Are You Sabotaging Your Goals Before You Start?

Time Management Goal SettingDo you share your goals or keep them to yourself? Your answer to that question might affect whether you achieve your goals or abandon them in the graveyard of good intentions.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy telling people about your goals because it adds accountability. My Facebook feed is evidence that I am not alone in this belief. Scrolling through my updates on January 2nd, I was faced with countless goals, promises, and resolutions from my friends of everything from weight loss, to business aspirations, to habit breaking. In my time management seminars, I advocate for loud and proud goal-sharing as a way to strengthen your motivation, commitment and accountability. It worked for me, I’ve seen it work for other people, and I believe in the benefits.

Then I came across this TED talk about goal setting that caused me to question my belief. Essentially, Derek Sivers says that telling people about your goals makes you less likely to achieve them because the act of articulating your intentions satisfies your desire to follow through with them. In other words, telling other people you’re going to get organized makes you feel more organized, and therefore have less of a sense of urgency to actually get organized.

Interesting.

I find it difficult to accept that goal sharing is never useful, because as I said, I’ve seen it work countless times, but Derek presents a strong case. Instead, I offer these tips to share goals effectively.

1. Tell Your Friends How to Help You

When we share our goals, the assumption is that the people you tell can help you. Don’t just assume. Ask for a specific action. For example, instead of telling your friend, “I’m going to exercise every day,” say “I’m going to exercise every day, and if you ever hear me complain about it, please pull me off the couch.” Or “I’m trying to grow my business this year, so when you see me, please ask how it’s going to keep me accountable.”

2. Find a Friend With A Similar Goal

Friends and family are great support networks, but sometimes the best support comes from people who are working toward the same goal as you. Seek out friends and family who are striving to accomplish the same things and ask if you can sit down together and develop a plan. This provides both support and accountability.

3. Share the Results

If you’re afraid that public goal setting will make you less motivated to follow through, start with just sharing your results. When you accomplish a goal, no matter how small, tell your close friends and family. Sometimes we’re afraid to do this lest it be construed as bragging, but there is a difference between bragging and celebrating. Telling a friend what you accomplished, and what you plan to do next can provide support and encouragement to keep going. For example, “I finished this week with an empty inbox! Next week, I’m going to work on staying more focused while I’m working.”

Incidentally, it is my one of my goals, to give a TED talk some day (similar to the one in the video above), but I suppose now that I’ve told you about it, I can kiss that dream goodbye!

Got a comment? Leave one! I’d love to hear it.

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What Marathon Are You Running Today?

Time Management MarathonWhen was the last time someone gave you a medal for a job well done? We don’t always get a chance to celebrate the results of our hard work, but when we do, it is certainly a feeling to relish. Just because we don’t always get a trophy, or a certificate, or even a pat on the back in recognition of our work, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our successes on our own and reward the time we’ve put in to make it happen.

Today, I had the distinct pleasure of watching some of my friends run the PF Chang’s Half Marathon in Phoenix. I am not a runner, but I do bring a high level of sideline enthusiasm. As I watched them run past mile marker 11, closing in on the finish-line, I thought back to all of the time they had put into training – all of the early morning runs, the hours spent at the gym, and the afternoons spent resting their sore legs on the coach. I imagined how accomplished they felt as they neared closer and closer to finally crossing that finish line that had lingered in front of them through months of training.

I thought about how we’re all running our own marathons in our lives. We’re all working hard each day toward something. We’re all making sacrifices with our time, planning out our work schedule, and wondering how long it’ll be until we reach our goals. But, unlike a marathon, sometimes those goals and the paths to get there are vague and undefined.

Define Your Finish Line

The finish line of a race is very clearly marked, but what about other successes in our lives? How do we know that we’ve ever “made it” and that our hard work has paid off? Nebulous goals like “success” need tangible check points so we can both keep track of our progress and also give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. If you never take your nose away from the grindstone long enough to celebrate your successes, you may find yourself burned out long before you get where you thought it was you wanted to go.

Develop a Training Plan

If you want to run a marathon, there is no shortage of training plans available to help you prepare for a race of that magnitude. However, sometimes your path might be less trodden and more difficult to figure out. That doesn’t mean you can move forward without a plan. A novice runner seeks advice from an expert before developing a training schedule, and you similarly will save yourself time and energy by seeking advice from someone who has experience in whatever it is you want to do.

