I am a very goal oriented person.  I have read pretty much everything I could find about setting and achieving goals.  Well, really, about setting goals.  I’m sure everyone here is familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. method of setting goals.  Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bounded – SMART.  This means that your goals should be well defined.  Not just get fit, but be able to run a mile without stopping, in a set amount of time.

The problem is that while there is a lot of literature (like a lot) on how to set goals, there’s very little on how to actually achieve goals.

I have found two books that are actually helpful: The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations & Books by Eviatar Zerubavel, and Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker.  Although both are related to writing, I have found them generally helpful to achieving goals. There are two main lessons in these books:

  • Do it every day – preferably at the same time. Consistent effort matters.
  • You don’t have to do a lot every day. Do the 15 minutes of free writing every day.  Remind your self that having it on paper is better than having it in your head.  If you want to lose weight, start with just a few minutes a day.  It helps you set the habit.

A woman I worked with wanted to learn to play the guitar.  She worked full time, she was a single mom, she didn’t have a lot of time.  She started with just five minutes a day. SP has been learning Italian by doing just few minutes day – as of April 23rd, she is on day 1673.  And she can follow Italian movies and TV.

Ok, so that’s all well and good, but if you have set your goal and still can’t make yourself do any of it, then what? That’s the third lesson of The Clockwork Muse and 15 Minutes  – remove the barriers to actually doing it.  I’m trying to weed my yard every day.  To accomplish this, after I walk the dog in the evening, I don’t take off my shoes and I don’t sit down before I do the weeding.  If I take my shoes off, then putting them back on becomes a barrier and I’m less likely to do the weeding.

How do you accomplish your goals?