19 Weird Goal-Setting Tips That Actually Work
If you’re anything like me, you try to be a skeptical Grinch about all things New Year. Technically, it’s a new year and a new decade every single day (it will always be one year or 10 years later than this day one year or 10 years ago). But, also if you’re like me, you might still begrudgingly succumb to the call to use January as a time to reflect, reset, angst a lot, and maybe even make some goals for the new year. If you’re using this time of year to create goals for yourself, the internet has unsurprisingly stepped in to provide you with weird but effective goal-setting tips.
Sometimes, it's the oddest life hacks that can help you the most, and figuring out how to accomplish your dreams is no exception. It's important to go after your goals in ways that feel authentic to you, and sometimes the generic advice just doesn't work for everyone. Turning to more unconventional ways of thinking about your goals might be exactly what you need to get more from your life than you thought you could. These 19 strange but helpful strategies might just be off-beat enough to upgrade you from goal-setting to goal-crushing.
1. Eat A Frog
OK, don’t literally eat a frog. But according to Entrepreneur, Mark Twain once said, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." The point here is: accomplish the day’s most urgent tasks first, even if they're the most unpleasant.
2. Accomplish Your Goals By… Not Setting Any
You can have the loftiest goal, but if you focus on that alone, you'll likely get overwhelmed before you even can get started. Focus on your process instead of your goal, and science says you're more likely to succeed. A 2016 study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin found that monitoring your progress is much more effective in achieving your goals than just focusing on the endgame.
3. Tell Your Enemies
Maybe you're not a superhero with a literal nemesis, but if you let it casually slip to your judgey uncle, for example, that you're going to finish that novel by July, you've got to achieve your goal and finish it, right? If actually telling someone is too anxiety-inducing, create an enemy in your head and accomplish your goal for the self-satisfaction of proving people wrong, Psychology Today advises.
4. Embrace Your Fear Of Success
According to science, your fear of success might actually be stronger than your fear of failure. "If I get this promotion, so much more will be expected of me," or "If this book gets published, no one will read it anyway," or "If I tell her I love her, it might be good now but will just hurt more later." Engaging with those fears of success — starting by acknowledging them and facing them for what they are — can give you a more mindful and productive relationship with your goals.
5. Don't Be SMART
A lot of conventional advice tells you to make sure you have SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). That's pretty good advice, but your goals don't have to be SMART to work well. SMART goals don't always work in an environment that gives no room for mistakes and free-wheeling exploration. You can abandon the model and make up your own individualized system, based on past successes, as you go.
6. Be Too Ambitious
If you're prone to being super ambitious, goals set using Objectives and Keys Results (OKRs) can be super helpful for you. By focusing on your long-term objectives, you can create "stretch goals," aka goals you know you can't actually accomplish. This science-backed goal strategy uses the idea that you'll shoot for the most distant star. Even though you won't get all the way there, you'll still achieve much more than you would if you'd been less ambitious.
7. Kill Your Deadlines
Instead of focusing on hard deadlines, focus on an incremental schedule of tasks. These scheduled bite-sized chunks can prevent getting overwhelmed by that looming deadline on your calendar. If you love deadlines, you can still kill them: If your boss gives you a May 20 deadline, make your own "deadline" May 10. That way, you'll be more likely to be done early, even if hiccups arise (which they always seem to do).
8. Burn Or Burn
If you can afford to, take out some cash (maybe a 5, maybe a 20), post it up next to your calendar, and... wait for it... a lighter. The research-backed idea is to "burn" through your goal by the appointed date or burn the money. Don't be too concerned that you'll actually commit the crime that is destroying government money: Science says that your brain's aversion to loss will help keep that money as crisp as the day you got it from the bank.
9. Think Smaller, Not Bigger
Forget for a moment about your big goal, which might ultimately be something you can't control anyway (you can put in all the work, but you can't physically control whether you get promoted). Instead, focus on a series of small goals that you can control. Breaking your big dreams down into things you can cross off a checklist can help you feel like you're making progress, because you will be.
10. Interview Yourself
Interview yourself with Reddit's list of goal-setting questions, featuring gems like "Who do you want to be?," "Who do you admire or even envy?," and "Was there a time when you really enjoyed what you were doing?" These questions can reveal a lot about why you're doing something, and this knowledge and sense of purpose can keep you going when things get rough.
11. Count Backward
You can use simple numbers to help you visualize your goals and make them into actions. Starting with five, come up with a goal you have for five years from now. Move down to four: What do you want to have accomplished four months from now? Three weeks? Two days? One day, one hour, this minute? How do these activities relate to each other? This number-goal-puzzle can give you clarity when everything else is unsteady.
12. Chase Rejection
The idea of chasing rejection is this: If your goal is to get a new job within the next few months, you've got to accept that you can't control whether jobs hire you. But you can control how many applications you send out, and how well you put your applications together. Set a goal to collect X number of rejections and be proud that they each mean you're still working hard and refusing to give up.
13. Lie To Yourself
Placebos can actually be very effective, even when you know you're playing yourself. Drinking decaf coffee can make you feel more alert, just like breaking up a set of 10 reps in the gym by counting 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5 instead of the traditional 1 through 10 can help make the set feel shorter. Similarly, if you tell yourself, "Just one more email," you may well find yourself placebo-ing your way through your goals for the day.
Time to break out the colored pencils and highlighters. Draw a literal map of your goals or draw a blank calendar for yourself. Every day you accomplish something that will get you closer to your goal (even if it's super small) , draw something on that day. You'll get a visual representation of your progress, and it'll be a great way to congratulate yourself with a little bit of fun.
15. Procrastinate More
Yep, you read it right. If you want to achieve your goals, you might want to procrastinate more often. Why? Because generally speaking, procrastinating can be a form of protecting yourself from whatever stress you're scared to encounter. You might notice that you procrastinate when you haven't been giving yourself enough love, so make sure you're giving yourself that care you deserve. It'll only bring you closer to your goals.
16. Sing In The Shower
Exercise isn't the only thing that releases happy-making endorphins. Singing releases endorphins, too, and if you find yourself needing that extra boost of joy and energy to keep going with your goals, try bouncing around the house using your pen as a microphone. Or you can keep it old school and belt it in the shower. It'll help focus your brain and reset your body so you're ready to take on the tough tasks that come with achieving your fanciest goals.
17. Get Scared
Make a list of everything you're afraid of instead of everything you're excited about, Ideas.Ted recommends. What are the scary obstacles you might face as you strive for your goals? Write them down, as explicitly as you want, being as honest as you can. You can cross them off as you conquer them, or you can symbolically rip the list up before you start your project. You can even stay afraid of those things, and constantly congratulate yourself for chasing your dreams anyway.
18. Give Yourself Less Time To Work
If you like working under pressure, limit the amount of time you give yourself to complete a task. If you have a whole day to work on that paper, only give yourself two hours. Set a visible timer to help yourself stay on task. The less time you have to work, the more your brain will tell itself to focus. The clock is ticking, after all. And then you can spend the rest of your day playing NBA 2k18.
19. Make Joy Your Goal
How many times have you made a list of goals and gotten stressed and anxious instead of excited? Don't forget, though, that goals should be about joy, too. What will give you joy? Both in the product and the process? How can you make happiness a central part of each of your goals? When your joy becomes an inextricable part of your dreams, you're more likely to love both the destination and the journey.
Setting goals can be terrifying, and working toward them can be infuriating and frustrating. You might combat self-doubt mixed with intermittent confidence. That roller coaster of goals is intense, but you're not on it alone. And with these goal-setting hacks, you're well on your way to living in the fullest, most delightful way you can.