Have you ever clarified something you really wanted to achieve, could see that it was possible, but just haven’t accomplished it? Clarifying your goals and intentions can be energising, and creates a sense of optimism and self-mastery. But, if you don’t strategise, this energy can quickly fade, with the goal becoming like a New Year’s resolution that hasn’t been achieved (only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals).
8 Easy Steps To Clear and Sustained Focus:
To create clear and sustained focus and to accomplish your longer-term goals and projects, follow these steps:
Begin with your dreams and desires, and clarify these by using SMARTER goals. These goals are specific, meaningful, achievable, relevant, timed and also able to be evaluated and re-adjusted over time. For example, the desire to be a better manager could be clarified as “Improve my management skills by facilitating fortnightly individual meetings with my reports, and asking more open-ended questions about their current work. Ensure all these meetings are booked by the end of this month.” Remember, SMARTER goals are easier to action, evaluate and accomplish.
2. Know Why
Writing down the reasons why accomplishing the goal benefits you is a powerful and under-utilised way to maintain focus. The reasons don’t have to be logical; some can and should be lateral and link to other aspects of your life. Examples for accomplishing the manager’s goal mentioned above could include: enhances connection and relationships; builds my communication skills; expanding my communication skills will help improve communication with my kids too, etc.
Having a deep understanding of why you want to accomplish a goal builds sustainable inspiration and focus. If you can’t come up with at least 15 reasons (yes that may seem a lot), then consider ditching your goal – you are far less likely to accomplish it if it’s not aligned with your true values.
3. Develop a Plan and Continue to Refine Your Plan
We’ve all heard that goals are meaningless without a plan. You don’t need to know everything that you will do to accomplish your goal, but you do need to identify several steps that you can action immediately.
As part of your planning, consider setting micro-deadlines. Make sure that the deadlines are something you will take seriously. Involving someone else can be powerful in holding yourself accountable. For example, if you have a goal to save $X in 12 months, ask your accountant to check in with you each quarter.
Be sure to also envision obstacles as part of your planning and identify what you will do when you hit an obstacle. Research suggests that people who incorporate the “if-then planning technique” are between two and three times more likely to achieve their goals.
4. Review and Reflect
Regularly review your goals – daily is optimal. Make daily review easy by posting your goals in a highly-visible location such as the bathroom mirror or fridge.
As part of your reflection process it’s wise to be grateful for the steps you have taken. Regularly acknowledging your progress (even your small steps) will create more momentum than placing too much attention on what you haven’t done.
Tracking and reviewing the metrics associated with your goal provides valuable objective feedback and increases accountability. In the example of the manager’s goal, you could record how many individual meetings you facilitate each fortnight and give yourself a rating on how well you asked open-ended questions. You could also bravely ask your team to give you feedback on how well they feel you are doing.
5. Involve All Your Senses
Involving your senses as you plan and review your goals is an awesome way to create sustained focus. Imagine what you will hear, see, smell and feel both as you are working towards your goal and when you have accomplished it. Other ideas include:
- Creating a vision board of pictures associated with you accomplishing your goal
- Assigning a colour and symbol to represent your goal
- Recording and listening to your own voice saying affirmations that support the attainment of your goal
- Creating dance moves that you do when you read your goal
- Associating a favourite song with your goal.
The more fun you can inject, the better!
6. Habits and Rituals
Habits and rituals help to make behaviours more automatic. Consider how can you make a habit of reviewing your goals by building it into your morning and/or evening ritual. For instance, add prompts like these to your end-of-day shutdown checklist:
- What tasks (that are aligned with my goals) have I completed today?
- What tasks can I do tomorrow to move closer to my goals?
- What am I grateful for in relation to the progress I have made with this goal?
You might find you get greater results from handwriting versus typing your reflections. The act of writing engages different areas of the brain and enables greater memory recall, critical thinking and conceptual development. There are some great journals available such as the Self Journal that has prompts to support reflection.
7. Rest and rejuvenate
Creating and sustaining focus to accomplish your longer-term goals and projects takes time, conscious effort and discipline. It tends to be the first thing that drops when you feel tired and worn-out. Prioritising rest and renewal is vital! Notice the activities that nourish and rejuvenate you and remember to make time for self-care.
8. Just do it
You’ve clarified, planned, created habits of regular review, are feeling rested and have relevant tasks recorded on your daily to-do list. Now allocate time in your schedule to do the things that will move you closer to your goals. The Eat That Frog strategy of accomplishing important (and often not urgent) things early in the day can be a game changer. Accomplishing tasks that will move you closer to your goals will inevitably see you hone your prioritisation skills and learn how to say “no” to things that aren’t aligned.
So if you want to increase your focus and accomplish things that are important to you, start with steps 1 and 2 now! Clarify a goal and write as many reasons as you possibly can that support why you want to accomplish it!