Whether you’re decluttering your house, starting a new fitness program, or building a business, we all want to see progress, and we want to see it quickly. Being patient is hard, and more importantly, seeing progress is motivating. The sooner you see progress, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going.
If you can find ways to see progress quickly, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it and see your work through until the end. Even though it may take years to fully realize some goals, that early progress can make or break your focus and determination.
With that, here are 3 things that you can do to see faster progress toward your goals so that you stick with it and build a life that you love to live (or just finally finish decluttering and reorganizing).
1. Focus your efforts in one area.
You’ve probably got a lot of goals, especially if you hang out around here often. Inside of those goals, you probably have mini-goals.
Rather than spending a bit of time each day on each of those things, pick just one and focus all of your efforts on it for a while.
Not only will focusing your efforts on just one mini-goal at a time help you to see progress more quickly, but it will also keep you from feeling overwhelmed and will solidify those habits more deeply so that they stick long-term.
As you focus on one specific area, you’ll become more comfortable and capable in that area, helping to speed up your progress even more. As you focus on eating cleaner, for example, you’ll get better at meal prepping, creating healthy meals, making healthy snack choices, and turning down those office donuts.
All of that practice will have you seeing consistent results in no time, and when you decide it’s time to start focusing your efforts on the next mini-goal—for instance, working out consistently—you’ll be able to maintain your healthy eating habits more easily because you’ve solidified them.
Tackling each mini-goal one at a time will have you enjoying the results of your hard work in no time!
You can also take this advice very literally. I often use this when cleaning my apartment. Rather than spending ten minutes each cleaning three different rooms, I’ll focus those thirty minutes all in one room. You can make quite a lot of progress in thirty minutes, and it will be much more visible if it’s all focused in one area.
Don’t forget the 80/20 rule.
From what I can tell, there are several 80/20 rules, but the one that I’m referencing here is the 80/20 rule that says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.
When you’re figuring out where to focus your energy, determine which actions produce results, and stick with those. Sure, you could spend your thirty minutes of cleaning on reorganizing the contents of your desk drawer, but you’ll see way more results if you focus on picking up the clothes that are on the floor and putting them away.
If you’re not sure which 20% of your work brings the most results, ask yourself where you’ve seen results already. What did you do to bring those results? If you haven’t seen any progress yet, consult someone who has done what you’re doing and ask about their experience. Then focus the majority of your energy on those actions that are directly bringing the results you want.
2. Get consistent.
Even though focusing your energy into one mini-goal will help you see progress more quickly, you may not see it overnight. And even if you do see progress overnight, that progress is likely easy to undo if you don’t stay consistent. Real, long-term progress comes from consistency. You’ve got to stay consistent.
Progress adds up quickly. Working toward your goal for 15 minutes a day every day will get you almost twice as far as working for 60 minutes once a week. It may seem daunting to build a routine that has you working on your goals every day, but it’s not nearly as hard as it seems once you get going, and the progress you see will keep you motivated.
So… how do you get (and stay) consistent?
1. Keep a streak
Have you noticed how many apps lately reward you for logging in every day by telling you about your streak? This is a type of gamification and it gives your brain that little hit of dopamine that it craves, which keeps you coming back to that app. You don’t want to break the streak.
There are plenty of ways that you can keep streaks of your own. I personally have been using Habitica, but you could create index cards a la /r/theXeffect, or just mark it on your calendar every day. Choose a method that works with your life and is motivating for you.
2. Have someone hold you accountable
I’ve been reading The Four Tendencies* by Gretchen Rubin (which I highly recommend, btw) and one of the four tendencies is a group of people called Obligers. Obligers are the most common tendency, and though Obligers readily meet outer expectations, they struggle to meet their own expectations.
(If this sounds like you, you can verify by taking Gretchen’s quiz. I highly recommend the book to everyone as well because it will help you understand how best to work with your tendency. And for anyone who’s curious, I’m an Upholder.)
Anyway, Obligers need external accountability to meet goals. If you’re now realizing that you do a much better job meeting deadlines and reaching goals when someone else is expecting you to do them, find a creative way to create accountability.
There’s the always popular option of finding a gym-buddy, or you could think a little more outside of the box. Maybe you could create an agreement with your best friend that they aren’t allowed to do an activity that they love unless you’ve gone to the gym that day. Then your friend is counting on you to get your butt moving and you’re much more likely to stay consistent.
3. Calendar block it out.
It’s much easier to be consistent with something when you 1. Know that you have time to do it and 2. Know when that time is. By calendar blocking some time every day (or week) to work on your goals, you prevent the “I don’t have time” excuse and you have a visual reminder of the thing that you need to do.
Calendar blocking is more effective than simply writing on the calendar that you need to do the thing because you’ve identified a specific time to take action. Otherwise, at least in my experience, those things get put off until the end of the day and often done get taken care of at all.
