Sticking To Your Goals

Recently, I wrote a post about why it’s hard for us to stick to our New Year’s resolutions. Now, I want to take a look at some ways that might help you follow through with your goal planning. Here are some tricks that can help you stay on track.

Broadcast You Resolution

I’m not talking about paying for an expensive TV ad to let others know what your plans of change are (although that might help make you more accountable if you did). But telling your friends and family and posting about your resolutions on Facebook or Twitter may help you commit more to your goals. It gives people an idea of what you plan to do, and it may even encourage them to do the same thing. In addition, you can post weekly or monthly updates so people can see how well you’re sticking to your guns. Posting your updates might even make you feel better about your ambitions and help you gain the encouragement you need to follow through. It may also help if you’re seeking advice from people who have accomplished goals similar to yours.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

An article from The Baltimore Sun suggests setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Think about it. If you tell yourself that you’re going to lose 50 pounds in 2 months, you’re setting yourself up for failure. While the goal is specific with the time and the number of pounds you want to lose, it’s not very realistic nor is it very healthy. However, if you tell yourself that you’re going to lose 10 pounds in 2 months, you will have a greater chance of achieving your goal. And you may leave yourself some room to surpass your expectations.

Prepare for Setbacks

Sometimes life throws us a curveball and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. So we have to prepare for the setbacks we’re faced with. Many times, people find themselves faced with a setback and it discourages them from continuing on with achieving their goals. While setbacks can be frustrating, you shouldn’t allow them to derail you. Take the late Steve Jobs as an example. During the beginning stages of Apple, Steve encountered many setbacks. A notable one would be in 1976 where he confused his first order of 50 Apple I computers. He delivered 50 circuit boards instead of finished machines. He could only take partial payment for the order, which gave his company a financial setback. However, he didn’t let that stop him. By the end of the year, they delivered 150 finished computers.

Saying you’re going to achieve a goal and actually accomplishing it are two different things. One takes thought while the other takes action. If you’re having a hard time following through with the goals you have planned, try using these steps to make them more attainable.

How Your Brain Drives Productivity and Focus

There comes a point in our day where we have a task to do and we simply cannot get our brains to cooperate. Maybe there’s a batch of emails you need to send out or there’s a meeting you just can’t get excited about. I've always just attributed it to just not being excited about the particular task at hand.

In marketing, we have to communicate with people – talk, email, think, conference, brainstorm, send smoke signals, or whatever. One of the things we don’t always think about is that we might be trying to do the wrong tasks at the wrong time. Research studies have shown that it’s not what you’re doing but when you’re choosing to take on a particular task.

Science may seem boring but if you understand what’s happening in your brain at any point in the day, you can get the most out of the chemicals buzzing across your brain.

Relationship building should be the focus of your first few hours at work. High levels of oxytocin make you feel connected and cuddly to the world. You can harness this hormones power by reaching out to clients, writing thank you notes, or engaging on social media. Oxytocin is a hormone that is more related to your personal relationships with family members or significant others, but you can take action while your levels are high and you’re at work.

Creative activities are the most effective in the mid-morning hours. Have you ever wondered why cleaning or crafting is a stress reliever? The hormone cortisol (the “stress hormone”) will help your brain focus on tasks and prime you for learning. Since cortisol is highest in the mid-morning hours, it’s the perfect time to plan out that presentation, do research for an upcoming infographic, or sit down to write that blog post that you just know is going to break the Internet.

Save difficult or complicated tasks for after lunch. The hours just before and after lunch time can be your most productive. The melatonin levels (the “sleep hormone”) will be on the decline at this time of day and you will have the mental focus and drive to take on the world. Melatonin levels can be affected by the kind of meal you have and how much you eat, so make good decisions at lunch time to keep the sharpness. This is the time to focus on those emails you send out, scheduling conference calls, or making pitches to your clients and bosses. This is the time of day where you are sharpest and ready for success.

Collaborate at the end of the day. By late afternoon, your brain is on a natural downswing which makes it the best time of day for laid-back activities like a brainstorming session. This is another good time to engage on social media because you’re feeling friendly and laid back. If you spent your morning re-tweeting or sending out links, this is a good time to talk directly to your followers.

Obeying your brains needs and desires at home is just as important as at work, because everything you do once you get home will have an effect on your next day at work. Start by getting a better night of rest.

