In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about prioritising the tasks you do each day.
Hello and welcome to episode 32 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
This week’s question is all about achieving goals. Something I know a lot of people struggle with and yet, there is a method that is incredibly powerful and will change the way you think about how possible it is to achieve the goal.
Before we get into this week’s question though, I'd like to remind all of you who have enrolled in my Ultimate Guide To Goal Planning course that I published the first supplemental class last week. You can take the class by logging in to your account and you will find the class in the supplemental classes section.
Okay, let’s get into this week’s questions and so it is now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Charlie. Charlie asks: Hi Carl, I really struggle with getting started to achieve my goals. I know what I want to achieve, but just don’t know where to start. Do you have any tips for getting started with my goals?
Good question, Charlie.
I think the hardest thing about achieving goals is not really discovering what you want to achieve, but rather how to get started achieving the goals. Knowing where to start and how to start can be very difficult.
Once you have discovered what it is you want to achieve you should write it down. Whether that is in a digital format or in a paper notebook is really up to you. My advice is to write it in a format you prefer. Personally, when I write out my goals in the first place, I usually do it on paper. There’s a very good reason for doing this. The process of writing out your goals helps to get your mind accepting your goal. In many ways, your mind is going to be your best friend and your worst enemy. Best friend because your mind will give you the methods to achieve your goals. Worst enemy because your mind will also throw up all the excuses you need for not doing anything towards achieving them.
Once written down, I start writing out the action steps I will need to achieve those goals. At this point, it’s more of a brain dump, rather than a strategic game plan. I want to get as many ways I can think of to achieve the goals written down. Some are crazy, some a practical. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is I have a long list of ways I can achieve my goal.
Once I have fleshed out my goal with actionable steps I go through those actions and delete all the impractical ones or ones I feel isn’t going to work. I then transfer these practical steps to my to-do list manager. I want to be able to build those actions into my daily to-dos.
However, before I get to even fleshing out my goals on paper there is a simple trick I use that is incredibly powerful and one that transforms a goal from a statement into a question that has my brain seeking ways to make the goal happen. It’s a simple change, but one that lights up the creative centre in your brain.
Let’s say you have a goal to earn $1 million in the next 12 months. Now for a moment let’s forget about whether this is possible or not. What most people do is write it out like:
“I will earn $1 million in the next 12 months.”
Now the problem with writing it this way is your brain will now start thinking of all the reasons why you cannot earn $1 million in the next twelve months. (this is your worst enemy at work) Our survival instinct in our brains is programmed to avoid failure and risk and having such an ambitious goal, your survival brain is going to recognise the potential for failure and begin the process of discouraging you from setting the goal. If that fails, it will give you all the excuses you need to not start working on achieving it. This is because many thousands of years ago when we were on the menu for large tigers and other predators, any risk we took would likely result in us being consumed by one of them. Not a good outcome. So we are naturally very adverse to risk and the possibility of failure.
Instead of writing goals out in this way, reframe the goal as a question. By that I mean ask yourself “What do I have to do to…” and then write your goal. So in our $million example, we would write the goal out as:
What do I have to do to earn $1 million in the next 12 months?
What happens next is something bordering on miraculous. Instead of your brain looking for excuses why you cannot achieve the goal, it will now start looking for ways to achieve it. It’s quite scary how your brain changes from being negative about a goal to becoming a creative solutions machine for finding ways you can achieve it.
Now I tested this out the other day. I don’t really have a goal of earning $1 million in the next twelve months, but I decided to try this out. The first thing I did was ask - how much do I have to earn each day to make a million dollars in the year? That worked out at $2,740 per day. I then asked how many products would I have to sell per day to earn that, that worked out at 90. Suddenly, instead of looking at the goal of earning 1 million dollars I was asking “what do I have to do to sell 90 products per day?” This took me into all sorts of different avenues and in the end, I came up with a set of things I would have to do to change the way I am working today so that over the next twelve months I could earn 1 million dollars.
But let’s take this to a more realistic level. Imagine you want to lose some weight. And in this example, you want to lose 30 pounds in the next six months. Challenging, but not impossible. So here you might start asking what do you have cut out of your diet that would help losing weight. Perhaps you eat too many cookies or maybe you put too much sugar in your coffee. So you could write down reduce my sugar intake by half, or stop eating cookies Monday to Friday. You might decide going out for a walk at lunchtime would help or taking an evening stroll after dinner. Basically, what you are doing is writing out as many ways you can think of that would help you to achieve your goal. It’s a sort of brain dump.
The point here is that your brain goes from searching for reasons and excuses about why you cannot achieve your goal of searching for ways you can achieve your goal.
Once you have a list of ways to achieve your goal, you can now start sorting them out into what you could start doing straight away. You can look for action steps that you can begin doing today or tomorrow. You can delete the ones you think will not help and you can add others as they come to you.
The deeper you go with this, the more likely you will find better ways of achieving your goal. You may find you have to adjust your timeline a little—something I often have to do with my goals.I can be a little over-optimistic at times—but if you stick with it, you will soon find action steps you can start right away that will begin your journey towards achieving your goal.
Once you have a good list of action steps, get them into your to-do list manager. I often find people write goals down in a separate place from their to-do list manager. This could be a notes app or a journal somewhere. That is good, but if they are not also in your daily to-do list manager you are not going to do the necessary tasks to achieve your goals. The action tasks required to achieve your goals need to be in your daily to-do list and the only way to get them into your daily to-do list is to have them set up as projects in your task manager. I know duplication, generally, is not a good thing, but in this instance having your goals written down in a journal or notebook and also in your task manager where they are feeding your daily to-do list works and works extremely well. It helps to keep your goals up front and centre when you are planning your day or week.
Finally, I use what I call my Weekly Objectives Plan. This is a sheet I use when I do my weekly review on a Sunday afternoon. This sheet helps me to focus on the things that are important to me. Now, this is not just about my goals, it is about all the things I want to achieve over the next week. There is a section dedicated to my goals and habits. This is where I can allocate a particular goal to each day of the week. Once I have completed this sheet I make sure that my daily to-do lists for the following week have action steps each day related to the goals I want to focus on. This helps me to stay accountable to my goals and ensures each day I have to do something towards achieving my goals. Of course, there will be days when events over-take you and you may find you cannot do what you wanted to do. But the idea is that by using this planning sheet you will stay focused each week on what you want to achieve as part of your goals. You can download this worksheet from my website, carl pullein.com - there’s a link in the show notes where you can download it for yourself.
Hopefully, this answers your question, Charlie and thank you. Thank you also to all of you for listening to this episode. If you want to learn more about planning and achieving your goals I have an online course you can enrol in at my learning centre. There’s a link to the course in the show notes and it would wonderful to see you there.
It just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week.