Writing down your goals


Evidence from longitudinal studies indicates that writing down your goals makes it much more likely that you will achieve them. But where and how do you write them?

For some time now I’ve been using virtual sticky notes as screen savers on my laptop for goals.

Big picture goals can be captured in a long range or medium term (maybe weeks or months) list of things you want to achieve. You might want to add an inspirational quote in another note to mirror the big picture goal. I’ve got one by the writer JD Salinger and its a constant reminder of the way I want to write. It’s a daily inspiration.

On a day to day basis we need to move from big picture thinking of where we want to get to how we’re going to get there and it can be very helpful to have living documents of daily or weekly goals. Using virtual sticky notes is a constant reminder of these goals.

I thought that after a while I’d sort of forget to do the notes or lose interest but instead I’ve grown to rely on this system as a way of achieving more focus in various work projects and in other tasks (I’ve got at least one sticky note too for non work stuff). So I use these notes as living documents to delete items, add items and review the lists themselves. I use different colours for daily , weekly and long term lists and also to differentiate work from non work lists. Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits has inspired a Daily Practices list as well.

While the research links writing goals down to eventual success in terms of getting where you want to be, I think that it also helps to relieve the day to day stress of trying to remember what it is we have to do. So dumping everything on a list leaves us free to get on with things. Its all in one place and I don’t have to worry about remembering things. That shouldn’t be underestimated because if you’re a scatterbrain like me, it can take a lot of energy trying to keep track of everything.

There’s the constant visual reminder of your goals simply because, if its on your screen saver, you’re going to keep seeing these lists all the time.

Finally written goals give focus and purpose so you begin to see a pattern to the things you write down, what it is that you really consider to be important, what you want to give time to, what is worthwhile whether that’s a daily swim or a new work project.

What can I say? It works. Its a tracking system, a reminder system and a way of keeping focus. I like it a lot. In fact I’m addicted and along with gratitude writing (more of that again) its an integral part of my routine.

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