Go for it – Dream big! No dream or aspiration is too crazy, as long as it rings true to you. However, you need to take some action to make it happen.
So here are 10 tips that you can use to start moving towards your dream, or when you need to pick yourself up if your motivation’s running a bit low. Once you get a little traction and begin to make some progress, then it’s easier to keep up the momentum.
Ten tips to make it happen:
1. Break it down into really small tasks.
Sometimes when our dreams are so big they can feel a little overwhelming. So break it down into small steps. And if you are still feeling overwhelmed when you look at your ‘to do’ list then break it down into even smaller steps. For instance, break down “write a book” into “outline the plot (or perhaps just the beginning or the end)”, “work out the setting”, “sketch out a character”, “write a paragraph (or even a sentence)” and so it goes. If you can’t think of what to write in full sentences, then sketch it out using dot points that you can go back and expand on later. Make it small so that you can get over the resistance of starting. I like to make things so ridiculously small and easy for myself that I can’t back out of doing them. Hence, my 3 minute daily meditation – how is it possible not to find 3 minutes in your day?
The advantage of creating small tasks is that if you like change, then each day you can vary the type of tasks you work on to break up the monotony. Or, if you’re a creature of habit then try to keep consistency in your tasks. So back to the book example: I suggest focusing on the writing (as that is how you build your book 🙂 ). But there are many different types of steps that you need to take before your book can be published. So if you’re getting stuck, then perhaps switch to some background research, sketch out your plot in more detail, or talk about your character’s dilemma with a friend to revitalise your inspiration and motivation, before you head back into your writing again. And while we might buck against the notion of routine, sometimes consistency can help us build a rhythm and a habit around the way that we’re working. Because in the end, it’s getting down word after word that will get your book written :-).
2. Set a timer
Work out the amount of time that you would like to work on your project each day. This may be as little as 5 minutes, or as long as an hour or so a day. Work out what’s going to be realistic for you. A good solid 5 minutes each day is not to be scoffed at (this equals 35 minutes a week, around 30 hours a year, or around 4 days work days with a lunch break. Imagine getting to take off almost a whole week to make your dream a reality!). That’s better than committing to an hour per day and giving up after a few days, because it was just too hard fitting around the practicalities of life. To get some real traction while keeping it real I suggest spending 10 or 15 minutes a day.
Whatever amount of time you decide – each day set a timer on your watch, your phone, your oven, or other device, and work as solidly as you can on your task until the buzzer goes off. By setting a timer, it gives you a focus and finish line to aim for. Using a timer is central to Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro time management technique (which was named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that he used for this process as a university student). This technique is a bit like interval training, where you work for a certain amount of time until the timer goes, take a short break, reset the timer and work, break, and so it goes.
Early in the piece I suggest stopping soon after the timer goes off. If you love starting things (like I do) then sometimes your excitement can lead to burn out. You end up working for an hour when you only meant 10 minutes. Which is fine on occasion (and in some ways it’s great to harness that extra enthusiasm and keep going while you’re in the flow). But if you’re consistently going over your initial limit then I suggest you reassess whether or not you can increase the time you spend on your project each day. If you can spare an extra 10 minutes or how ever long per day then great! Up your set time on the timer (and check in to see how that new time commitment sits with you). Most likely it’s beginner’s enthusiasm and you mightn’t be able to sustain it over the long term. So rein yourself in and really try to stick to your original time limit in the beginning. If you end up constantly overworking, you might end up setting unrealistically high expectations about how much time you need to spend each day (which then sees you abandoning the activity in the future because you don’t believe you can spare the same large amount of time). The aim is to keep up your endurance and persistence over a longer term so you can finish your dream project rather than see a flash in the pan for a week.
3. Focus on doing one thing at a time.
You will have a lot of different steps to take but don’t let yourself become scattered. Decide on the one thing that you’re going to work on that day and then do that. If you finish your task and still have time (and are willing), then you can move on to the next task. Don’t worry if you discover half way through your task that you’ve forgotten to do something else. Unless it’s task critical, write it down on your project ‘to do’ list and keep going with what you’re doing. You can then get to the other task when you next have a chance – or allocate it as your first activity during your next allocated project time.
4. Make it a priority by working on it as early as you can in the day.
We all know how easy it is to get distracted. We’ve all had those times when we meant to do something, but somehow got waylaid and carried away doing something else instead; sometimes to the point where we get completely off track and start to wonder “How did I get here? What was I meant to be doing again?” Checking email is notorious for sending us off track, especially if we discover something else that’s seems more urgent at the time.
So if your dream is important to you then make working towards it a priority. Treat it like an appointment by scheduling it in your diary. And most importantly, when the allotted time comes, then honour your commitment by working on your project.
If diaries and schedules aren’t your thing, the easiest thing to do is just to work on your project as early as you can in the day. This might literally mean it’s the first thing you do once you get out of bed (for instance, going for a jog before you have time to talk yourself out of it), or once you’ve finished your ‘getting ready in the morning’ routine and are ready to start your day, or it could be the first task for your working day if it’s a business related dream. The idea is to get in as early as you can.
