I’ve always described myself as a big dreamer. I get these big ideas of what could be – what my next career will be, what I’ll get a degree in next, and so on. These ideas almost consume me and I can be found late into the night researching the smallest details about how to put them into action. I’m really good at imagining the end result. The problem is, when it comes down to actually taking action to get started, or to continue one of these ventures, I often fall short and give up. I get discouraged when things don’t take off right away. Impatience and the need for instant gratification get the best of me. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to look at things in a new light. I’ve started to accept that the great things in life don’t happen overnight. They take hard work and time.
So, if you’re like me and can get discouraged and overwhelmed thinking about the small things when you are so excited about the big picture, read on for ways to stay motivated and keep dreaming big while setting (and achieving!) realistic goals.
1) Use a calendar. I cannot stress enough how pivotal this has been for me. I actually use both an electronic (Google) calendar and a handwritten planner, but one would do just fine. With my calendar, typically on Saturday or Sunday, I will plan out my next week. So I plan things out one week at a time. I break my time into “work sessions” and because I have a full-time job, I usually plan one work session per day for my bigger picture plans (right now that means working on my blog and side gigs), generally in the evenings. When making plans for the week, you want to be honest with yourself about what you can actually do in the time you have. For instance, it wouldn’t be realistic of me to have a goal of writing one post per day because of the other things I have going on in my life; one post per week or every other week is much more realistic.
Be gentle with yourself as you use your calendar. If you have a super busy day and will just want to relax at home in your down time, DON’T PLAN TO WORK ON OTHER THINGS THAT DAY! It’s okay (and necessary) to give yourself a break. Some evenings I work for three hours, some one, some none.
I am also very specific when planning work sessions in my calendar, which leads me to point number two:
2) Break tasks down into small chunks. This can be challenging for big picture thinkers. When I get an idea of what I want the end result to be, all the little steps I have to take to get there seem overwhelming and I can end up not doing anything at all because there is so much to do that I don’t know where to start. The name for this is analysis paralysis. For those times when you’re caught up in analysis paralysis, I encourage you to remember this:
Doing something is more progress than doing nothing.
You can spend forever trying to decide what to do first (or next), or you could just start with SOMETHING and you’ll be further along than you were when you were stuck trying to decide and not really doing anything. A good way to help yourself do something is to plan it into your work session. The work sessions on my calendar might look like this (actual screenshot from my calendar):
I plan for what I am going to do during each work session so I go into it with an objective. All of the seemingly small things I do during my work sessions will help me reach my ultimate goal; currently to run a successful, honest blog that impacts people and helps them improve their finances and lives in some way.
3) Keep your eyes on the prize. Lastly, don’t get so caught up in the smaller details that you lose sight of why you’re doing it all. Make sure everything you’re doing in the day-to-day is putting you a step closer to your bigger goals. It can be easy to get lost in what you thing you “should” be doing, what everyone else is doing, or what you think others want or expect from you, but if these things aren’t aligned with your actual goals, you’ll quickly burn out. Always remember where you want to go, be aware when things you’re doing don’t seem to fit within your vision, and don’t be afraid to change course to something that feels right.
Whether you’re working on a side hustle, learning a new skill, doing a hobby, creating art, or anything else, these strategies can be applied to help you accomplish the necessary smaller tasks that will come together to lead you to the big picture.
Do you have any tried-and-true strategies for reaching your goals? Let me know what I left out in a comment below.