I use a simple but effective system to reach my goals. At the beginning of every day, week, and quarter I formulate my goals such that I believe I will have an 80% probability of achieving them. I note them down in an Excel sheet and track how many of them I reach before the deadline. If I reach more than 80% of them, I recalibrate and set more ambitious goals for the next period. Do I reach less than 80% of them, then I set easier or fewer goals for the next period. This system has multiple advantages:
- It helps to set clear and measurable goals because at the end of the period you will have to indicate whether you reached them or not.
- It helps to set ambitious goals. I have had periods where I could keep upping the amount and difficulty of my goals, achieving more and more each day.
- it helps to prevent ruts. Even when you only slept for 2 hours, feel depressed or ill, or it just isn't your day, you can still set goals of which you are 80% sure you can realistically achieve them. Personally, I feel that by still achieving small goals I get some positive rewards which help me to feel better sooner.
- And maybe most importantly: it helps to get accurate beliefs about what you can and cannot do. This might be the area in life where people have the most biases: Planning Fallacy, Self-deception, Imposter Syndrome or Dunning-Kruger, etc. You might be able to achieve a lot more than you think, or a lot less. In either way, it would be helpful to have more accurate beliefs about this.
If you want to try the system I have a few practical tips:
- Separate goals over different time periods (I use daily, weekly, and quarterly goals), and try to hit exactly 80% in every type of goal. In the beginning, I underestimated what I could achieve in a day, but overestimated what I could achieve in a week. I learned I should let some daily tasks slip sometimes in order to reach my longer-term goals.
- Use meta-goals. The biggest failure mode of any system is that you use it enthusiastically in the beginning, but stop using it after a while. One of my recurring weekly goals is: "Set my daily goals at least 4 days this week". Of course, I achieve this goal about 80% of the time.
That's all. Now go reach your goals! Well, exactly 80% of them.