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Why Writing Down Goals Can Help You Achieve Them Faster

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goal setting is imp

I don’t remember how many times I’ve read about how important goal setting is. Every successful person out there vouches for it and there are numerous studies showing the benefits of writing down your goals. Every person, whether they write their goals down or not, has shared a quote about goals.

The point here is, writing down a goal really does help. Let’s find out why and how.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”


-Napoleon Hill

What do you remember the most from college? The stuff you read or the stuff you actually worked on? Definitely, the stuff that you worked on, because you consciously chose to pay attention to it. When you read for an exam you do that only to pass the exam most of the times but when you actually apply it, it is because you want to learn it and that is when you remember. You are an active participant here.

The same logic goes here. We all read the ‘Scientists say’ posts and at least give them the benefit of doubt. Well, here we really have a scientific term to explain why writing down goals help. It is called the generation effect. What it basically means is that, you remember information more when you have generated it with your own mind than when you have read it. There’s no one specific answer to why it happens but a lot of studies have been conducted on it, and this phenomenon is used in quite a few things. You can also use it to help with memory retention, but that is a topic for another day.

“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.”

So, let’s say, setting a goal helps trigger the generation effect because you are the one creating it. There is still no guarantee it will affect you much. Yes, you will remember it better but it will be lost in all the thoughts your mind generates.

To make it worthwhile, we write it down. I have a few things that can explain why it helps us, one of them being that we retain visual cues better. Much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision, in fact, the part of the brain that processes words is quite small. Visual clues are easier for our brain to remember, which is why most people can sit through hours of TV shows but not finish a book.

Writing down your goal and visiting it every day has that effect on us, it creates a reminder daily that this is something you need to work on. This is something you wish to achieve. When you keep looking at it, you are reminded day after day about what your purpose is and why you wanted to achieve that goal in the first place.

Another thing and an important one at that, is encoding. Our memory has the ability to encode, store, and recall information. By writing your goals down, you are storing it externally by putting it on paper. Now, by visiting it again and again, we are encoding it into our brains. There are few intensively used types of encoding. Two types are at work here, Visual encoding and Elaborative encoding.

Visual encoding is pretty straightforward to understand. For elaborative encoding, a little narrative will be needed. It means actively retaining new information to the knowledge of something that is already present in our memory.

Let’s look at it this way, I write down that I want to buy a new car. Generation effect kicks in. I write it on a post-it note and look at it daily, visual coding kicks in. Now, I remember how my old car keeps giving me trouble, this is when elaborative encoding kicks in because we are going to remember it by how it made us feel. This is connecting the old knowledge of my car giving me trouble with the new information that I need to buy a new car.

This is the scientific support to the claim that works for me. To put it in layman’s term, you remember something you look at daily. It makes you feel guilty the longer you don’t do anything about it and see the sad post-it at the same place every day. One day you decide, enough is enough, and finally get down to doing it.

Basically, writing your goals down helps you increase your motivation, concentrate your efforts, track your progress, filter opportunity, and finally helps you turn it into reality.

At the end of the day, action is what matters. By writing your words down, you make a small mark and set the ball rolling.

“Set ambitious goals and along the way you will discover yourself.”


-Robin Suomi

Goals

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

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How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

Prioritization is the key to achieving your goals. It helps you focus on what is important. While talking about how to prioritize your tasks to help you achieve all your goals, I briefly touched what you should do if everything seems like a priority – 

If you find yourself with more than three top priorities, then that’s a problem. It means you haven’t figured out what tasks are more important. Figure out which ones can wait until later. If all of the tasks are of same nature making them equally important, then that means you need to cut out some tasks, you might have taken on more than you can handle.

Having a laser-like focus on only a handful of things is essential here so that you can have only the tasks that matter the most on your list.

Most of us struggle with this. Prioritizing is not easy if you don’t know how to differentiate actual priority from the task that seems like one. Even if everything on your plate is supposed to be equally important, you will still need to find a way to break down which ones you should be spending your time on.

How we slice up our time and what we dedicate our time to often dictates what direction our life is going to take. The first question one has to get past is whether or not everything really is of equal importance – when you start questioning is when you will start looking for ways to deal with the problem the question possesses.

Dealing with Conflicting Priorities

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

When you are trying to deal with your personal and professional life at the same time, the tasks together can become more daunting. We face multiple demands on our time every day because of that. 

In the professional scene, often the tasks that are urgent override the schedule, resulting in loss of control and inattention to priority tasks. So how should priorities be determined? 

To begin with, ask questions. 

Let’s take an example. Suppose you are in your office. You have a project that needs to be done today. A colleague comes by and asks you to help with something that is also urgent and needs to be done by the afternoon. Now, you didn’t say “no” because that might be rude. You have an urgent task that is not your priority and you have your own project that is a priority but not as urgent as this other task.

