Achieving Your Goals (Posted on May 4th, 2013)
Achieving your goals can be easy or hard. It's really all up to you. You can attack a long term goal using many short term goals or you can just pin up your goal on the wall and be a go getter. There's no right or wrong way to organizing your goals. What matters is that you're always working to achieve one of those goals.
I think it's silly that we're always setting new goals on New Years Eve. Why should we limit our motivation and dreams to January? This is something we have to be doing year round in order to be the best we can be.
Now goals don't always need to be career or time oriented. One of my goals was to finish watching HBO's Entourage (now I can't wait for the movie). My most recent accomplishment was graduating college. It's a goal that I've been basically working towards since I started preschool. Graduating in 4 years was even sweeter, especially for a school that gets jokingly labeled as U Can't Finish.
So that's great and all but how does it help you? Here's the strategy I've used to get by for many years. It focuses on being constantly motivated and reminded to achieve your goals.
Step 1: Push It
Start by reading this great post called "There's no speed limit". I've found the same principles from this article apply to programming. You can spend a lot of time in college classes and even more time studying. I've personally found working on side projects with friends to be an even better way of learning. Hands on learning will almost always be more beneficial. Being able to push yourself will always be beneficial. You can do whatever you put your mind to.
Step 2: Learn How To Be Successful
I'm big on motivational things. Eric Thomas is probably one of my favorite motivational speakers. These two videos are pretty popular but if you haven't watched them you need to. In order to be successful you have to want it more than anything else. If you want to achieve your goals you have to be willing to go the extra mile.
Definitely check out his YouTube channel if you liked the above videos. He puts out a new video every week.
Step 3: Remind Yourself
Most of you have a smartphone or at least a pen and paper. If you're working towards a long term (1 year or more) set a weekly remind to yourself to work on it or part of it. Take a piece of paper and stick it to your wall or monitor reminding you of your goal. The more you see it the more likely you are to achieve it. Sometimes you just have to peer pressure yourself into achieving a goal. This also works for short term goals. By making your goals public you're making yourself more accountable to the people around you.
Step 4: Do It
By now you must be super motivated to go out and achieve something, anything. But motivation means nothing if you don't follow up on it. This one might come as a bit of a shocker but if you're typically a procrastinator I've found it's best to continue to be so. Unless your goal is to stop being a procrastinator you've probably learned to work really well under pressure. I almost feel like the education system has taught us all to be great procrastinators and live by the deadline. Set a deadline to do something and as that deadline comes you'll be more likely to work towards achieving your goal.
If you're not someone inclined to procrastination then I've found that creating small milestones toward a goal can be great. A few weeks ago I ran my first 5k. I've always played sports and I used to run the 400m in track but I've never really been one for distance running. The average time for a male runner is about 28 minutes. So my goal was to beat that time. In the weeks before the race I'd run 5k on the treadmill and up the speed half a mph each week until I reached my peak. I was able to finish the race in 26 minutes and 15 seconds. By increasing my speed each week I set small goals for myself to achieve until I was able to beat my ultimate goal.
Many people in the startup and developer world get burned out from large bursts of doing. No matter what goal it is you're trying to achieve you have to take a break from time to time. Some of my most visited blog posts have come from being worked on in between DotA games. Another example is if your goal is to gain muscle then you need to take rest days.
You don't need to be working towards a single goal. Set different goals so that you can mix it up and prevent burn out. As the great Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take". All you can do is go out there and be the best you can be.