Picture this: you wake up slowly on a dull, cloudy morning. Unable to sacrifice the warmth of your comforter for the Siberian temperatures of your bedroom, you decide to lay on your phone for a minute or two. This, as it always does, turns to fifteen minutes, which then turns to at least thirty, but possibly closer to an hour. As you eventually decide to look at the clock an inch above your Instagram feed, you’ve arrived at a conclusion: you’re not doing much today.
A lot of mindless scrolling and other time wasters are products of our own indecision. When we don’t know what we want to do, we almost immediately resort to our phones (or YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, video games, etc.). Ultimately, though, the easiest way to eliminate that wasted time is to remove that indecision.
The best way to do that, at least in my experience, is by being goal oriented. Setting daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals are fantastic ways to hold yourself accountable.
Contrary to what one might assume, daily goals are the most important ones. I mean, how are you supposed to fulfill your largest aspirations if you can’t motivate yourself to work out today?
At the beginning of each day (or the end of the previous one), I make a list of everything I’m going to do that day, with a few optional ones as well. They’re honestly more of to-do lists than personal goals, but doing this yields several benefits: it makes me feel productive and organized, gives me a genuine and concrete sense of accomplishment, and I know that I achieve more and am happier because of such a simple thing.
Turns out there’s research behind this, too – a 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews shows that people who wrote down their goals were 33% more likely to accomplish them as opposed to ones who simply thought of them.
Very few of my peers set daily goals in their lives, and that’s probably because it’s not something they ever thought of doing. I suppose, too, that it takes a good few minutes to write down everything you want to do every single day, and it could take time away from actually doing those things.
But I know that those few minutes I spend making my lists end up saving me time. Specifically, time that I would’ve wasted filling the indecisive gaps that are littered throughout my average day.
So how do you start? There are a few general keywords for setting goals that produce success: attainable, specific, rewarding, measurable, and, of course, written. Daily goals are probably the easiest to make, as they tend to work with most of the keywords already, but setting aspirations with longer time frames might be a more difficult fit.
Like most everything, creating success-producing, long term goals come with time and practice. As a journalism major and lifelong student, I see it as setting deadlines for myself. And as I learn to understand my tendencies and capabilities in both personal performance and deadline-setting, I will further improve on making these deadlines more and more effective.
I strongly urge you to begin setting goals, even if they’re only daily ones. Sit down and take the time to write the things you want to do today. And don’t lose patience. It takes much longer to think than to write.
Also, ask yourself what you truly want in life, and do it often. Setting goals can give you the introspection you need to turn those vague notions of “I want happiness, fulfillment, and success” into the actual, specific steps you need to get there.
So, here’s a new scenario: you wake up on that same frigid day. You still can’t get out of bed because, let’s be honest, that’s not changing just because you wrote it down last night. Upon checking your phone, though, you have a list of things that you’re going to do before this day is over.
It might be a few things. It might be an overwhelming amount. But hey, you’ve got about a 33% better chance to get them done now. So, that’s pretty cool.
Also published on Medium.