Willpower, motivation, self-control - these are words that are bandied about to "help" you achieve your goals. They are good words, but the fact is that no matter how much motivation, willpower and self-control you build up, there's only one way to truly reach your goals, surmount a challenge, or stick to a New Year's resolution: Breaking them down into small, actionable steps.
Even more important, to me, is to work on them every single day.
In short: Work towards your goal a little bit every day. Or almost every day.
All the self-control and willpower in the world won't help you reach long-term goals unless you have a plan to work on them regularly. That's why using your daily routine to reach your goals is the only sure-fire way to accomplish them.
There are 3 reasons why you should work on your goals daily:
1. What you do regularly is more important than what you do occasionally.
Think about that again: What you do typically is more important than what you do sometimes, but not often. It's the classic case of the rabbit and the turtle. By applying slow, steady focus to something regularly, you have a better chance of accomplishing it, then by applying short bursts of energy irregularly.
Here are some examples:
- If your goal is to lose weight and you starve yourself for one day a week and lose 5 pounds, but then go back to your normal eating habits the other 6 days, you're not going to sustain that weight loss. If you eat healthfully 5-6 days a week and then splurge for 1 or 2, you have got a better shot at permanent, maintainable weight loss.
- The same can be applied daily. If you eat a healthy, normally portioned breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but then snack all day long between meals it's going to be harder to lose weight. On the other hand, if you eat healthy meals all day long and then have one less-healthy snack you see results.
- If you go all out and organize your home in one weekend but then don't lift a finger to declutter a space again until your next marathon organizing weekend, your home will be disorganized most days.
2. You're less likely to burn out.
I've had mornings where I have woken up, gone to work, and have been able to work furiously with a razor-sharp focus on the task at hand for several hours at a time, but that is an anomaly. Maybe I got a particularly good night's sleep (although I usually sleep pretty well) or a had a little extra shot of oomph in my coffee.
Most days, though, I have to work to maintain energy and focus through the day. If I tried to go full-bore I would flounder, often in the middle of a task, and end up exhausted.
Here's an example of this:
You get home from work and decide you cannot go one more day without organizing your closet. You hectically pull everything out and start trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. Eventually, because it's the end of the day and you have already worked 8 hours at a job and your patience and willpower have been taxed, you get overwhelmed and end up frustrated with your entire wardrobe on your bedroom floor.
The better option would be to choose one item of clothing (skirts, dresses, denim, button-downs), one dresser drawer, or one-quarter of your closet and declutter and organize only those items for the evening. The next night, or the next week, do another.
This way you can feel a sense of accomplishment without ending up in tears on a Tuesday at 2 a.m. surrounded by your New Year's Eve cocktail dress collection.
If you work a little bit every day, you're less likely to throw your hands up in frustration.
3. You form the habits you need in order to maintain your accomplishments.
If you choose to spend 30 minutes a day on one space, or a little time each day decluttering a different room, or 10 minutes a few times a day, you're able to reach the long-term goal of home organization while forming the good habits that will help you maintain it.
This is because you'll go on autopilot. Anything you do regularly--good or bad-- eventually becomes a habit, and our brains like habits. Habits are easier to maintain.
Learn to harness the power of your routine for good! You may be surprised by how much you can achieve.
(Not reaching your goals as quickly as you'd like? Here are 5 Reasons Why You Are Not Achieving Your Goals)