If you want to achieve something and really go somewhere, you have to have a game plan. Making the plan is just the first step, and where people typically falter is in following through. And if you want to be a success story rather than a never-heard-of, you absolutely must set yourself up so it's easy to do what you said you were going to do.
Identify and intentionally rewrite your mental scripts.
Mental scripts are simply patterns of thought that we tend to have in given situations or circumstances. For instance, if you always have a cup of coffee when you work on your email, then the script might be, go get coffee, add creamer, then open your email app. Or if you struggle with confidence, you might tell yourself, "I'm going to mess this up" or "Jane Schmane would never consider me for Project X."
Mental scripts can keep you embedded in specific daily behaviors so that adopting behaviors necessary to execute your plan is difficult. Practice recognizing those scripts without judgment as they float through your brain. Write them down and analyze when they tend to happen--that is, try to figure out your triggers.
Then, rather than avoiding those triggers, identify new scripts you intentionally can mentally recite when you're exposed to them. Little by little, you'll create a new truth for yourself and tolerate your triggers better, which will let you execute well instead of getting derailed.
Give yourself visual or audio reminders.
Just like a mantra trains your brain to follow a specific line of thought, repeated visual or audio reminders about your next task in the plan normalize the task in your thinking. The more normalized the task mentally becomes, the more likely it is that you'll feel comfortable with breaking previous mental scripts that keep you away from the job.
The reminders also ensure that you know well in advance what's on the agenda, which reduces stress that can make you more likely to bail.
To make the reminders especially effective, pair them with a note about what you're looking forward to or how you'll learn or grow from completing the work. This will help you focus on the benefits and see your plan positively.
Put all your tools within view and easy reach.
Having the tools necessary for your plan at the ready works as a visual reminder of what's on your plate. But one major pain point that often results in inaction is preparing to work--if you're already tired and stressed, the bother of having to set yourself up can make you want to procrastinate.
Organizing yourself so that things consistently are easy to find and access will eliminate this excuse and save you time. Simple examples might be putting fruit in a basket on your table if you want to eat better, or finding a browser extension to save tabs in individual sessions for later.
Find someone to hold you accountable.
This can be a teammate, family member, mentor or even people on a social media group. Sharing your plans with these individuals means they can keep you on track, not just with a standard "Is it done?", but also guiding you through trouble areas and giving you the encouragement and feedback you need. This support is essential to combating feelings of loneliness and stress as you work.
Make a Plan B (or even C and D).
The idea here isn't to change the goal, but rather to have more than one way of reaching the same original objective. For instance, if you want to organize your office with new bookshelves, your Plan A might be to have the store deliver them after your purchase, while your Plan B might be to rent a truck and pick them up yourself.
With these contingency plans in place, you'll have no excuse to quit, because there are many viable ways to complete the work. Clarify for yourself the point at which you'll shift to your alternate strategy or method, however, especially if the plan requires effort and investments from other people who need to know if and how you're progressing. This way, you can objectively assess what to do with zero guilt and not waste time.
Plans might contain a given pathway toward a goal, but they often lack details that allow for greater accountability. For example, don't just say that a step of the plan is to do research--detail which outlets you'll look into, as well as the date and time for the investigation.
If there's one thing leaders run short on, it's time. But self-care, such as getting adequate sleep, preparing healthy meals and enjoying hobbies, has a drastic influence on brain and general physical function. And that influences your decision-making and ability to push through the tasks in your plan.
This is the fun part. Whenever you anticipate a reward, your brain releases chemicals--e.g., dopamine--that keep you curious, motivated and happy. So regularly give yourself something to look forward to at given milestones in your work. Once you've got good habits for the plan and just need to stay the course, however, switch to intermittent rewards--research shows that the spontaneity actually becomes more motivating.
Setting a goal is all well and good, but a goal without action is just a sentence--it is following through that turns a goal into a laudable achievement you can be proud of. If you arm yourself with these strategies consistently, you'll find that what you once thought was out of reach is very much accessible.