  • Exercise before 6 PM so adrenaline levels will be down before you go to sleep.
  • Repetitive activities like doing puzzles will help you wind down for bed time.
  • Eating late at night will cause problems with your sleep schedule as your body metabolizes the food.
  • Practice darkness therapy to get better sleep. Put down the cell phone, turn off the television, and cover light emitting objects in your room with electrical tape. (I have done this and it’s worked great!) The light sources actually prevent your body from making melatonin at the times it needs to, which can prevent you from getting a good night of sleep.

To be more productive both at work and at home you must listen to your brain. It will tell you what you need. Do you base your tasks around the peaks of your brain power or do you just work down the list? Is it possible to get more out of your hours by letting your chemicals control you?

Learning Success Through Failure

It’s October which brings about the winds of change. The air is turning cooler, the leaves will begin to change color, and budding authors around the globe are about to change into energy drink consuming plunderers of the keyboard.

That’s right novelists, it’s almost NaNoWriMo time. I’ve partaken in the grueling marathon of 50,000 words in thirty days since 2009 - but I’ve only won once. That’s almost 1400 words a day at the minimum in order to succeed and get your shiny badge and bragging rights.

Success is not guaranteed though. In fact, it feels like failure is.  NaNo seems easy for anyone who considers themselves able to string a couple of stories together, but when the euphoria of “It’s time for NaNo!” wears off and you’re left with the idea of actually having 45K more to go, it’s pretty easy to turn around and run away. In fact, I admit that in 2011 I completely imploded. About four days in, I threw my hands up and walked away.

This article from Psychology Today suggests that failures might actually shape us in a more definite way than success does. The assertion actually makes a lot of sense. Think about your latest success - what did you learn from that specific success. 2011 NaNoWriMo showed me all of the things I needed to do in order to have a better chance in 2012.

When I won in 2012, I knew it was because of two very big changes I made in light of the previous year - I outlined the entire novel and did word games with friends to give big boosts to my word count in a short time. In 2011, I took a very solo approach to NaNoWriMo despite that my friends we were working hard on theirs as well.

I can't do it alone. 

Getting a 500 word boost in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes puts a huge dent in your daily goal. The task was less daunting when I had someone to work with.

Creating an outline meant I wasn’t going to get bogged down in the direction of plot or “what happened then” questions. I had every move that each character was going to make down on the page, so all I had to do was create the story around it.

I honestly think that without my utter and complete NaNo meltdown in 2011, I would not have been able to “win” 2012 NaNo. I learned a lot in 2011 and I applied all of those “well, I’m not going to do that this year” thoughts, which I think helped me succeed. One might even say that my failure was the reason I succeeded.

What’s going to be most interesting to me is competing again in 2013. Will the same drive push me to finish, or will I feel more complacent in succeeding? I wonder how much is to be said for being a back to back NaNoWriMo winner.


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

Five Tips for a Happier Home Worker

A few weeks ago, we had an ice storm and record breaking cold weather that trapped most people in their homes for four days. I personally went a little crazy after two days and was ready to return to the office. I couldn’t imagine how people do that kind of thing every day – then I realized they probably weren’t thrown in to the middle of it like I was, nor are they sitting in front of their lap top in their living room because they don’t own a desk.

That week taught me a lot about what it takes to work from home and the things that would have made my four days in my living room a little more productive and a little less crazy. Here are five tips to being a little more productive at home and a little less distracted.

  1. Make a written schedule and include breaks. Plan out your day on paper and stick to it, but schedule yourself to have breaks away from your desk. I know you want to go change out a load of laundry – so put it on your schedule so it gets done and you can get back to work.
  2. Have a daily conference call to check in with your employees or co-workers. When you’re away from your desk and away from everyone, it can be hard to keep track of those that you work with. Check in with them daily and remind yourself of the people you work with.
  3. If you have an office to go to, schedule a day in the middle of the week to spend the day there. If not, grab your laptop or iPad so you can get out of the house for a little while.
  4. Shut the door when “work time” is over. Keep a separation between your work and home life by creating a work space that you can close the door to, that way, you won’t see the stack of papers on your desk that need to be finished. Out of sight and out of mind – enjoy time at home!
  5. Work with background noise that makes you comfortable. Some people work better with complete silence. Personally, I need some background tunes. In the office, you’ll rarely find me without my headphones on, and at home, I love the sound of the TV in the background. Take advantage of being at home and watch a violent slasher flick, if that’s what motivates you – just turn it off before you take a call or have a video conference.

I know a lot of you work from home – it’s a trend that we’ve seen on the increase over the last few years, and as someone who probably wouldn’t like it very much, I’m wondering if any of you ever felt the same. What did you do to make your day more productive at home? Did you hate it at first and now you love it? What happened to make you change your mind?