I was delighted when Ashley asked if I would be interested in guest posting on Mama Says Namaste. She could not have had better timing. Her recent series about overwhelm aligns perfectly with some changes I’ve made in the way I approach tasks.
I imagine I’m not the only one who has struggled to move past overwhelm and make progress on big hairy goals. Goal setting is a tricky thing. If I set my goals too small, I have a tendency to stop and be content when I achieve them. When I make my goals too big, overwhelm can set in and I procrastinate or focus my attention on the wrong thing.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about goal setting is that there’s not a one size fits all approach. We are all wired differently, have diverse backgrounds, and are uniquely motivated. As we level up in life, so do our challenges. Goal setting a process of monitoring and refining in a way that grows along with you.
As the last year came to an end, I noticed that a few of my goals were not close to being completed. What’s interesting, and slightly embarrassing, is that some of these were the same goals I didn’t finish the previous year. Knowing that these goals need to happen for my husband and me to get to our next stage in life, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what’s been going wrong.
I’m going to be completely honest with you about what I discovered in the hope that it will offer insight to those who have encountered similar struggles. First, I recognized that I have a couple serious Upper Limit Problems. The idea of Upper Limit Problems was created by Psychologist Gay Hendricks and explained in his book, The Big Leap. In the book he identifies four beliefs that keep us from moving to the next level of success. I identified and am working on two of the four.
The other problem I identified was overwhelm. My goal list is a series of big, time-consuming, expensive, and terrifying goals. Things like decluttering a house we’ve lived in for fourteen years. Or restoring a 98-year-old bungalow that hasn’t been loved in a long time. Then there’s the most terrifying goal of all, publishing my first ebook.
While I made progress on these goals, I was nowhere near what I would consider acceptable. I knew something needed to change. I spent some time thinking about how I was tackling these tasks and what I could do better.
I have been a long time believer in batching tasks. In theory, it’s a great idea and I still use it for some things, like errands. But it wasn’t helping me achieve my big goals.
I wondered what would happen if instead of scheduling a month’s worth of weekends to downsize my office, I spent just 30 minutes each day engaged in the task. The idea seemed ludicrous. There are nearly twenty years of paperwork in there that needs to be filed, scanned or shredded. Not just normal personal paperwork. I have always worked remotely, so there are 15 years of performance appraisals, business plans, and expense reports. And then we have our volunteer materials and my husband’s work files … Thirty minutes a day could never break through that clutter.
But you know what they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I knew I needed to try something drastically different, so I decided to give it a shot.
Remember what I said about how goal setting isn’t a one size fits all approach? It’s important to understand how we’re uniquely wired and motivated to do our best work. For example, I am intrinsically motivated and checking things off the list gets me pretty fired up.
With that in mind, I thought that it might work to break these big goals down into small daily habits. I already shared the example of spending 30 minutes each day decluttering. To that, I added tasks like:
- spend one hour each day working on my most important work goal
- keep morning routine under one hour
- limit email and social media to twice per day
I asked myself,
What do I need to do each day to live my best life and achieve my long-term goals?
Next, I figured out how much time I could comfortably dedicate to each task. Then I entered those habits into a habit tracking app called Coach.me.
In an effort to best help my readers, and to practice what I preach, I started right away. As I write this, I’m forty days into this experiment and am ecstatic with the results. I didn’t hit every habit each day, but I made more progress this month than I ever had with the previous method.
Here are some of my stats for January, which included a weeklong vacation:
- I practiced becoming a better writer by writing seventeen days.
- I dedicated more than seventeen hours to my most important work project and completed my target five days ahead of schedule.
- I spent more than eight hours downsizing my home office and have shredded hundreds of pounds of paperwork.
- I spent quality time connecting with my spouse twenty-one days and exercised thirty days.
This strategy might not work for everyone. It might not work for me five years from now. The important thing is that you’re paying attention.
Start by setting goals so that you have something to measure. When something’s not working, dig deep to figure out why. Gain an understanding of what works best for you and experiment with new tactics, even if they seem ludicrous.
I’d love to hear how you’ve worked through similar roadblock and overwhelm.