4 Practical Goal-Setting Methods That Will Help You Stay Focused Next Year

4 Practical Goal-Setting Methods That Will Help You Stay Focused Next Year

Ahead of setting your intentions for making 2018 the biggest, shiniest, most successful, lucrative year ever, here’s how you can keep some perspective on what’s feasible and what’s not.

We’ve all been there: It’s the week before a massive deadline hits, and for any number of reasons, your brain cells appear to be conspiring against the very idea of progress. You have two options: To power through, or to power through, like, right now.

But before you start gathering that momentum, there’s also the option of watching dogs jump on trampolines for a full four minutes. Or checking your Instagram feed for the 19th time since you woke up this morning. Or saying “yes” to that weekend trip you really shouldn’t, because that’s time you set aside for chipping away at your GOALS.

Whatever your rationale might be, giving in to procrastination functions much like a classic vice: You know it’s not good for you, and you know you’ll probably feel worse for it on the other side, and yet the prospect of it is so…delicious.

But numerous studies have backed up what all of us surely know simply from personal experience: Accomplishing what we set out to do, be it something small or lofty, brings the good feelings; notaccomplishing things we set out to do, either by pushing them further and further into the future or abandoning them altogether, brings the bad feelings.

So, how do we break the loop of stressing because we’re not meeting our goals, which breeds guilt and anxiety that makes you want to get things done evenless? Ahead of setting your intentions for making 2018 the biggest, shiniest, most successful, lucrative year ever, keep some perspective on what’s feasible and what’s not, by bringing equal doses of patience, kindness and realness to the self-bargaining process.

Take a long, hard look at your goals and assess how they’re fitting into the bigger picture

It’s easy (and tempting) to shape goals based off the endless influx of cultural messaging. But in an era where we’re already engaged in relentless comparisons with both our peers and celebrities on social media, defining goals according to standards set by pop culture can make for a potentially destructive approach.

It’s something that Alexandra Reed, registered dietician and resident Girlbossnutrition columnist, sees over and over again in clients that are looking to change their health habits. “Setting goals around weight loss with unrealistic timelines add stress and is a perfect recipe for failure,” she says.

Instead, she recommends taking a more holistic approach to the changes you want to make, and ensuring that you’re not creating a contentious dynamic between your mind and body:

“Take the focus off number. Focus more on the pleasure and joy. Check in by asking these questions: Are you enjoying your meals more? Do you have more energy? Is there an exercise class you actually enjoy going to? How do you feel about yourself? Sit down and take time to understand the motivation behind setting your resolutions.”

“Too often, we make resolutions for our future selves, often in the context of fitting into a swimsuit, dress, or another clothing item,” she says. “Set resolutions that benefit you, and not a piece of clothing.”

Be deliberate with how you spend your time (and stick to it)

Like gender, race, the patriarchy, and marriage, time is just a social construct, my dudettes. That being said, we’re pretty much stuck with it at this point, so might as well manage it as best as we can.

Productivity expert and author of the forthcoming book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, Laura Vanderkam, suggests that for a good many of us, the abstract nature of time may be the very thing that’s tripping us up.

“If you’re looking to manage your time better, the simplest place to start is figuring out where your time is going now. Many people have only a vague idea of where their time really goes,” she says. “But it’s better to work from actual data. After all, if you don’t know where your time is going now, how will you know if you’re changing the right thing? Maybe something you thought was a problem really isn’t. Maybe something you haven’t even thought about is taking more time than you imagined.”

She recommends physically keeping track of your time for a week to get a bigger picture of where your time is actually going, and from there, adjust as necessary to ensure you’re allotting your time in the most effective way.

Vanderkam cautions, too, against things that might feellike efficiency, but are, in fact, not: “People misjudge the nature of efficiency. They try to save bits of time here and there through various hacks, like cleaning the shower while you’re in it, or only typing ‘K’ instead of ‘OK’ in emails. These changes are not going to give you the life you want. It’s better to figure out what you want to spend your time doing,” she says, and to work backwards from there.

Establish a clear hierarchy of priorities

A major part of the struggle when it comes to setting goals is that we tend to paint them in broad, overly ambitious brushstrokes, i.e. “Dominate your industry!” or “Be three-thousand percent more productive this month!”

To combat our natural tendency to set super lofty goals for ourselves, Vanderkam recommends laying out a short list of concrete priorities in each section of your life:

“Plan your weeks on Friday afternoons. Think about your top priorities in three categories: Career, relationships, self,” she says. “It’s pretty hard to make a three-category list and then ignore one category, so that right there will give you a more balanced life. If you frontload your week with your top priorities, you will feel an amazing sense of momentum.”

Set your intentions, and then put down your smartphone

We all know by now that our smartphones are majorly messing with our productivity, brain activity and overall well-being, but let’s go over it one more time for good measure: We’re wasting a ton of time, as well as mental and emotional energy, on our smartphones, you guys!

A 2016 survey conducted by CareerBuilder of over 5,000 managers and employees found that 55 percent of respondents cited smartphones as the biggest source of distraction. How much closer could you get to realizing your intentions if you weren’t constantly distracted by an Instagram scrolling sesh that will do literally nothing positive for you?

“In my research, I’ve found that people who check their phones less frequently feel more relaxed about their time than people who check all the time,” says Vanderkam.

“Read, think deep thoughts, stare at the clouds—almost anything is a better use of time than staring at your inbox again.”