Bring Your Cheerleaders

When I asked where I should stand as a spectator at the half marathon, I was told to stake out a spot somewhere during the last two miles, because that’s when the runners need it most. Sure enough, when I asked my friend about the race, she told me that she had wanted to start walking, but knew I was going to be standing at the next mile marker and wanted to be running when she passed me. Our friends keep us going when we want to quit. Their encouragement motivates us and keeps us smiling. However, we can’t forget to ask for the support. I am not a marathon runner. I don’t really see it as a spectator sport and would never have thought to come stand on the sidelines, but my friends asked me to and I was more than eager to help out.

Whatever marathon you are training for in life right now, set yourself up for success with the right tools and cross the finish line with a smile.

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No Time for the Flu

Sick Time ManagementIt seems like everyone in the world is either sick or just getting over being sick. There’s no doubt, getting sick can throw a huge monkey wrench in your time management plans. While at first it may seem like you’ll never recover from your productivity setback, consider the following:

1. Life will go on without you for a moment

Have you ever seen your coworkers trudging through work, coughing and shivering, trying to make a presentation between sneezes, and thought, “Why in the world are they here?” It’s easy to think that life will stop if you don’t make it into work, but in reality, everyone will probably be just fine for a day or two. Your coworkers will gladly help pick up the slack for you in exchange for keeping your virus to yourself! Of course, there will be times when your presence truly is required, but see if that can be taken care of with a Skype call from home.

2. Eliminate what’s unessential

It’s amazing how quickly we’re able to eliminate non-essential tasks from our lists when we get sick. It’s as though we get tunnel vision for only the most important things. Since you have limited energy when you’re sick, look for tasks on your list that others will have difficulty helping you with, and do those first.

3. Enjoy a little time doing absolutely nothing

It’s tempting to sit in bed and worry about all of the tasks you’re leaving undone. Instead, try to embrace the feeling of doing absolutely nothing. If you’re on the go constantly, you probably rarely afford yourself the opportunity to do nothing except when sickness requires it. Since you can do very little about your situation other than rest, making yourself feel guilty does nothing. Even though you feel under the weather, take pleasure in the fact that you are going to take it easy, even if it’s only for a few hours.

Do you remember when you were young and took every sneeze as a hopeful sign that a day home from school was in your future? It’s amazing how fast we change. Instead of focusing all of your energy on work, allow the people in your life to take care of you for a day while you focus on recovering.

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Everything You’ve Heard About Working From Home is Wrong

Work from home time managementOK, well maybe not everything, but after spending a substantial part of the past year working in my home office, I’ve found that a lot of the “work-from-home” time management advice out there should be refined. Here’s how I would elaborate three common work-from-home tips I hear frequently:

1. Set Regular Hours

Yes, it’s important to define your work hours, lest your work day consume your entire life, however, those hours don’t necessarily need to be the same that they’d be if you were working a “traditional” job. If you find it difficult to start work at 8, break at noon, and end at 5, try something different. I get my best work done in the morning, so I work from 7:30 until around 1, and then take a break for a few hours before starting back up again around 4. That schedule varies wildly based on the day of the week. The key is to keep “work” time separate from “play” time. When and how you choose to schedule those times is completely up to you.

2. Network

Working from home can btime management handshakee extremely isolating, but the word “networking” sounds so formal. You don’t need to go to a conference, or join a weekly networking group and wear a sticker name tag to converse with others. Just talk to people (Facebook doesn’t count). Invite a friend out for lunch and talk about your current projects. If you see the same people in line at Starbucks every day, find out what they do.

3. Define Your Work Space

Again, this advice sounds good in theory, but in reality, being forced to work in one spot all the time is one of the detriments to a traditional desk job. A change of scenery can help keep your focus sharp. It’s important to have an office as a starting point and as a place to keep all of your files, but if you get restless, move somewhere else. Sometime I’ll work on my balcony, or at the kitchen table, or in the living room. My only two rules are that I never leave work out when I’m done unless it’s in the office, and that I never ever bring work to bed. Bedtime is for relaxing.

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