Gary Keller, in The One Thing with Jay Papasan, likens our willpower to a battery. Every morning you start with a full battery of willpower. But as you go through your day, you use up your willpower ‘battery’ until you don’t have anything left to call on. Once you’ve used up your willpower, then you go to your default setting (which is normally the easy route of finding ‘busy work’, avoidance or doing nothing). So Keller suggests deciding on your priority and working on it when you’re willpower is at its greatest- early on in the day.
Another incentive for working early on your project is that one you’ve finished working on it, you can give yourself a big tick, and then feel the buzz of satisfaction as you go through the rest of your day.
5. Find a place to work that has no distractions.
Turn off your mobile. Turn off your internet or ability to surf the net (there are many apps that can help you do that). Move away from the TV. Do what you need to do to remove any distractions. And if need be, remove yourself into some form of isolation :-). During the warmer months I used to pack up all of my study notes and head off to the park to study for exams. It was nice to be surrounded by nature too. But in the end, there was only so much time I could spend looking around me that I didn’t have much option but to look over and revise my study notes.
6. Create a quick start kit.
Keep all your project materials in one place – a box perhaps, a bit like the old fashioned sewing basket that houses all of your needles, pins, threads, and scissors together. This way you can start your project at a moment’s notice and don’t have to spend 10 minutes searching for your materials throughout the house. For example, if you would like to practice playing guitar every day, keep your guitar, pics, tuner, sheet music and notes all in one area, ideally next to a chair that you can sit in and start playing straight away. Make starting as easy as you can for yourself.
7. Build in accountability to someone else.
Are you good at keeping your promises to others? If you say you’ll do something, will you make sure that by hook or by crook you’ll deliver? Well, use that to your advantage. Form an accountability group on Facebook. Or just text or message a friend when you’ve done your promised task for the day. Promising to post my daily mandalas on to my Facebook page really motivated me, especially when I was tired and it was the end of the day.
8. Track your progress
Do you love ticking off things from your ‘to do’ list when you’re done? Great! Then make sure to include your project time on your list so that you can get that satisfaction after you’ve spent some time on it. It can be a general recurring item, as in “work on painting project for 15 minutes”, but try to get as specific as you can (e.g. “buy new paints” or “prime canvas”). That way you’ll definitely know when you’ve achieved your task.
If your energy starts to flag whenever you see your project on your ‘to do’ list then it’s an indicator that something needs to change. Check in with yourself to work out what isn’t working and what you can change to increase your enthusiasm. Sometimes it’s something as small as its name. Reframe your project into something more inspiring and less scary. Sam Bennett in Get it Done suggests naming your project something funny or silly so that it will make you smile, say “fix the cat’s moustache” instead of “continue working on painting”.
When you’re making little steps it’s hard to see your progress. So tick off a calendar, colour in an image like a fundraising thermometer, add one piece to a jigsaw, make a knot in a piece of string or wool – just do something small (and quick) that will show your progress over time. Such a simple technique but over time it can show you how far you can come. Also, it can be used as an incentive to keep going, as in a productivity tip known as Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain” technique. In an interview, Seinfeld talked about how he marks a calendar with a cross each time he does his joke writing for the day, and that the idea of not breaking the chain of linked crosses motivates him to keep on track and do his work.
9. Reward yourself
Using a little bit of bribery with yourself every now again isn’t all too bad. If you’re itching to check into your emails or Facebook then make a bargain with yourself to do your task or work for your 15 minutes first. As soon as you cross that finish line then you are free to check into email to your heart’s content. Find a carrot that works for you :-).
Also remember to celebrate your wins. Every time you reach a milestone make sure to celebrate it. Don’t just shrug it off. Make a point of acknowledging your accomplishment in even a small way. Own it. Celebrating helps keep your energy and enthusiasm going. But more importantly, it helps build your confidence by reminding you of what you’re capable of doing (and what challenges you’ve been able to overcome in getting there). And then the next time you face a challenge or feel unmotivated, draw on all those past wins to remind yourself that you can do it again even if it’s with a small step at a time.
10. Be prepared to pick yourself up and start again.
There will be times when you won’t feel like it, that the next step feels a bit scary, or life just has thrown you a curve ball. You won’t work on your project. Perhaps for one day? Maybe two? And then before you know it, it’s been months.
So if you miss one day then OK, cut yourself some slack. But make sure that the next day you make the extra effort to work on your dream project again. Because for every day you miss the harder it is to get back on the horse again. And if you are feeling like you’re dragging your feet about working on your project, then it might be time to reassess if this is really what you want and to work out what needs tweaking. Or it might be worthwhile to purposefully take one day off from your project to recharge. Make sure that it’s guilt free and that you really use the time to step away and get re-inspired before jumping back into it the following day (hopefully with a revitalised sense of purpose and perspective).
So in conclusion, it boils down to this:
Work on your beloved dream as often as you can (even if it’s a small amount each day) and use whatever trick or incentive you can to overcome any resistance you might have to starting on it. If it’s something that truly lights you up, then once you get started it’ll get easier and feel good. And if over time it’s not bringing you joy, then it’s time to reassess – Can you make any changes to the project or how you approach it to make it more enjoyable? Or is it just time to move on to something else? Because the aim of the game is to spend time doing something that brings you joy and that will lead you towards your dream.
What tips and tricks have helped you work towards your dream?Pin It