According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of people who make New Year’s Resolutions give up on them by February. But it isn’t just those fresh January goals that get abandoned. Throughout the year, most people make plenty of goals, big and small, that they end up later forgetting about.
If you’re sick of never achieving the aspirations you set your mind to, it’s time for a change. Keep reading to learn how to stay focused on your goals.
Set Better, More Attainable Goals
One of the biggest reasons that people end up abandoning the goals that they’ve set for themselves is that the goals were too lofty to begin with.
Goals that are nearly impossible to achieve or at least impossible to achieve in this moment aren’t goals; they’re dreams. And while it’s always a good idea to have these dreams to work towards, goals are the steps that you take to reach them.
For instance, if your goal was to become rich, you’re going to end up disappointed in the short term. Wealth is certainly something that you can work towards, but it is going to take a lot of time and many other steps to reach that goal.
Rather than focusing on those large, distant dreams, you need to learn how to set better, more attainable goals.
In the case of the above example, rather than simply saying “I want to work to get rich,” you could set several smaller goals. One could be to work towards a promotion, or to get a new job. Another could be to save up a certain amount of money so that you can start your own business.
But even those goals can be further broken up. Before you can get a promotion or land a new job, you might need to take classes to learn a new skill or nail that big project that you have coming up. Before you can save up money, you might need to stop dining out as often and trying eating at home at least a few days a week.
When you set goals that you can actually achieve, and in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll be less likely to lose focus or become discouraged when you don’t feel as though you’re making progress.
Once you achieve these smaller goals, you can then set new ones, with each step leading you towards reaching those bigger goals and dreams.
In short; set yourself up to succeed rather than fail.
Once you’ve set your more attainable goals, you aren’t quite ready to take action yet. There’s one more thing you’ll need to consider in order to determine whether or not your goals are ready for action; whether or not your goals are measurable.
You’ve already simplified your goals to make them more attainable, which allows you to stay focused. But, take that one step further by breaking down your goals into the steps that you need to take to achieve them. If you have no way to track your progress on your goals, you have no way of judging whether your efforts are paying off or getting you any closer to achieving them.
Even very simple goals can be broken down into steps. For instance, if your goal is to nail that work project that you’ve been assigned, you might break down that goal into smaller steps. One step might be to study up on the competition and how they’re doing what you plan to do.
Another might be to create an awesome PowerPoint presentation or rehearse your presentation ahead of time.
As you reach each of these steps towards your goal, you’ll feel newly energized and motivated to keep going. These defined steps also help you stay on track and avoid distractions. But even this may not be enough to keep from derailing your progress, which is exactly why you need to take this next tip into account as well.
Start Letting Go of Distractions in Your Life
Our lives today are full of distractions. We spend hours every day surfing the web or watching television. We read magazines or see ads on the street that have us questioning the way we look, how we dress, or where our lives are going.
You might tell yourself that you’re only going to flip on the TV for a few minutes to unwind when you get home. Or that you’re just going to browse through that magazine before bed. But usually, these things draw you in and capture your attention, and a few minutes turns into a couple of hours or even longer.
All of these distractions have one big consequence; they capture our focus and keep us from thinking about the things that matter, like achieving dreams and goals that will better our lives.
The best gift that you can give yourself is to learn to let go of these distractions. This doesn’t mean that you have to go-Amish and give up your TV, laptop, or smartphone completely. But reducing the amount of time you spend using these items can help open up your schedule.
You’ll be amazed at how much more time you have to accomplish other things when you aren’t so wrapped up in binge watching a new show or scrolling through social media.
Even if your goals aren’t something that you can work on all the time, replacing these distractions with healthier alternatives, like reading a book, studying a skill, or practicing yoga can still help you hone your focus.
Sometimes even very small swaps can make a big difference in your life. You could listen to a podcast on your morning commute rather than listening to music. This podcast could help you learn something new or even just stay motivated, putting you one step closer to your goal without taking any extra time out of your day or even really drastically changing your routine.
Never Stop Learning
Our brains need stimulation in order to grow and stay sharp. When we fall into patterns and habits, it can be easy to stop challenging yourself. Even your goals may not be enough of a challenge, if they involve things that you already do on a day-to-day basis, like working or exercising.
Keeping your brain active is a great way to stay focused and motivated in all areas of your life, not to mention keep you on track for your goals.
A few ideas for things you can do to keep your brain active and engaged include:
- Reading a book, especially one that is related to your goal
- Listen to an educational or informational podcast
- Learn a new language
- Take an online course
- Sign up for a night class at your local university
- Attend lectures and presentations at museums and universities in your area
- Take an educational vacation, visiting museums and historic sites and taking the time to really learn about where you are visiting
- Make an effort to engage in conversations with many different people, asking about and listening to their life stories and their own knowledge and skills
However you choose to do it, feeding your brain will always lead to positive results in many areas of your life and work.
