I went to the gym yesterday and, predictably, it was packed. Still bathed in that post-New Year's flush of optimism, everyone was busily pursuing their fitness resolutions. But as you've no doubt both read and personally experienced, initial enthusiasm fades and most of these new gym goers will soon be back to their couch potato ways.
Richard Branson thinks he has the antidote to this very human tendency to let our dreams fall by the wayside. On his blog recently the Virgin founder used the beginning of the New Year to share the details of his own goal-setting (and achieving) strategy.
The backbone of his process is dead simple: Write your goals down. But in the post he offers a straightforward five-step plan for actually sticking to them even when life throws obstacles in your way.
1. Don't self-censor.
Many of us agonize about what goals to set (or even how to track our progress). Not Branson. He's a big believer in the mind-dump school of goal setting. Don't censor yourself or succumb to analysis paralysis. Just get everything down as it comes to you, however you can.
"Write down every single idea you have. No idea is too small, and no idea is too big, either. On a notebook, on your phone, or on a napkin -- it doesn't matter where, it just matters that you do it," he insists.
2. Multiple lists are better.
If keeping one goal list is good, keeping several is even better. "Have a few lists," he instructs. "One of far off, outlandish goals and another of manageable tasks to complete every day. This way you can set your vision and be taking steps to get there each day. Make sure you have personal goals as well as business goals. There's no real separation between work and life, it's all just living. The same goes for lists."
3. Cheer yourself with checkmarks.
Part of the joy of writing down small, daily goals is that you soon get to check them off, and checking off goals feels awesome (even if it's just picking up the dry cleaning). "Mark off every completed task. There are few more satisfying things than ticking off a job well done. Celebrate your successes (and make more lists of new goals)," Branson writes.
4. Measure your way to success.
How about the bigger goals? You won't be able to check them off completely anytime soon, but if you break them down into smaller steps, you can at least see your progress, which should help keep you motivated and on track.
"Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working. There's no point setting targets if you don't know if you are hitting them," Branson sensibly observes.
5. Share your goals with others.
This advice is somewhat controversial, but Branson is solidly in the camp of those who say committing to a dream publicly makes you more likely to reach it. "You can help motivate each other further and hold each other to account. But remember that, in the end, you are doing this for yourself," he concludes.