Track your progress.
From first-graders putting gold stars on their daily-tasks chart to gym junkies listing their latest bench-press bench mark, tracking your goals is a no-brainer. Don’t worry about getting fancy–that’s just a way to procrastinate. Just put a mark on your calendar-of-choice each day as you complete your goal, and reward yourself with a mental attaboy. You’re one step closer to perfection!
When you take the bull by the horns and begin a new goal, it’s usually because your motivation was at fever pitch. You vow to make great changes. You’re going to be the man/woman/other that you always knew you could be! “I’ll study 12 … no 13 hours a day, every day. No, twice a day!”
Hold on there, tiger. While your desires are admirable, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Next week, when that motivational mania wears off, you’ll be stuck with a soul-crushing, joy-sapping task–“thirteen hours!? What was I thinking?” Instead of valiantly muscling through and accomplishing your goal, you’ll curl up in a fetal position with the family-size, economy, bargain pack of Twinkies and eat yourself into a sugar coma.
The magic comes when you start ridiculously small. “I’ll study at least 20 minutes a day. Once I’ve done that consistently for a week, I’ll bump it up to at least 30 minutes a day.” You can always study more if you want, but 20 minutes is small enough that it will allow you a series of quick victories that you can check off on your chart, motivating you to continue the process. Slowly work up to larger and larger goals, but don’t get too aggressive. You’ll get a lot further in the long run!
Join a support group.
Know why twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are international successes? In part, it’s because of the regular support and positive peer pressure. It’s much tougher to shirk your goals when 15 people are going to be asking you about your progress. And these days, it’s ridiculously easy to find people to support you in your goals. A quick Google search will turn up many websites designed for just that purpose (no matter what your goal is)!
Don’t focus on the work, focus on the outcome. Can you clearly [hidepost]picture what it will be like when you achieve your goal? Find a picture (or pictures) online that illustrate that end result you’re aiming at–a happy graduate, a marathon winner, a yo-yo master, whatever.
Place that picture prominently in your life–on the bathroom mirror, above your desk, as your screensaver–and consider it constantly. Hold in front of you like a carrot to constantly pull you towards goal nirvana.
Use the buddy system.
Find a friend (even if you have to rent one) who will partner up with you. They don’t necessarily have to be working towards the same goal as you; they just need to commit to encourage you and ask about your progress. You do the same for them.[/hidepost]