Time management Monday: How and when to work toward your goals

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Last Monday here on Quo Vadis blog I had tips on how to set achievable goals. Today I’ll give you some tips on how and when to work toward your goals.

There are several schools of thought on working toward goals. Here are some:

Daily: Many long-term goals are best achieved if you work on them daily. Somewhere I read about comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break The Chain method. His goal was to write every day. Every day he wrote, he drew a big X on that day on his calendar. He wanted an X on every day, and didn’t want to break his chain of Xs, so he wrote every day. This simple, visual method is very motivating.

Many long-term goals are best done daily, especially things related to your health like exercise, eating your 5 fruit and veg a day, and drinking enough water. Writing a certain number of words per day, knitting, creating a quilt, or other slow-and-steady goals may be best done daily.

Usually with these types of things, if you fall out of your routine it can be hard to get back into it. Just make it a part of your day, schedule time for it, and do it daily. Simple trackers such as the one described above can help motivate you in these daily goals.

The Daily method works well for: people who like to get into the flow and have a daily habit/ routine. They don’t have to think about whether to do the activity or not, it’s just a part of their daily life.

Days Off: Not everyone works well with the Daily method. Some people get burnt out doing an activity every day. For example I do my best writing when I’ve had a couple of days off. I have fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm.

If you find yourself in a rut or are feeling burnt out, take a break from the activity. Do something else. Don’t even think about it for a few days. When you come back to it, you should feel refreshed and ready to get back at it.

The peril with this method is letting your days off stretch into never getting back into it. Give yourself a designated number of days off, then schedule time to get back into your efforts.

The Days Off method works well for: people who get burnt out on daily activities and come back fresh after a break.

The Trial Period: Big changes can be intimidating, and if you think the change has to be forever you might not even get started. Implementing the change for only a certain amount of time, a month for example, gives you the motivation to get started.

For example if you want to give up sugar, but the thought of never having a donut again depresses you, tell yourself you’ll only do it for a month. After that, see how you feel. If you feel much better without sugar, feeling great might be motivation enough to not want a donut after all. But after a month if you miss eating sugar, you might switch to a Days Off method where you don’t eat sugar except for one cheat day per week.

The Trial Period method works well for: people who want to get into a new activity but don’t want to commit to it forever right at the start.

A Certain amount of time: For intense goals, it’s best to only work toward them for a certain amount of time such as a month or 12 weeks.

Some intense goals can be hard to sustain long term. For example an increased exercise program or an intensive language course can get you going and help you notice results quickly, but these types of activities are often time consuming and are difficult to maintain long term. After the intensive weeks, you can switch to a longer-term method at a reduced intensity (such as Daily or Days Off).

The Certain amount of time method works well for: people who want to jump-start a new activity and see results quickly.

Which method you use depends on your personality and which type of goal you’re working on. It might also depend on the time of year. For example it might be easier to do an intensive exercise program in the summer when you have better weather and more daylight to work out, then switch to a maintenance program over the winter.

Most people use some or all of these, for different goals. Some things are best done daily, some things benefit from an occasional break, and other things get fast results with an intense start. Feel free to experiment to figure out what works best for you!

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