Ask questions to yourself – 

  • Is taking this additional work going to affect your workflow?
  • Do you want to do this?
  • Is this stressing you out or causing you anxiety?
  • Are you stretching yourself too thin trying to be helpful?
  • Can this work be done by someone else?

If the answer to even of these questions is “Yes” then we move on to the next part, that is, learning to drop the task because it is not a priority.

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”

-Stephen Covey

What Do You Do? The Art of Saying “No”

Everyone considers their project to be the most important and wants information or action immediately, they won’t always be considerate of your work. All most people care about is getting their work done. If you have trouble saying “no” chances are that your work will keep suffering. How to deal with this? 

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

Even though you feel bad about not being able to help your colleague, it is okay. You have to put your work first. Of course, special circumstances do demand changing your priorities but most often than not saying “no” will immediately put the dilemma to rest.

If multiple people are involved in your project, find out where your piece fits into the overall project. Taking charge of your space and your time will allow you to focus on what is important, meet deadlines and minimize job and personal stress, this starts with learning to say “no.”

Why Writing Down Your Tasks Help

We have a scientific term to explain why writing down goals helps. It is called the generation effect. What it basically means is that you remember information more when you have generated it with your own mind than when you have read it. There’s no one specific answer to why it happens but a lot of studies have been conducted on it, and this phenomenon is used in quite a few things. 

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

You must have heard people say “Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” You can dream or talk about it all you want, but until you write it down on a piece of paper, it remains a half-hearted attempt – nothing more than a wish. 

Another thing and an important one at that, is encoding. Our memory has the ability to encode, store, and recall information. By writing your goals down, you are storing it externally by putting it on paper. Now, by visiting it again and again, we are encoding it into our brains. There are few intensively used types of encoding. Two types are at work here, Visual encoding and Elaborative encoding. I have discussed all of this in detail when I talked about why writing down goals can help you achieve them faster.

Basically how it works is that we write something and that can be visual encoding, looking at that, again and again, evokes the feelings associated with that task, the reason of it, if you may. That is elaborative encoding, this is how priority kicks in. The elaborative part helps us associate reasons behind the task and the consequences associated with it, and in turn, its correlation with our ultimate goals.

This eventually helps us only pick out priority labeled tasks to make us more productive and efficient.

Spending Your Time Right

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

Most people generally panic when they have to tackle their tasks by priority because everything feels important. When everything looks like a priority, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult to skillfully juggle multiple priorities and competing responsibilities at the same time. There are times when you have to manage the workload at the office as well as home. 

What we often fail to keep in mind when handling multiple activities is to prioritize them according to their importance. Many people just try to handle various activities as per their instinct and end up never doing the important things. Later, they might blame it on ‘not having enough time’, which obviously is untrue. You have enough time, you just have to start spending it right.

If you don’t know what your priority is, you will never have enough time to get your work done. As Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”

Final Thoughts

Prioritizing your to-do list is very simple if you learn to differentiate between your actual priority and what feels like a priority. Learning to say “no” to whatever is hindering your chances of success is the next big thing. If you learn these two things, you are pretty much sorted. All there is left to do is employ strategies to actually get the work done.

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How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

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How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

A few days ago I discussed why prioritizing your tasks was a much-needed aspect when it came to achieving success. I have always believed that knowing what is important to you will help you focus your energy in the right things.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”

-Russian Proverb

Once you have realized that not every task is equally important and they can be put off, for the time being, you can get to schedule only the tasks that are on your priority list. The problem arises when you cannot determine which task is more important.

One of the questions that help you make sense of prioritization is, “Will this task take me closer to my goal?” The most important tasks are the ones that move you closer to achieving your long term goals.

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

Prioritization helps you have a plan that will push you to focus your time and energy on the right things. It will also help you ensure that your work is done, deadlines are met, and stress is minimized.

Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation or the number of things that need to be done, that’s when your priorities need to be reordered so that you can get things done that bring you closer to your actual goal. At the end of the day, everything boils down to your ultimate goal.  

Nobody’s life is ever all balanced – doesn’t matter if it seems like that to you – everyone has a different set of problems. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities every day so that you can keep making progress each day.

The Magic of To-Do Lists

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

“Schedule your priorities.”

-Stephen Covey

To-do lists are really helpful in putting the things that need to be done into perspective. Take the list further by adding additional attributes. You can prioritize tasks in the list itself. If you use an app or digital file, it becomes easier. If you use the old pen-paper method, then you can either rewrite the list after prioritizing the tasks or you can use highlighters or page-markers. Here’s how you can prioritize your tasks.

  • Make a list of all the tasks that you need to do.
  • For bigger tasks, identify individual tasks that will help you complete the project. The breaking of big tasks should be small enough to be completed in a few days or a few hours. 
  • Identify due dates – long-range, midrange, due next month or next week.

