October 11, 2018

How to achieve goals like a boss


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A study suggests suggests we need to change our approach on how to achieve goals by stop focusing on the goals itself and rather focus on the processes and habits.

I was scanning an article recently about productivity when a sub-headline caught my attention: 

 Stop focusing on your goals!

 What? Wait a minute...I thought

Are we not constantly told to have a long-term vision, to create goals towards that vision and to keep track of our progress? 

Well yes, but it looks like we are missing an important piece. 

The article quoted two studies that suggested that focusing too much on our desired outcomes may actually make us less likely to achieve them.


The article goes on explaining that these studies found out that instead of focusing on our goals we need to focus on our processes. Instead of creating outcome oriented goals, we need to create process oriented goals. 

Outcome-oriented versus Process-oriented

So for example instead of setting the goal to have your office decluttered before the end of the year" (=outcome oriented) set the goal of decluttering your office for 15 minutes each day (= process oriented). 

The advantage of this is also, that you can more easily track your progress, it's more tangible. 

This means, you still are going to dream big and create a bold vision for yourself, your life and your business. Then you are going to break it down into manageable goals or milestones that you must achieve to be on track towards your vision.

But now comes the critical next step, instead of just focusing on those milestones, you need to create a process oriented goal for that milestone. 

Let's explore another example:

Let's say your vision is to downsize from your house on acreage to a smaller apartment in town within the next 3 years. Currently your house is packed to the brim with stuff from the last 25 years, all that stuff wouldn't fit into a smaller apartment.

The goal therefore is to become clutter-free and only have what you need now and in the future before moving. 

This is a good goal but, and achievable in 3 years, But it is outcome oriented and can be overwhelming. Even if you break it down into the different rooms and said by that date my bedroom is decluttered, by the next date the living room is decluttered etc, this outcome oriented approach could trip you up.

The more time we have until the goal needs to be accomplished the more we are prone to procrastinate until we don't have much time left and then we feel overwhelmed, stressed and in panic. 

So what you need to do is to create a process-oriented goal like:

  • you decide how many items you are going to declutter per day or 
  • how many minutes or hours you are going to declutter each week. 

Then you track your progress and it is real easy to see whether you did it or not, you either decluttered as many items or minutes as you had planned or you didn't. 

Binary actions

The more clear we are on our goal and how to get there, the better. So process-oriented goals consist of actions steps you take that are tangible and can get tracked with a yes I did it, or no I didn't do it. 

James Wedmore calls this "binary actions" you either did it or you didn't (see his Youtube Video or listen to this podcast episode). 

Let's look at another example: 

You want to get a handle on your financial files for 2018. Even though you promised yourself as a New Years Resolution you would take care of them on a weekly basis, you procrastinated and now all the files are scattered all over the place instead of being organized by month or category in your filing system. 

The goal-oriented outcome is to have all files collected, sorted and recorded by the end of November. But again, the progress of this outcome oriented goal is not easily tracked, you don't know what the first, second or next step is that you need to do. This makes you prone to procrastinate and to get overwhelmed. 

Instead, create a series of process-oriented goal like

  • spend 5 minutes each and every day to find and collect all financial paperwork and place it into a box. Once you feel you have them all together
  • spend 5 minutes each and every day to sort your papers by month and/or category. When all papers are sorted
  • spend 5 minutes each day to enter receipts into your bookkeeping system or
  • enter 5 receipts into your bookkeeping system each day. 

You see how easy it is to see if you did it or not and to track your progress? 

Important for process-oriented goals is (what Jame's Wedmore also points out very strongly), that these tasks must be 100% under your control, they can't depend on anybody else. 

What I like most about this is, that my slogan is process oriented  

A few minutes a day keep chaos away. 

Decluttering and organizing for a few minutes every day is a process-oriented goal and activity, you either do it or not, and over time it will get you to your outcome oriented goal. 

Have you tried this before or is this a new concept for you? I'd love to hear your feedback, tell me what you think in the comments below,

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