Rethink Your Companions
In the same way that too much television or internet time can leave you distracted and with little time to work on your goals, surrounding yourself with the wrong people can have similar results.
Who you spend your time with has a major effect on your thoughts and actions. If you choose to surround yourself with positive go-getters, you’ll feel motivated as well. You’ll be able to bounce ideas off of each other, encourage each other in times of doubt, and maybe even lend a helping hand as needed.
Keeping negative, lazy, or otherwise unmotivated individuals around you will have the opposite effect. They won’t want to see you working to achieve your goals because that will make them feel poorly about their own lack of motivation.
This envy may cause them to do anything they can to sway you from their resolve. And they may not even need to do that; simply showing you how much easier it is to relax and stay comfortable rather than working can cause you to lose your will.
If you feel that the people around you are causing you to stray from your goals, it may be time for some distance. You don’t need to cut these individuals out of your life completely. Instead, just make sure that you never set your work or goals aside in favor of hanging out with them.
Keep your encounters short or else plan an activity in advance to keep from falling back into old habits. You might just be able to motivate the other individual to get to work as well!
Many people are wary of following this goal. In fact, more than 75 percent of Americans already feel lonely. But cutting negativity from your life will help make room for healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
Clear Out Clutter
You might not realize just how big of an impact the clutter in your home and life can affect you. Whether it’s piles of papers that distract you while working at your desk, too many files saved on your desktop, or just general junk taking up space in your home, it can keep you from focusing on the task at hand.
Cleaning up your life and your living space can have a powerful impact on your work ethic and motivation. It will help to eliminate little distractions and make sure that nothing stands in the way of your creativity.
If this task seems overwhelming, the best thing you can do to make it more manageable is to start small. Clean off just the surface of your desk. Empty out one drawer and get rid of anything that you don’t need. Make it your goal to clean off 5 files a day from your desktop that you know you no longer need.
It isn’t just the spaces that are directly related to how you’re working to achieve your goals that need decluttering either. Even messes in other parts of your home, like a basement you rarely use or your closet, can affect your mindset and hurt your focus.
Cleaning up your closet and getting rid of clothing that you no longer like, or wear, will make getting dressed each morning much easier. No more worrying about finding outfits that make you feel good or that are appropriate for work. Instead, you’ll be able to quickly and easily grab something.
This can have a domino effect on other areas of your life. Less time getting dressed means less time spent getting ready. Maybe this gives you time to eat a healthy breakfast, which will help energize you for the day, allowing you to get more done. It might help you get started on your commute faster.
You might decide to walk or bike to work if you are able, helping you get healthier. Or maybe you’ll avoid a traffic jam or that “I’m about to be late” stress, helping you start your day on a more positive note.
It’s not just your closet that’s in need of a cleaning that could potentially change your life. A closet that’s been a cluttered storage area could be cleaned out and turned into an art studio where you can flex your creativity or a home gym to help you get in shape and healthy.
A spare bedroom full of junk can be emptied and turned into a guest bedroom so that you can host friends. Or you could even rent out your spare space, earning you some extra income that you could put towards other goals like boosting your savings or buying a new car.
Take Time for a Reset
It’s not just your home that is in need of some decluttering. Between work, family obligations, and everything else, your mind has plenty to juggle. Stress can build up faster than you might think. This weighs on your mind, taking up space that you could be using to focus on your goals.
Unfortunately, putting these things aside takes more than just some willpower. You need a hard reset from time to time.
What constitutes a reset varies from individual to individual. For each, it’s something that redirects their mind and helps them to let go of the stresses of daily life.
Finding the right reset option for you may take a bit of work. You might try something like a spa day, where you get a massage or facial, relax in a sauna, or even spend a day pool-side. Others may find that exercise is best. Still more might feel most relaxed when engaging in yoga, practicing an art form, or even just spending time with friends.
Once you’ve found the right choice for you, you need to make sure to schedule time for this self-care regularly. Even when you feel too busy to take a moment out of your day, making it a priority is a must.
You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much more work you’ll be able to accomplish when you prioritize taking time out of your day or week to destress and reset your brain.
Make a Mantra
A mantra is a phrase or statement that can be repeated to help you relax and refocus your brain. When you repeat it, either out loud or even just to yourself, it forces your mind to focus on the words.
In times of high stress or when you’re feeling too discouraged to continue moving forward, even just simply repeating your mantra, over and over again, can help steady you and help you refocus your energy back in a positive direction.
