A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, say the sages. While we’re not denying the truth of that as a basic concept, we think it’s important to point out that not all journeys of a thousand miles are equal: some people manage to accomplish a lot on such a journey, and others just wasted thousand miles.
The real secret of the sages is that the most productive journeys start before the first step is taken. Whether it’s one mile or a thousand miles away, a journey to accomplish something starts with a destination in mind—a reason for making the journey. If you’re looking for greater productivity at work, at home, on a passion project, or in your life generally, this first step is an absolute essential.
Setting Clear Goals Drives Productivity
In anything you do, you’ll be more productive—you’ll get it done faster, better, and easier—if you approach your tasks with a clear goal in mind. Knowing what you want to achieve is a key part of achieving, and the clearer you can be in making goals that actually matter to you the faster you’ll rack your accomplishments up.
This isn’t just anecdotal wisdom, either. Extensive research into goal-setting has shown it to be incredibly effective when it comes to increasing motivation for tasks and achieving long-term success. It gives your brain a clear target to work towards, and helps you marshal your internal resources and focus them on the achievement(s) you’ve defined. A goal puts your mind and body all-in and ready to achieve, as long as you’ve set your goal correctly.
What Makes a Good Goal?
Not all goals are equal when it comes to motivating performance and creating greater productivity, it turns out. While your brain is a goal-seeking organ, it needs goals it can fully understand in order to attack them full force. When setting your goals, make sure they have the following qualities:
Actionable. Goals can’t be accomplished without actions, and the clearer the actions leading to your goal, the more achievable your goal becomes. “I want to make the world a better place” doesn’t define any actions; “I want to help kids go to college” is better, and “I’m going to start a scholarship fund” is even better.
Measurable. Similarly, goals should be concrete and objectively measurable—anyone should be able to read your goal and then measure your performance to see if you’ve achieved it. “I want to be happier” isn’t a great goal; “I’m going to spend more time doing what I enjoy” is much better.
Stretchable. Your goals should be achievable, but they should make you stretch. If the rewards come too easily, your brain won’t see the value in any added focus or effort. Set goals that exceed your current performance by a substantial margin and amaze yourself with your capabilities.
Put these tips to work in creating your goals, and put your goals to work for you, and you’ll see your productivity soar.