When I’m not crafting tales of murder and mayhem in Elizabethan England, I’ve recently found myself embarking on a series of four New Adult novels that focus on a group of young women achieving their dreams, while falling in love and exploring the world after college. I just delivered the first in the series, DREAM IT, and it has me thinking about achieving dreams and reaching goals.
When I think about systems for getting things done, however, I don’t have to look at my corporate experience, my college years, or even my high school memories for the best model. Nope, I found the system that worked for me all the way back. . .in first grade.
That was when I discovered something my teacher called “Workshop” – a list of to-do’s on the chalkboard that you could accomplish at your own pace. Whenever you got item one completed, you moved on to number two. And so on, and so on. Regardless of whether this was my teacher's insidious tragedy to get out of actually teaching for a half-day and just leave us all to our own devices, I rocked at Workshop. And thus my fascination with To-Do lists was born. Now I make them for just about everything. Heck, I'll write something down on my list after I've already completed it, just for the experience of checking it off. I'm telling you—-it's a sickness. I'm good with that.
But To Do Lists, or writing out the steps that it’ll take to reach whatever successful outcome you desire, are just one tool you can use to achieve your goals. Below are a few others I’ve tried out or considered over the years. Which ones work for you?
This one is great for the visual people out there—think Pinterest with a Purpose. You collect the images that represent who and what you be, and compile them together in the media of your choice. Those who rock it old school prefer the scrapbook or framed corkboard approach—those who want to move more nimbly have created digital scrapbooks.
Who needs media of any sort? For this tool, you quiet your mind, focus on the desired outcome, and imagine yourself vividly as having already achieved your goal. In just a few minutes a day (seriously, if you meditate more you are at risk for falling asleep, at least if you’re as sleep deprived as I am) you can send out a powerful pulse to the universe. For those who are motivated by the written word, just writing out your “mantra” every day can also serve as a powerful meditation exercise.
Five Things Every Day
I read about this in The Success Principles, and I think there’s real merit to the idea, though I’m not sure if I’d have the discipline to stick to it. Essentially, you pick a goal, any goal—and you do five things a day designed specifically to help you achieve that goal. If you are an author, you could: write a scene, edit your manuscript, send an email to an agent, judge a contest, and check out a research book. Boom—that’s five things. Think about how far and fast you could go if you did this every day?
Make it A Game
This takes us back to the Workshop process, which so impressed my seven-year-old brain. Getting to the end of that list was fun. It was a challenge, and both speed and thoroughness counted. So take whatever it is that’s your goal, and make it fun. Make reaching it—and accomplishing the various milestones along the way—more than half the fun. When work becomes play, it’s not only much more interesting, you get competitive about it, even if you're competing with yourself. The choice between two discretionary activities becomes easier, if one makes you feel like a winner. Which is exactly how you feel if you’re doing what you can to reach your dreams.
What about you? What have you done over the years that has helped you achieve a goal—whether it’s finishing a paper or landing a scholarship or getting the job (or date!) of your dreams? I’m always looking for new ideas!