Goal-setting posts are like cake, everyone one wants a piece of it. The goal-setting post I wrote at the start of the year has been viewed more times than I dared to imagine. I get the draw. We all want to plan out our dreams, make time for them on paper, but it’s the following through that’s the hardest.
If I’m honest, I’ve been flaking on my goals. We’re two quarters down this year, and I’m trailing behind on many of the targets I set. I do have all my plans in motion, but many have altered along the way and made way for newer goals. Last evening, though, I realized that my biggest struggle when I’m sat at my desk every morning is overwhelm.
The fear of getting started and the fear of taking action – the doing. If you own a business, you’ve definitely experienced it on the reg yourself, and you don’t need me telling you how strong and annoying it can be. Once you give into that resistance – the fear of taking action – it’s a steady spiral down.
The best way to bring yourself out of an unproductive state, or better yet, to avoid one, is having tools and strategies on hand that you know work well for you. One of my favourite ways to get back on track is to use what James Clear calls the Paper Clip Strategy, which involves using visual triggers as reminders to build habits.
The idea is simple: you set up two jars – one filled with paper clips and one empty – and you decide upon one small, measurable habit you want to build, such as building a habit of writing 500 words or drinking 2L of water each day. Every time you execute that action/habit, you transfer one of the paper clips into the empty jar. As you go along, the previously empty jar fills up with paper clips, and it marks both the progress you’re making in building a daily writing habit, and serves as a visual reminder of having met your goal consistently.
At the start, the paper clips serve as visual triggers and remind you to do the action you committed to, but as the originally empty jar fills up with paper clips, it also serves as a motivator to keep going and to keep adding ‘paper clips’ to the jar, i.e., executing the action you committed to.
The use of visual cues as a habit building aid is a strong tactic in tricking yourself into being more productive, similar to feedback systems based on rewards, commonly called gamification, used in games to push and reward you for taking action to meet your goals.
The higher the number of clips you can move, the stronger your motivation to keep going. Result? Goals, slayed. And if that isn’t enough, they’re also a strong visual measure of how far you’ve come. Every paper clip is a reinforcement of having done the job you needed to do in order to move towards your goals.
You don’t need me to tell you just how powerful this seemingly simple strategy can be in tackling tasks and goals, so that you’re being more productive and taking action every single day. Because if you’re not taking action, you’re not progressing. And if you’re not making progress with your work, your business is dying.
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Get the 'Get Things Done' worksheet to build habits of success and supercharge your productivity
To get the ball rolling immediately, I want you to do 3 things:
1. Download the worksheet that goes along with this post to identify one habit you want to build and focus on first
Note: It’s absolutely essential that you don’t start off being overambitious. I want to encourage you, but the surest way to fail is to spread yourself too thin. Start small, and remember that any progress, even 1% progress, leads you directly into a new, brighter path of success. So start small, and build up slowly as you go. And, TAKE ACTION DAILY. No weekly goals. It’s the daily repetition and consistency that will help you master the goal.
> If you want to build a consistent blogging schedule, begin by setting a daily target of X number of words you want to write.
> If you’re a business owner that’s struggling to keep up with social media, focus on only ONE platform and build a habit of posting once a day and interacting once a day for a maximum of X minutes a day.
> If you realise how important physical fitness is for being efficient in business, aim for a habit of doing 10 minutes of exercise daily or 10 push-ups every morning.
The strategy can be tweaked and applied endlessly, so find your own unique habit and goal, keep it simple, and go for it!
2. Focus on the WHY. I know you’ve heard this before, but knowing the reasons you want to change or do something is the first (and most enduring) burst of motivation and drive you’ll ever have access to. So don’t skip this step.
Use the worksheet to distill the MAIN reason you want to build the habits and come back to it every day while you’re still trying to discipline yourself to take action because at the start, it's especially difficult to hold on to the "keep on keeping on" feeling.
3. Lastly, identify the cost of NOT building these habits. What do you lose out on in the short-term or the long-term if you fail to focus on and build these habits? What does this cost your business or your blog?
So often we focus on only the positives because we’re afraid of confronting the fact that not taking action has larger consequences for us and our business. But I want you to be real with yourself. Use this section to remind yourself why you absolutely CANNOT afford to not take action. Imagine the worst, make it scary, and make it good. Let it fire you up.
Don’t wait for the next hour hour, day, week, month. Start NOW. The best way to move forward is to never leave without taking some action. So, DOWNLOAD THE WORKSHEET by clicking the image below and decide on the ONE goal to focus on first, and when you're confident about that, move on to a second and third goal.