4. Your daily commitment doesn’t have to be big to be effective.
That’s the thing about consistency: you’re accomplishing big things by taking small steps. Because those steps are consistent, they’ll take you where you want to go. Small steps—or big steps—taken inconsistently won’t get you where you want to go.
You’ll have a much easier time being consistent when your commitment is small. Like, really small. You can always do more than you intended to each day, but set an intention to do just the smallest amount of work each day.
When you’re planning it out, rather than asking yourself what’s the most you can fit in given your time and energy levels, ask yourself what kind of commitment you could stick to even on your busiest days. Because that’s the thing about consistency—you still have to do it when you’re busy. If you quit when things get hard, you’re not being consistent.
5. Even if you can’t quite meet your daily goal, commit to doing something rather than nothing.
A few weeks ago, I had set myself a daily goal of cleaning my apartment for 25 minutes a day (clearly I was ignoring my own advice about making the commitment small). You know how many days I actually hit that goal? Like, 3.
First of all, I think I need to reevaluate that goal and go for 10 or 15 minutes each day.
But second of all, even on the days where I wasn’t able to meet the 25 minute goal, I still tried to do some amount of cleaning, even if it was only a minute or two. Just because I couldn’t clean for 25 minutes doesn’t mean I can’t clean for five.
No matter what your daily commitment is, if you aren’t able to reach it on any given day, still find time to do something. Meditate for 2 minutes instead of 10. Clean for 10 minutes instead of 25.
Doing something is better than doing nothing, even if that something wasn’t as much as you were hoping to do. So often we decide that if we can’t reach our entire goal, we might as well not try at all. This isn’t true! Partial steps toward your goal still count and are still worthwhile.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. - Confucius
3. Learn to recognize and work past self-sabotage.
Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest obstacle. We self-sabotage our own progress and happiness for quite a lot of reasons—we’re not ready to leave our comfort zones, we feel we don’t deserve it, we don’t know how to keep pushing forward, we get scared—so we throw a wrench in our own plans and hold ourselves back.
I’m going to get real with you and give an example of this in my own life. I have this really bad habit of picking at my skin. It gets worse when I’m anxious or tired, and it’s probably the biggest thing holding me back from having clear skin (which is one of my goals from my life audit). Though it’s a compulsion that I don’t have full control over, I’m still sabotaging my own progress.
So… what can we do to work past self-sabotage?
Journal it out.
I’ve become a big proponent of journaling recently. I journal every day as part of my morning routine and it really has helped me work past some of my issues.
There’s something about getting all of your thoughts out on paper that helps you think more clearly and get to the root of what’s going on. Many of my best ideas and solutions to problems have come to me while journaling.
Journaling can be a bit intimidating at first, but ease into it, and you’ll be fine. It helps you face your fears, and often, you’ll come to realize that your fears are unfounded once you’ve written them all out. As you get more in touch with yourself, it becomes easier to be honest with yourself about your actions and avoid self-sabotage. Journaling gets you to the root of the problem, so you can treat the cause rather than the symptoms.
Check your mindset.
Your mindset plays a huge role in your actions and your penchant for sabotaging your own progress—whether you realize you’re doing it or not. Often we don’t believe we’re capable of success and we’re so afraid of putting ourselves out there and really trying that we hold ourselves back.
One of the best things I’ve done to challenge my mindset is read more. Books written by successful people show you what it’s like inside their minds. How do successful people think? What mindset do they have?
If you’re looking for books to challenge your current mindset and help you adopt one of success and abundance, I recommend starting with You Are a Badass* by Jen Sincero, Big Magic* by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Becoming* by Michelle Obama. These are three great books by three inspiring women who can help you finally create a life you love.
It’s pretty hard to stop yourself from doing something when you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Incorporating little moments of mindfulness into your life can help you slow down and notice your actions, rather than going through life in a blur.
Meditation is perfect for helping you build the habit of mindfulness so that you can honestly assess your actions, emotions, and intentions, and face the uncomfortable ones, rather than running away from them. Facing your own self-sabotage will be uncomfortable at times, but you have to do it if you want to see success, so you might as well be equipped with the right tools for the job.
Find something else to do.
Often, instead of trying to quit a negative habit, it can be easier to replace it with a new, positive habit. This works best if your self-sabotage comes in the form of identifiable actions.
When I notice myself picking at my skin a lot, I’ll put on a face mask or do something that keeps my hands occupied, like cooking, so that I can’t pick at my skin anymore. Figure out things that you can spend your time on that will prevent you from damaging your own progress.
There you have it: 3 things that you can do to see faster progress toward your goals. What have you done recently that helped you see progress quickly? I’d love to know in a comment. :)