Do you have a big goal that you want to achieve or perhaps a large project that you want to pull off? Maybe it’s to write a book, launch a new product, or even run a maraton.
Recently while mentoring a student, this question came up: how do you achieve really big goals?
How do you overcome procrastination and push through the really hard things to increase the probability of accomplishing your big goals?
In my experience, the best way to accomplish big goals is to break them down into smaller goals.
And by small goals, I don’t mean vague general items in your to-do list.
You need to create S.M.A.R.T short-term goals that helps you accomplish your long-term goals.
Each of your goal must be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timed (S.M.A.R.T).
Break down your goal and write out what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, when will you have it finished, and how will you measure success.
It’s crucial that you write down your action items, so you can keep track of your progress. Below are the few strategies that I’ve used to keep track of my goals.
The most basic method is just to start writing all the different things you need to do to accomplish your goal.
If you’re writing a book, it could be lists of the chapters, research topics, deadline dates, and interview subjects. Just put your main idea at the top of the page, and start brainstorming.
Write everything down as it comes to you, and then rewrite the list to organize the item in terms of due dates, importance, and ease of accomplishment.
Pros: The easiest, most basic method of goal setting. You can see everything that needs to be done. It’s also the easiest to manage — just keep your list on a single sheet of paper or even in a small notebook, and cross each item off when you finish it.
Cons: Constantly needs to be revised as time goes on. Your list can be chaotic and unorganized, if you’re not careful. A multi-faceted project can be hard to manage from a single list, which leads to separate lists, some of which may be overlooked or even forgotten.
2. To Do Apps
If you’re tech savvy and don’t like the good ol’ paper and white-boards, then you can use one of the many To-Do apps.
What I like about apps is that they’re cloud-based. If I check off one item on my phone, it’s checked off on my tablet, my laptop, and basically everywhere. When I accomplish something else on my laptop, the item is checked off in all the other locations.
If you don’t want to keep track of things on paper, then try one of these apps.
Pros: No paper, which means you won’t lose your list or your data. If you lose your phone, reinstall the app on your new phone, log in, and your list is back.
Cons: Can be hard to get into the habit. It’s one more app vying for your attention, one more way of doing things. The cool thing about Todoist, however, is they figured out a way to gamify to-do lists. If you’re used to FourSquare/Swarm, then this may be easier to start.
3. Mind Mapping
If you’re visual like me and ideas constantly pop into your head as you start planning, then simple lists just won’t work. That’s when mind mapping is super helpful.
Mindmap lets you create one central idea, then draw lines to different categories, and sub-tasks within each category. As you brainstorm, each new idea is put into its appropriate place.
For example, if you were planning a one-day conference, Conference is your central idea. Then you need to break up several categories, like Facilities, Speakers, Promotions, and Technology. Each task is dropped into its category, and from there, you can create your to do list.
With a mind map either paper or electronic, like MindMeister, you can follow those randomly-firing neurons and get your goal list created.
I usually use my white board for this instead of an app.
Pros: Perfect for visual and non-linear thinkers. Lets you visualize your goals and see where most of the work is going to happen.
Cons: It’s hard to keep track of tasks, unless you start breaking each sub-task down into sub-sub-tasks. It’s also hard to prioritize your tasks in terms of importance or dates. You still need to work from a to-do list once you’ve created all your tasks.
If you’re trying to accomplish a big goal, a lot of your success rests on your initial planning — almost as much as your actual work.
Break the big goals into small ones, and then keep track of them. You should also look at my productivity hacks to get more done.
Now that I’ve shared my secret, what do you find helpful in accomplishing your biggest goals? Let me know by leaving a comment below.