We constantly hear advice about how to stay focused on our goals. Write them down. Keep them visible. Break them down into smaller parts. Create trackers. All great advice to get you started. All of these get you honed in on what you want to achieve and get organized to start taking action.
But what does the day-to-day look like?
Everyday motivation is where I get a little stuck. I’ve tried everything to stay focused on my goals but I’ve found that I lose steam when I hit the dreaded plateaus. This happens when tasks take longer than anticipated to complete or the work I’ve completed doesn’t pay off immediately. It feels like nothing is getting done.
How do I stay motivated during times when it doesn’t feel like progress is happening but it is?
To solve for this, I took a look at what keeps me motivated in the first place – what feels like a win? For me, it’s the sensation of crossing things off my list. Being able to say, “I did this,” gives me a sense of accomplishment, no matter how big or small.
Using that as a foundation, I started doing two things every day that changed my life.
Set Daily Priorities
Every night before going to bed, I set my priorities for the next day. I do it at night so I don’t lose sight of what’s important after the morning email flood. I stay strategically aligned by considering where my day ended and where I’d like the next day to take me. In other words, setting my daily priorities the night before firmly keeps me in the seat of being proactive instead of reactive.
Another important factor in setting these priorities is that they aren’t always productive tasks. Action items are important but sometimes my priority for the next day may be a mindset or development. For example, “pace is important” on a day that will be particularly full or “healthy conflict takes partnership” for difficult conversations.
Before going to bed, I take five minutes (yes, I set a timer) to write down all the small things that happened that day that got me closer to my goals – I call them my “Inches.” How did I inch toward my goals today? It’s a rapid-fire bullet-pointed list that includes things like “went to Pilates,” “read HBR case study,” and “rewrote mailing list Welcome Email.” Too often, we ignore the significance of the little things that make big things happen. This activity allows me to redefine what a “win” is and give all the little contributors to progress their due recognition.
This activity may be hard to do on particularly rough days. To ensure it doesn’t work against me on those days I felt I didn’t do anything, I created a list of goals to keep handy to prompt me. I simply work my way through the list asking, “What did I do today that serves…”
On a personal note, I’ve also found this a healthier alternative to a habit tracker for my personality type. The issue I’ve run into with habit trackers is it’s so great to see all the things I’m consistently doing… until I miss a few days. Then all the things I didn’t do are in my face and the guilt/shame starts to set in. Shifting to logging my inches keeps me solely focused on what I accomplished without comparing to a list of “should haves.”
Taking fifteen minutes before bed every day to write down my priorities and jot down my inches has made my mindset more positive and facilitated effortlessly tracking my progress. My goals stay top of mind and I give myself credit for taking even the smallest action toward achieving them – a big win on both fronts.
Give this a try and let me know how it works for you! Is there something you add or do differently? Let me know below.
Want a few recommendations for journaling tools? Check out my favorites.