These mini-goals that we create give us a chance to reflect on what is working and adjust accordingly. When we do this, we become more efficient, decreasing our time wasted. For example, let’s say we want to learn guitar, but we are a complete novice. We decide that we want to learn 5 songs on the guitar in one year. There are several mini-goals we will need to reach along the way to have gained this skill. I like to search the internet to find what is almost like a SparkNotes for learning a new skill. Type in “how long does it take to learn the steps of ____.” I did this for guitar, and this is what I found from theguitarlesson.com:
“1-2 months: Play easy guitar songs (changing between and strumming of basic chords, single-string plucking songs with not much string jumping, chord arpeggios)
3-6 months: Play a bit more difficult songs, which require more technical elements. For example, songs requiring easier hammer-ons, pull-offs, and other easier lead guitar techniques.
1 year: Play intermediate level songs, including many very popular guitar songs, riffs, blues, and so on. You will probably start getting a more definitive feel for barre chords at around this time as well.”
Doing this quick research will give us excellent milestones to aim for with a skill we know nothing about. We now need to pick a specific date that we believe we will reach each mini-goal. This research doesn’t tell us how long each day that we will need to practice, but that is something we will become better at estimating with time. We will now break down these goals into even smaller ones. More research is required to find out what chords we need to know for the 5 songs we want to learn. For example, what strumming pattern can we use universally in all of these songs? Now, break everything down into daily activities.
The mini-goals we have put into place will not only benefit us through marking our process and inducing creativity due to the deadlines, but they also serve as the perfect place for reinforcing our behavior with small rewards. We can train our minds to enjoy the work we are putting in with the fundamental psychological rule of positive reinforcement. It doesn’t have to be a huge reward as long as we put something in place. For each of these mini-goals, we will need to assign deadlines.
Deadlines have been part of our lives since our school years, and they don’t go away. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my fourth year of college that I became proficient in this area. I’m embarrassed to say that, up until then, I was a major procrastinator. I justified this behavior by the fact that I’m much more creative, and my mind works much faster when I’m in a time crunch.
When we are assigned a task, our brains automatically calculate how long it will take to complete it. If it is a large task, and we have 5 months until the deadline, our mind will tell us to procrastinate because it knows we have the capability of finishing it in 5 weeks if we work on it a few hours a day. But, as we approach the 5-week mark, the overconfidence bias comes in, and we decide we can finish it in 2 intense weeks.
However, in such a short period of time, our best work cannot be sustained for the necessary hours of work. We may get it done, but it will be far from our best work. Continuing the use of the school analogy, even if we make an A on a 2,500-word essay written the night before, that just shows the potential we had if we started on it much earlier. Still, I didn’t want to lose the creative flow I would get into when I had a deadline.
So, depending on the size of the project or paper, I started setting 4 or 5 incremental deadlines I would have to meet. I would treat these just like they were the real thing but break down the project, either in 1/4 or 1/5, depending on how many increments I set. Many goals will require much more time than this, but the same simple formula applies.
When it gets to this point, we may become overwhelmed by how much time it looks like it is going to take us, but even if we only devote 30 minutes a day to our goal, that will carry us a long way.
If this is the case, then ask yourself, “Is my goal worth 30 minutes a day?” When we frame it this way in our minds and see how little time we are going to be investing to reach our desired outcome, then it won’t seem like too much to ask of ourselves. 30 minutes is only 2% of our day! If you did answer no, then the goal you have picked probably is not the right goal for you.
This equation allowed me to be much more productive and alleviated most of the stress that accompanies the real deadline. It also gave me ample time to review my work, and if something unexpected came up the day it was due, it didn’t create a crisis. The blueprint for our goals needs to work the same way. We must have a deadline for our main goal, break down the construction job into allotted segments and plan incremental deadlines accordingly. I go into much more detail about this in my book, Goal Setting: Habits to Achieve Your Goals and Succeed in the Life You Want.
Whenever we complete a task, our brain releases dopamine. This feel-good hormone is another benefit of having these incremental deadlines set up for yourself. This release of dopamine will be associated with the goal you are striving to achieve, thus giving you more motivation to reach the end. The amount of dopamine released is based on the size of the task we have completed.
Setting the deadlines is a step that you will need to reevaluate each week, especially in the beginning, to adjust for how long tasks take compared to your estimation. Pick a specific day and time each week to devote to this.
One reason some people will give up on their goals is because they underestimated the time or the amount of work necessary to reach it. When this occurs, we need to take a moment, see how far we have come from our starting point, enjoy the fact that we are getting better, and recognize we are that much closer to realizing our goal than we were before.
If you’d like a fillable blue print to truly understand what it takes you achieve your goals, simply click below.