What you choose for your mantra is important. It needs to be words or a phrase that are meaningful to you. Otherwise, they won’t motivate you. To choose your mantra, start by considering the negative thoughts that tend to derail you from your progress towards your goals.
A few good mantra ideas include:
- “I am enough”
- “I am where I am supposed to be in this moment”
- “I have everything I need to succeed”
- “I want to get healthy for my family”
- “I can do this”
Learn to Manage Your Time Better
Another reason so many people fail to reach their goals is that they don’t realize the amount of time they are wasting on each task. Even if you’re working on steps towards your goal, you may still be wasting time that you could be using for some other efforts.
To figure out where you are wasting time and where you could be spending that extra time, you need to carefully analyze your schedule and how you spend every moment of your day. There are several ways that you can do this. One is the old-fashioned way; writing it down. Keep a notebook with you and use the stopwatch on your watch or smartphone. Each time you start a new task, write down what it is. When you finish, write down how long it took.
You need to write down everything that you do, from answering emails to eating lunch to taking a bathroom break. Be as honest as you can. It won’t do you any good to lie, as the only person you’ll be hurting is yourself.
There are also plenty of time tracking apps that you can use to do the same thing. Many of these are specifically designed to track the time you spend doing various tasks on your computer. If you spend most of your time working on a computer, these may be the best choice. They will track every little task or distraction, from the time you spend checking your social media to how long it takes you to answer emails first thing in the morning.
You’ll need to track your time more than just a day or so. You’ll also need to track your time on days when you work as well as days that you don’t. Once you’ve tracked several days of each, it’s time to analyze the time that you’re spending. It’s likely that a few details will surprise you. Maybe you’re spending an hour or more on social media a day. Or you’re checking your email far more than you actually need to be.
Once you’ve identified parts of your day or specific tasks that you’re spending too much time on, it’s time to work on reducing that time. Start small; trying to cut out social media or rush through certain tasks all at once isn’t a sustainable goal.
Instead, start little by little. Replace the time you’re wasting with better tasks, particularly ones that help you work towards those goals that you have set for yourself.
Take Time Every Day to Assess Your Goals and Current Progress
Every single day that you’re working towards a goal, you should take a few minutes to reflect on what you did that day to accomplish that goal or what you failed to do.
This reflection will give you a chance to congratulate yourself on the positive things you did that day. It’s also a great chance to think about what you could do better tomorrow.
To take this tip one step further, consider keeping a goal journal. Write down what you accomplished that day and even what you didn’t. When you start feeling discouraged, you can look back through your journal to think about how far you have come.
This will be a great reminder that even when times get tough, if you keep pushing forward, you’ll make progress. A bad day can also be great motivation to work harder the next day to make up for it.
You can even review your goal journal each morning when you wake up. Use this time to think about what went wrong the day before and what you might have done differently.
Don’t be overly critical of yourself. You aren’t the enemy here; instead, your journal should be honest but kind. You want to keep yourself feeling positive and motivated so that you don’t end up giving up on your goals when you don’t feel that you are making adequate progress.
Get Started Immediately
One big mistake that many people make it waiting to start working towards their goals. Sometimes it’s because they are afraid of the work that it’s going to take to accomplish their goals. Other times it’s because they feel that they don’t have what they need or aren’t in the right place to get started.
For instance, if you’re dreaming of running a 5K, you might put off getting started because you feel that you need to get in shape first. Or if your goal is to better your family’s financial situation, you might feel as though you have to land a better job first.
But the reality is that there is almost always something you can do to start working towards your goals right away. You could start walking every day until you are able to start running short distances. Stick with it and you’ll soon be running longer and longer distances until you’re finally ready to sign up for that 5K race.
Even if finances are tight, there are always ways that you can make a little extra money to start putting away in savings or paying off bills. Or you could simply cut an expense out of your daily life, like skipping that weekly coffee run or dinner out.
No matter how lofty or distant your goals might seem, there is always something you can do to slowly start working your way towards them. Getting started as soon as you decide on a goal to set your mind to will help get you one step further to achieving them.
Keeping on Track and Finally Achieving Your Goals
Learning how to keep yourself motivated and on-track so that you can finally reach those goals that you’ve been endlessly working towards isn’t rocket science. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel that way. This is especially true if you’ve set goals only to abandon them in the past.
Instead, reaching your goals requires a specific craft, as well as plenty of dedication and self-reflection. If you really want to make a positive change in your life, you’ll need to be honest with yourself and open to critiquing how you do things or the way that you think.
After all, these are likely the reasons you’ve been unsuccessful in the past. Only when you are willing to do that will you ever be able to make the progress you need to achieve your goals.
Put the tips on this list to work, and you’ll be reaching your goals sooner than you ever could have imagined!