Staying focused on your goals is hard. In the beginning, we’re certainly motivated. But we all know how that motivation wanes over time. We get caught up, stuck, frustrated, overloaded, overworked, distracted, and we simply just veer off track. Clearly, it’s hard to stay focused when we have so much going on.
Or is it?
When obligations stretch us thin, and we’re pulled in every which direction, it’s easy to let life overwhelm us. It’s easy to get inundated by emergencies and crises that feel almost unavoidable, so losing that all-important focus feels largely, well, unimportant.
Yet, in the back of our minds, we know that those excuses will only take us so far. Yes, it’s easy to let life get the best of us, but it’s not okay to veer so far off track that we forget what we truly wanted out of life and why we really wanted it. So staying focused on our goals is not only important, it’s crucial.
If you have some lofty goals that you set for yourself (and who doesn’t really), you’re likely beating yourself up wondering how you can keep your eye on the prize, so to speak. But does it really have to be that hard? Is it really that difficult to stay focused on something we’re trying to attain, or are we just not taking the right approach?
I know that I’ve gotten frustrated with my progress towards my goals in the past. Nothing that I’ve ever wanted to achieve was simple or easy. But, then again, I wouldn’t have wanted it if it were simple and easy. Big goals are usually so far off from where we are that it can almost be frightening.
But there is a system to staying focused on your goals. There are methods and techniques that you can implement to help you avoid getting sidetracked or veering off course too much. The key here is to put a plan in place before you lose that all-important focus.
When you have a plan to stay focused, and you can anticipate those time-wasters and things that tend to veer you off track, it’s far easier to get things done. When you don’t, we all know how easy it is to just forget about our goals for yet another day.
So how does this work? How do we stay focused on our goals so that we can achieve the things that we want to achieve rather than being stuck in the status quo for another day, week, month, or even year?
There are 8 very powerful methods that you can employ to help you retain your focus on your dreams. Employ one or many, it’s entirely up to you. But make a plan and stick to that plan. Not losing focus on your goals will be much easier if you do.
#1 — Write out your goals
If you haven’t written out your goals, then you’re missing the most important part of effective goal setting. When you don’t write your goals, they stay in the abstract. They’re less real, even if you think they’re as real as they can be. You have to write them down and get very specific about them.
Writing out your goals is also the first step in the SMARTER goal setting method. If you want to stay focused on your goals, then you need to ensure you’re tackling them in the right way. This is also called active goal setting, which is the direct opposite of the passive goal setting that most people engage in.
Passive goal setting simply holds the goal in your mind. While the details might be sorted out somewhere in the confines of your thoughts, it’s still in the abstract because it’s never been written out and detailed on paper before you. If you engage in passive goal setting, it’s an easy way to lose focus on your goals.
If you’re serious about your goals, then you have to actively set them and detail them out. Use the SMARTER method, or simply create as much detail towards your prospective goals as you possibly can if you really want to achieve them.
#2 — Create a mission statement
If you’re serious about your goals, you need a mission statement. Companies create mission statements all the time, so why shouldn’t you? The mission statement should help direct your time and energy towards the things that matter most to you and help you stay focused on those all-important goals.
What do you value? What do you believe in? What do you want to achieve or accomplish? How are you doing things differently than others? Create a detailed mission statement in 4 or 5 sentences and hang it somewhere you can see it every single day.
When you get distracted or lose your focus, re-read your mission statement and re-envision why you’re doing what you’re doing on a daily basis.
#3 — Become an effective manager of your time
It’s virtually impossible to stay focused on your goals if you can’t manage your time. Become an effective time manager and you’ll see yourself progressing rather than falling behind. Pick a time management system that works and work it.
One of the best ones out there is the quadrant time management system. It splits your daily activities up into four separate quadrants based on two factors: 1) urgency, and 2) importance. Things are either urgent and important, neither of those two, or one or the other.
You can read more about it here. The point, however, is to stay away from time-wasting activities, which are the not urgent and not important (quadrant 4). It’s easy to lose focus on your goals when you’re engaged in this quadrant for much of the day, which includes things like excessively using social media, binge watching television, over-socializing with friends, and so on.
So, if you truly want to stay focused on your goals, stay away from that quadrant and ensure you spend as much of your day in the not-urgent-but-important quadrant (quadrant 2), which include your long-term goals. Our long-term goals are never urgent in the here-and-now, but they are important to our lives.
We can’t achieve our goals if we’re constantly living in defensive-mode, spending our time merely reacting to life and wasting time, rather than strategic offense, where we’re tackling things head on by planning in advance.
#4 — Develop milestones towards your goals
Sometimes, it’s hard to stay focused on our goals because they seem so far off. How are we supposed to stay motivated today, for a goal we’re looking to achieve one, two, three, or even 5 years from now? No doubt it’s difficult. But, it’s far easier if you can create a set of milestones towards your goals.
Create a set of milestones that will help you move towards your goals without losing your focus. For example, you can set a monthly milestone or even a weekly milestone. It’ll help you stay on track as you reach for that long-term goal.
To create your milestones, just break down your goals into equal parts. For example, if you’re looking to reduce your debt by $12,000 in the next year, then you need a monthly milestone of $1000 in debt reduction. Then, you can go can even further by breaking that monthly milestone that down into weekly milestones of $250 in debt reduction, for example, or even daily milestones as well.
