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Mind Hacks to Increase Productivity and Achieve Your Goals, Part 2: The Three Steps You Need to Accomplish Any Goal

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What May Be Done
Credit: Brett Jordan. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Achieving happiness and success can seem impossible, particularly in our currently stagnant economy. Still, there are opportunities all around us we can just out of our own way to see them. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to seeing just how many wonderful things are within our grasp is our perception of our past failures, and our tendency to dwell on them. Today's lack of accomplishment serves as confirmation of our condemnation by fate, a higher power or some other external factor as perennial low-achiever. Rather than accepting that message of negative reinforcement, let's consider another possibility. 

It's important to face reality because reality is not optional. Here's a reality check: when you keep doing the same thing, you keep getting the same thing. Perhaps the reason that your results have been less than stellar, is that you keep trying to reach your destination by going down the same sorry, losing road.  Maybe it's time to do as poet Robert Frost suggested and take the "road less travelled," and try something new. It's not that you are a loser, unless by that you mean you are too stubborn to admit your mistakes, get some advice and turn this ship around.

Let me suggest that you need to understand that, in order to accomplish anything in life, you need three things; specifically, an objective, a deadline and a workflow. Let's break each of those down. 

An Objective

What is your objective? Obviously, it is the result you want when all the dust has settled. What does success mean to you? Is it a promotion? A degree? A loving, satisfying personal relationship? A new deck? Whatever it is, you need to be very clear and specific about what it is you define as success. If you think that some vague daydream like "I want to be rich and famous," or "I want to make lots of money" is actually a goal rather than just a child's silly, wishful declaration, think again. Here's how you can tell if your goal is specific enough. Can it be measured? Is it time-based? If not, it's just the achievement equivalent of cotton candy, a gauzy confection that gives immediate and very temporary satisfaction, but doesn't nourish you in any way.

A Deadline

Face it, because we both know it's true; that is, nothing gets accomplished without deadlines. That's why that song from the show "Annie" resonated with so many people. "Tomorrow" is always a day a way, and if you don't have a deadline for achieving specific benchmarks to your long-term goal, you will find it very difficult to push yourself to work when you'd rather lie on the couch and watch Lifetime movies. Deadlines keep you honest. Create them and do your best to stick to them. You will be rewarded with success.

A Workflow

A workflow is a series of steps that you need to do in order to get to your objective. For example, if your objective was a beautiful frosted cake, your workflow would be choosing the recipe, shopping for the ingredients, pre-heating the oven, mixing up the batter, preparing the bakeware, putting the pan in the oven, setting the timer, baking the cake, removing it from the oven, cooling it, and frosting it. 

When it comes to your objective, it may be that no one has laid out a series of action steps for you that are as clear as that list for baking a cake. I guess that's why success isn't always a "piece of cake." You have to create the recipe yourself. Once you have decided on the steps, you must take action as soon as possible, never allowing phony "priorities," that are usually a lot easier than figuring out this workflow, to divert you. This sort of creative procrastination is death to your success, so nip it in the bud. Here is an article that can help you overcome creative procrastination. 

It takes time to craft effective objectives and workflows, so resist the temptation to "just do something," and jump in without doing this important foundational work. Because deadlines are so critical, we'll explore them more in Part 3 of this series, Mind Hacks to Increase Productivity and Achieve Your Goals, Part 3: Measurement is Motivation.

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