Today’s post is all about implementing step-based goals. If that means nothing to you, check this post out!
I kind of love step-based goals. There is nothing quite like looking at something enormous that needs to be done, breaking it down, doing it, and then looking back and seeing what you’ve done. What a sense of achievement! The best thing is, once it’s done, it’s done, and no one can ever take that away from you.
The only problem is that those two tiny words – “doing it” – are essential to the whole enterprise, and that’s where many of us fall down. Unfortunately, with step-based goals, not doing them leaves you with a trail of disappointments and a feeling of failure. I talked about forgiving yourself in this post. Let’s look now at how we can work towards future success.
The best advice I’ve heard on the implementation of step-based goals is to break them down further into, you guessed it, steps.
However – be careful!
I have sometimes gone wrong in the past by trying to break down a step-based goal into all the possible steps (which takes quite a lot of research in itself), and then writing an extensive, thorough, time-based plan on how to get all the steps done, which leads to a lot of delay in getting started and some crazy feelings of overwhelm. Then, I get started, and find that my plan wasn’t right anyway, because I’m doing something new and I didn’t really know the process. By this time, I’ve pretty much lost all interest and motivation, and I have no momentum.
The key secret here is this: you don’t need a plan for the whole process. It’s really important to build momentum at the start of the implementation phase, and you only need a plan for your first few steps. This is how you do it (these tips are an amalgamation of experience, and wisdom from the pros, see end of the post for credits).
First, take out an enormous piece of paper (or, you know, open a word processor) and write down everything you can think of that might be a step you would want to take towards that goal. Don’t research anything, don’t worry about order, and don’t worry about things that may be wrong. Just write down whatever comes into your head. So if your goal is “write a book” write down everything you can think of that might go into writing a book. If it’s “start a business” write down all the steps you can think of that might be involved in starting a business – in any order.
Good, now you’ve cleared your head a bit of some of that overwhelm. That piece of paper is going to stay live as an ongoing brainstorm list, so any time in the future you think of something you need to do in relation to your step goal, write it down on that piece of paper. This document is your Master Brainstorm doc.
Secondly, you need to make a start plan. It doesn’t matter if your first few steps are the “right” steps, because wherever you start, the iterative approach you are going to take is going to channel you into a path towards your goal. What you want to do is take one or two of the things you’ve written down that you think might be a good place to start, and break them down into action points that take no more than about 15 minutes each (Chalene Johnson, from whom I learned the idea of the mini action points, suggests breaking it down into tasks that take 10 minutes or less each. I think 20-25 minutes would work better, but since we tend to be unrealistic about how much we can achieve in a set amount of time let’s stick to 15 minutes for now). Keep doing this until you’ve written about five to ten of these mini action points.
Thirdly, schedule at least half an hour in your diary every weekday to do one of your mini action points. Yup, just one is enough (unless of course this is your job, in which case one is probably nowhere near enough) but allow yourself a buffer! Also schedule one of these slots each fortnight to be a “review and plan” time.
Fourthly, start doing your mini action points! I would highly recommend that your first action point is to talk to someone who has already achieved a similar step-goal, if you can, for just ten minutes, and ask them what they would do first if they were starting again. You’ll get more from ten minutes of talking to someone who has already done this than you will from an hour of internet search engines.
As you’re doing your action points, keep track of two things:
- Any new ideas for what you need to do to achieve this goal – these get recorded on your Master Brainstorm
- What you’ve done
A great resource for this is mytomatoes.com It’s a super simple online pomodoro technique timer. Basically, it sets a timer for 25 minutes, then asked you what you did in those 25 minutes. It then gives you a 5 minute break, before suggesting you focus again for another 25 minutes.
I suggest that when it is time for your scheduled half hour, you sign in, start the tomato timer, and work with total focus on your mini action point of that day till the timer goes off. Then write down in the little box what you did. The timer keeps you accountable for not spending too little or too much time on your goal, and it also keeps track of what you have done in a really simple way. If you do this, I expect you will be amazed at how quickly you gain momentum towards your goal.
Fifthly, use your scheduled slot once a fortnight to review and plan. During this time, use your 25 minutes to look at your Master Brainstorm document, decide what steps are next, and break them down into mini action points for the coming week.
As you can see, this is a cyclical process. It’s a great way of gaining momentum towards a step-goal when you haven’t got a big chunk of time to set aside for it, and when you may not know enough about it to know where to start. Of course, if you have several hours a day to work towards your goal, you can still use this process, you just get to do more 25-minutes “tomatoes” each day.
Here’s the plan in brief:
- Create your Master Brainstorm by writing down everything you can think of that you might need to do to achieve your goal.
- Make a start plan by breaking down some of the steps on your Master Brainstorm into five to ten mini-action points, each of which will take no longer than 15 minutes to achieve.
- Schedule half an hour every weekday to start doing your action points. Schedule one ‘review & plan’ slot per fortnight.
- Do it! As you do, record what you’ve done and any new ideas that come up on your Master Brainstorm doc.
- Use your planned slot once a week to review & plan the coming week.
That’s it. ‘Step’ to it! (Haha)
As usual there are worksheets, sign up below to get yours.
With due credit and gratitude to…
…Dick Bolles for drilling in to me the importance of informational interviewing through his fantastic book What Colour Is Your Parachute?
…Chalene Johnson for the idea of a master brainstorm list and doing one ten minute mini-action-points a day.
…Michael Hyatt for the wisdom on making a plan to start, rather than starting with an extensive plan.
Featured Image by Jake Hills via Unsplash