Get Smaller Goals

Thursday night my library team partnered with the learning center to host Roane State’s first ever Long Night Against Procrastination. Our goal was to encourage students to get strong starts on those impossible-seeming papers and projects that loom at the end of term.

It was a great success. Nearly 200 students checked in to take advantage of extended library and learning center hours as well as prizes, therapy dogs, yoga and stacks of pizza. For me, the highlight of the whole thing was the Goal Wall, which was three long sheets of black paper dividing the wall into columns: Getting Started, Making Progress and Done. When students arrived, they signed in and were directed to the Goal Wall to set at least one specific, achievable goal for evening. “Make an A on my chemistry final” was not allowed. That’s an outcome. “Study my chemistry notes for an hour with a friend” was alllowed. Even better: “Understand titration.”

The emphasis was on setting small, specific, achievable goals for the evening. Not next week. Not the semester. Today. Right now. As students met their goals, they were encouraged to move their post it notes from the Getting Started column to the Making Progress and Done columns. Our goal for the evening: remind students that setting small, realistic goals leads to success meeting those bigger, more ambitious goals.

I’m a person who struggles with goal setting. Judging from the popularity of productivity blog posts in my Pocket feed and the proliferation of To Do apps, you might be too. I have tons of drive and ambition but I often set myself impossible, far range goals which I never actually meet. I spend a lot of time feeling swamped, like I’m getting no where. Turns out my goals are too big, too distant and too abstract.

This morning’s news feed gifted me Nicolas Cole’s excellent article, “If You Prioritize Your 2018 Goals This Way, You’ll Reach Every Single One Of Them”. The main take way: set concrete, measurable goals. The challenge: each week only set goals you can accomplish within 7 days. For Cole, the focus on seven days supports a discipline of setting actionable goals that are constantly reviewed. If our goals are small enough, they can certainly be achieved and success leads to success. Simple advice.

So, for this week, I’m doing the thing I encouraged my students to do. Set small, specific goals. Things that can be fit on a post-it note and measured in terms of “did I do it?” I set myself five specific goals for this week, each small enough to fit on a post-it note, which means each fits easily inside my head. No need to make it complicated or get overwhelmed. Five simple things in seven days. I’ve got this.

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Humble Brag: One year and 40 pounds

One year ago today, my doctor gave me some heavy news. If I didn’t make some positive changes quick, I was going to end up diabetic and at high risk for heart issues. I was a whisker away from pre-diabetic and my good/bad cholesterol mix was upside down. We talked a lot about the link between diabetes and early onset dimentia. I came away from that conversation with my head spinning. I knew I wasn’t healthy but I had always figured I had time to get it together. Always sometime in the future. Suddenly, I had no time to waste.

After that conversation, I became very focused on sugar. My choices became very simple. Sugar is hurting me. Don’t eat sugar. I trimmed most of the sugar and processed foods from my diet and got more active. I had a Fitbit and started paying attention to more than just my steps. I started tracking my calories intake/output. I had specific, measurable goals that I could monitor in realtime and make useful choices throughout the day. I started taking my breaks to walk at work and walked on my lunch break. It wasn’t hard. It just required consistency.

I’m no longer pre-diabetic and my cholesterol is mixed the right direction. I lost 40 pounds and feel good most days. I joined a running group and am pushing my mileage toward my first half marathon in November.

This isn’t just a humble brag. Everybody’s journey is different. Losing weight is easier for guys than girls. It has to do with metabolism, muscle mass and such. I’m not bragging. I just want to say that I’m proud of what I’ve done for myself this past year and that it wasn’t as difficult as I had told myself it would be. In fact, I succeeded because it became very, very simple. Avoid sugar. Drink water. Get active. Be consistent.

And that’s the takeaway: Keep it simple and be consistent. Every day do the thing that matters most. Whatever it is you want or need, it is right there for you. It is possible. Start now. Keep it simple. Do it everyday.