It’s much easier to stay focused and on track towards milestones because they seem more reasonable than our long-term goals, yet, it’s still sending us in the same direction. Carefully construct a set of milestones that will help you move forward rather than holding you back towards achieving your goals.
#5 — Meticulously construct and follow a plan
To stay focused on our goals, we need a plan. A plan is what helps move us from the status quo, to achieving our goals over time. Without a plan, we’re like a fish out of water, caught floundering. Usually, we end up failing without a plan.
So, if you’re serious about your goals, and you want to stay hyper-focused on achieving them, create a plan. How will you get from where you are today, to achieving those lofty goals? Don’t just say you want to achieve them. Even envisioning them vividly enough won’t cut it. You need to construct a plan.
But this shouldn’t just be any plan — this has to be a massive action plan. It’s a plan that you’re going to take action towards on a daily basis, without throwing in that proverbial towel. Look, we all know that it’s hard to attain those big goals we set for ourselves. But, clearly it’s possible since others have come before us and achieved that and much more, even while starting off with more disadvantageous situations.
You should create a long-term plan to help you reach your goals, but realize that it can and should change along the way. What shouldn’t change are your goals. You can reach your goals as long as you can follow a plan. If you see the plan isn’t working, all you have to do is slightly change your direction. It doesn’t take much. But it does take consistency.
#6 — Analyze your progress on a daily basis
One crucial way you can stay focused on your goals is to track and analyze your progress. In fact, how else would you know just how far you’ve come towards achieving your goals or just how much there’s left to go? It’s certainly much harder to do so, that’s for sure.
Every quantifiable goal should be tracked and analyzed on a daily basis. Whether it’s a money goal, a weight-loss goal, or some other goal, track the numbers that matter, which will bring you closer to your goal. This way, if you see that something isn’t working, you can fix it before it’s too late.
If you’re saving money, you should track your expenses on a daily basis. You should track every red cent that goes out of your account, along with every cent that comes into it. This type of meticulous behavior might sound overboard, but it’s the route to goal success and staying focused on your goals over time.
Use your smartphone or a spreadsheet on your laptop to plot your results on a daily basis. If you can track more often than daily, and it makes sense, then do it. The more data you have, the more you can analyze and determine just which of your efforts are paying off and which ones are being wasted.
#7 — Avoid procrastination
Sometimes, staying focused on our goals means avoiding procrastination. All told, we could always do more to avoid procrastination, since it haunts all of us to some degree. But we also know that it isn’t simple by any means to take action as opposed to putting it offer just a little bit longer.
Yet, if we want to reach our goals, we need some strategies in place. How can we avoid procrastination all together and stay focused and on track? One simple way to do this is to use the 15-minute rule. Simply grab your smartphone or any other device with a timer and set it to 15 minutes.
The concept? 15 minutes is a number that’s too small to fail at. We can all do something for 15 minutes. Commit to doing whatever it is that you’ve been putting off for 15 minutes, no more. Once the 15 minutes are up, you can choose to stop. Or, if momentum is on your side, keep going.
What you’ll find is that, after 15 minutes, you’ll usually want to keep going. And, even if you stop, you at least broke the seal. You stopped procrastinating, even if it was only for a short while. Since habits take time to form or break, this is an important segue in the art of habit formation.
Neural pathways, which comprise those habit channels in our brains, etch deeper and deeper over time. When left unabated, they simply continue etching deeper. And, the deeper that channel etches, the harder it is to break a habit. That’s why procrastination, and any other bad habit, becomes exponentially harder to stop over time. So, the 15 minute-rule is a perfect pattern disruption technique.
#8 — Implement motivational techniques
The last, but certainly not least, method for staying focused on your goals is to implement any number of available motivational techniques to help keep you on track. Now, what inspires you might be different than what inspires someone else, but motivation is far more straightforward.
To get motivated, we have to shift our focus. While inspiration can be motivating, if you set your goals the right way, you should already have a foundation of inspiration that can help give you the framework to accomplish your goals. But it’s the motivational part that’s difficult.
Everyone knows just how hard this can be. We’ve all set goals on New Year’s Eve, for example, and forgotten about them at one point or another. In fact, studies have shown that only 8% of people that set New Year’s goals, actually achieve them, but that’s neither here nor there.
If you want something badly enough, you’ll do what it takes to push forward, but for how long? What happens when you get frustrated or you have a bad day? What if you suffer a major setback or failure? What helps to keep you going? What helps to motivate you?
Whether you need to watch motivational videos on TED Talks or YouTube, listen to music that gets you revved up, or simply embark on an empowering mental journey that will help you to envision your goals lucidly, you have to do what it takes.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to stay focused on your goals, and not someone else. The only person you would be cheating by not putting in the effort every single day to achieve your goals, is yourself. Do your best to avoid distractions and time wasters, and work towards your goals by staying motivated.
And if you meet some resistance, it isn’t the end of the road. Even the most famous people in the world have failed hard, and they’ve failed often. Don’t be afraid of failure. But don’t allow it let you lose your focus on your goals. Keep pushing, keep going, and never, ever give up.