How to Set Smaller Goals and Make More Progress

evan and marie - hq-8654
Daniel Swanson Photography

I’m talking about ridiculously small goals … ones that feel so pathetically insignificant, you doubt that you’ll see any results at all.

Trust me. You will surprise yourself.

I had two problems: dishes piling up in the sink and laundry piling up on the floor. I wanted an empty sink and a clear carpet. Unfortunately, I also knew myself well enough not to attempt sudden, drastic improvements.

Instead, I set two goals that seemed embarrassingly easy: switch a load per day. For me, that meant moving dishes from the sink into the dishwasher and going to bed, not waiting for the cycle to finish. It meant transferring wet clothes into the dryer without worrying about folding. The next step could wait until tomorrow.

To my utter astonishment, within a few days, my sink emptied and my floor cleared. I didn’t procrastinate because my tiny goals didn’t feel daunting. As soon as I got home from work, I switched a load of dishes and switched a load of laundry.

It took about ten minutes, and my house became a much nicer place to live.

Not only did my baby steps turn into substantial progress, but I inadvertently tricked myself into becoming motivated. Since switching loads didn’t feel difficult, most nights I thought, “I could do a little more.” I’d spend a few extra minutes running upstairs to grab another armload of clothes or scrubbing a pot that didn’t fit in the dishwasher … because I wanted to keep working!

What sort of sorcery was this?

This probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but I discovered that most of my laziness stemmed from fear. I feared failure. By setting minuscule goals, I removed the intimidation factor, and suddenly I felt free to accomplish more. On the nights when I didn’t have the energy for anything extra, I went to sleep guilt-free because I had accomplished my minimum.

Most of my laziness stems from fear.

Here’s my advice: Choose a goal, and then divide it into pieces. Pick one piece, and start there. Maybe you want to get in shape. Instead of planning an hour-long workout, do sit-ups for five minutes before bed. Write 5 Minutes of Sit-Ups in your planner every day. It will feel silly. Do it anyway.

Little goals work better long-term because they’re so repeatable. Today, for instance, I’ll admit that there are dishes in the sink and laundry on the floor. I’m not overly discouraged, though, because I’ve seen how quickly small goals can become big progress–and I know I can do it again.

Start today with one small goal. When you lose the habit, start again. Don’t get discouraged. Over time, setting smaller goals will help you to develop confidence in your own ability to make lasting change. In my experience, that is the real victory.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

P.S. I’d love to hear how you break your goals into more manageable chunks!

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