Many people set a goal with the best of intentions, but find themselves unable to follow through. Well thought out goals that are specific, with clear time frames, accountability, and good organization are much more likely to be completed. The following tips will help you make more practical goals and well-defined plans for following through on them.

Set Clear Goals by Visualizing the End Result

Clearly defined goals are more likely to be accomplished than vague ones. Write two or three sentences that clearly describe the specific outcome you’re working towards, and the time frame you will complete it in.

Imagine what the end result will look or feel like and work backward while writing down the steps. People frequently leave out obvious steps when working on a goal or project. By working backward and writing down each individual task, you will avoid making this mistake.

Is Your Goal Realistic?

Only set goals you feel ready to work on and capable of achieving. Starting with a goal that seems impossible is guaranteed to result in failure. It’s better to start with a smaller goal that you’re sure of being able to accomplish than a larger goal that you’re unsure about.

Make the Goal Measurable

The best way to see if you’re making progress is to start with a goal that includes several small benchmarks, and mini-deadlines. This is especially important if the time frame for completion is several weeks or months. By breaking the project up into smaller goals, you will be able to see if you’re on target for your deadline at the end of each week or if you need to make adjustments.

This also helps to ensure your goal is realistic. If you need to finish a 60-page thesis in six weeks, you will need to plan to write ten pages a week and allow for enough time to research and edit your work before the deadline. If possible, plan for the project to take 20 percent longer than you think it will take.

Projects often fail because people are not very good at estimating the time needed to complete a task. Adding extra time in the planning stage will allow for interruptions or other obstacles that can throw you off track.

Plan for Problems

The reason most people don’t achieve their goals or finish projects before the deadline is because they didn’t anticipate anything going wrong. A key skill when organizing is to accept that there will be unexpected complications or interruptions and to plan for these in advance. By having a contingency plan in place before the issue arises, you’ll be able to overcome the obstacles as quickly as possible and get back on track, and you will feel less stress when they do come up.

When goal setting, remember other times you’ve attempted this particular goal or something similar, and make a list of the obstacles that have surfaced and what you will do to overcome them this time. Leaving room in your plan for things to go wrong will give you more confidence as you will know you have planned effectively to finish the project by deadline despite any issues that may arise.

Beat Procrastination by Tackling Small Tasks

When a goal is very big and has a long time frame, people frequently procrastinate before beginning, which results in missed deadlines or sloppy work. This is usually because they feel overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the endeavor.  Break your goal down into small tasks and work on a little each day. By having a small piece of the goal to work on, you won’t feel overwhelmed and you’ll see steady progress throughout the month.

Avoid Distraction by Scheduling Tasks in Advance

It’s very easy to get distracted and work on tasks that have nothing to do with achieving the goals you have in mind. If your goal is your top priority, the tasks required to accomplish it should be scheduled before you fill your calendar with anything else. If you don’t schedule specific times to work on goal-related activities, you will find yourself too busy and put them off indefinitely.

While working toward an important deadline, it may be necessary to say no to other activities, which can be frustrating, but once you’ve reached your goal or finished your project, you will be able to enjoy other interests without the stress and guilt of unfinished work hanging over your head.

Work Within Your Set Patterns

Take into consideration when you will be least likely to have interruptions, and be most likely to follow through with your plan. If you have never gotten up before 7:00 am in your life, planning a workout for 6:00 in the morning is probably not something you’ll follow through on.

If you find yourself so tired at the end of the day that you have no energy to do anything except the bare minimum, planning important activities for the evening isn’t going to work for you. Find a time that you will feel motivated, schedule it in advance, and commit to following through with what you have planned.

Reward Yourself

Plan to reward yourself with something that excites you when you’ve completed your project. The more difficult the goal, the bigger the reward should be. Don’t pick a reward that you get all the time anyway. It should be something that motivates you when things become difficult.

Post a list of every small step you need to complete in a place you will see frequently, and cross off each item as you complete it. Marking off each item will act as a miniature reward and the visual reminder of how far you’ve come will help you keep yourself going when your motivation is low.

Everyone has the ability to achieve goals. When people fail to achieve goals it’s usually due to the absence of a clearly defined plan. By following these steps, you’ll be able to create a clear action plan that will help you finish any goal you can imagine, and prepare to deal with any difficulties you encounter along the way.

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