybrains at 5:59 PM on June 27, 2005

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