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Specific Goals? On the Calendar? I’m a Believer Now

I’m updating my Life Plan and goals for 2014 this week. Looking back at 2013, and then forward to 2014. 01-03 Nike+ MilesTo illustrate a point about goal setting, I’m sharing a surprise I found today when I added up the miles I walked for exercise last year.

Here are the results:

Jan. to June 142 miles

July to Dec. 284 miles

Obviously, that’s twice as many total miles for the second half of the year.

Less obviously, the increase happened right after I started using my 7-step strategy.

The 7 Steps in a Nutshell. These can work for any activity that you want to do with a certain frequency. You can change the measures and language to fit.

  1. Set monthly distance goals
  2. Put specific dates for walking on the calendar
  3. Add distance goals for each week
  4. Record progress with each workout
  5. Track weekly totals
  6. Record monthly totals
  7. Celebrate success

The idea is that we get what we measure  and that people who set goals accomplish more than people who don’t. 

01-03 Hwys 280-87-85-17Add Visual Cues. One other motivating factor was my street walking project. Last year I finished walking all the streets in my neighborhood and some of the adjoining areas. This year I wanted to complete the remaining streets, which together exist in a big squarish area bounded by four major freeways.

Completing this area was another way to measure how much I was walking. I used small maps and marked off the streets as I walked. So I had an area goal and a distance goal, both of which helped me to walk more.

Set Goals You Can Measure. Set a realistic goal that’s important to you—and include measures. Write it so clearly that you’ll be able to tell whether you’ve achieved it or not.

Small Steps. It’s also important to set smaller goals that add up to the bigger thing (or the on-going thing) that you’re trying to accomplish. The journey of a thousand miles is much easier to start if you think of it as a series of much shorter walks that you’ll string together over time.

You can use this strategy for exercise, reading or studying, writing a blog or a book, keeping up with things like email or bookkeeping chores, running errands, planning meals, or even staying in touch with friends. Really, you can use it for anything where you want to sustain your efforts over time.

Measures can include time, distance, area covered, number of sets or repetitions, room-by-room, chapter-by-chapter, or even the number of messages left in your email in-box at the end of the day.

So… with specific goals I walked twice as far as without. I think I’ll keep setting more small, specific goals for 2014.

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