Now that you have the list complete. You will have everything laid out in front of you. This will help you make an informed decision without forgetting any tasks. With brain dump out of the way, you can focus on prioritizing the tasks.

  • Assign priorities to each task, from most urgent to not very important – use A, B, C, etc., to designate levels of importance. 
  • After you have decided the priority of your tasks, rank each task within the level using a secondary designation, such as A-1, A-2, A-3 – this can be used for sub-tasks.

You must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, most people often spend their time and energy on what is urgent than what is important. This might get you from one point to another in the short-term but in long-term it will get you nowhere. The next step is that you must do what’s important first which is called priority.

Over time, I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything. When we understand this, it becomes easier to understand what actually matters and what you are doing just because. 

There are many tools provided online to make planning even more detailed yet easier. Tasks can be flagged with contact details of people involved and reminders of upcoming events, due dates, and meetings. You can also make to-do lists, assign due dates, set reminders, schedule meetings, etc.

“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”

-Laura Vanderkam

Start and end your day with your “to-do” list – check off what you finished and review the remaining tasks at night and in the morning go through the list once to see what all you need to do. Do not constantly reprioritize the list, as it can quickly become an excuse for procrastination and will leave you confused as to what you are supposed to do.

What if Every Task Seems Like a Priority?

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

“When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.”

-Stephen Covey

If you find yourself with more than three top priorities, then that’s a problem. It means you haven’t figured out what tasks are more important. Figure out which ones can wait until later. If all of the tasks are of same nature making them equally important, then that means you need to cut out some tasks, you might have taken on more than you can handle.

Having a laser-like focus on only a handful of things is essential here so that you can have only the tasks that matter the most on your list.

Final Thoughts

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”

-Stephen Covey

To achieve success, to complete your goal, to chase your dream with your all – it is really important to learn how to prioritize. There will always be a plethora of things you want to do or you feel like you need to do, but they will never all be at the same level priority wise. 

You need to learn to teach yourself to decide on what is important and stick to doing that – this is the key to finishing things that are high on your list.

Prioritizing allows you to identify the most important tasks at any moment and dedicate the limited time and resources you have accordingly.

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Why Do We Need Measurable Goals?

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Why Do We Need Measurable Goals

Measurable goals are the first step to setting a realistic goal. It is very important to have a clear idea of what you want so that you can have a proper plan as to what needs to be done to achieve that. When people aren’t dead set on achieving something is when they set vague goals and that gives them an out for not doing it.

Unrealistic goals can be goals with either no defining line as to when it can be considered as complete or goals that are way out of the realism of achieving them. In both cases, you are going to end up failing and, in turn, being demoralized go after the said thing again. Being ambitious is important and setting goals is important – the problem occurs when you overdo both of these things.

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.”

-Orison Swett Marden

Let’s start with the basics today – Why do we need to set goals?

Why Do We Need Measurable Goals

“Man does not live by bread alone.” This is what Jesus says when Satan asks him to turn a stone into bread. 

The world has discussed this popular maxim for over years. What does a man need to truly live?

The moment we are born, the society categorizes us, labels us, gives us a name and expects us to make our presence count. We are sent to school, then to college, all this to get a job and continue the same cycle with our children. But why do we need a job? We need a job to make our stay on this planet comfortable. 

Some of you may interpret this statement as basic requirements one needs to lead a normal-ordinary life. But ‘bread’ stands for much more than just food, clothes and shelter. There is deeper meaning to the statement. There is a difference between living your life and merely existing. 

Why Do We Need Measurable Goals

We all have this phase in life when we are pressurized to choose our career options. We either go for engineering or medicine or maybe even law or accounts. This is the point where you should choose what you like rather than what would pay better in future. If you are passionate about your choice, then you would eventually find your way to success. Choose a path you are willing to travel despite all the hardships you experience on the way. 

Some of you say you are not even clear with your passion. In that case list your talents and interests, weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose one.  

There is always a way, a choice because 30 years from now you cannot afford to have regrets about the one thing which shaped your whole life. This is why goals are needed and to achieve them, measurable ones are the most logical way to go.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

-Pablo Picasso

Measurable goals define a goal that is specific and measurable and that makes it more likely to be achieved.

Imagine having hundreds of immeasurable goals written down on your list – what do you think you are going to achieve or how many goals do you think you will be able to achieve? If I say I want to get a healthy body and that is my goal. Now, because I haven’t specified how much weight I need to lose in order to get to my desired weight, I cannot make a proper plan and I will not know when to stop or how dedicated I need to be. I will not be able to mark it as achieved and move on to another goal because this one will always linger in my mind as incomplete. Marking goals as achieved or complete is what drives up to aim for new ones.

This is why your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”  

-Steve Jobs

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