Podcast 134: Set achievable goals

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This is podcast 134 and it’s about setting achievable goals. We live in a culture where we’re encouraged to set daring goals for ourselves. There’s even an acronym, BHAG, that stands for big, hairy, audacious goal. I approve of goal setting as a way to keep yourself motivated and to be able to tell whether you’ve gotten to the place you want to be so you can stop and acknowledge your progress.

But for many people, setting a BHAG for everything we want to do in life is just stressful. Big goals demand a lot of attention and energy and if there’s not room in your life for one, you may just end up feeling overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself.

Goals don’t have to be big to be effective. I’m putting out this podcast episode now for all of you who have time off from work during the holidays who may have a big audacious plan to organize the entire garage. I’m here to tell you that if you’re not sure that’s do-able, you can bite off a smaller goal and I will still give you the Clutter Coach seal of approval.

I suggest picking a smaller organizing project. It could be your bedside table, or your kitchen junk drawer. I did a whole episode on the junk drawer a few years ago. There are several reasons I like the idea of picking a smaller, very do-able goal.

First, you will accomplish it! It’s not cheating to pick a project small enough to be totally confident you’ll finish it. Stack the deck in your own favor! Keep those training wheels on your bike until you can pedal without them!

I’m a big believer in being motivated by the carrot and not the stick. I want to feel good about myself because it makes me more receptive to doing things that are harder or that I don’t really want to do. I’ve already succeeded at something so my confidence is high.

Second, working toward a goal you know you can reach is much less stressful. Stress can certainly stimulate people to stick with their goals, but when you can work toward one without stress, you have time to pay more attention to what you’re doing. You have time to reflect on why the things you find on your bedside table are there, whether you want to keep them there and where a better place might be to keep them.

Organizing isn’t a race. It works better when you understand the concepts you’re applying and think carefully about how they work in your life. Maybe you had a plan to read all the books stacked on the nightstand, but it doesn’t seem to be happening and the pile is getting higher. You could choose to renew your commitment to reading, or you could whittle pile down to a less challenging height, or you could give the books away because you realize that you only read on your Kindle now.

Any of those decisions is based on you noticing what’s happening and making a decision about it, even if the decision is to leave things as they are. One of the points I make over and over in this podcast is that you can’t be truly organized if you aren’t aware of all the things you own and have committed to having them in your life.

The third reason I like small goals is that they encourage a regular organizing practice. Organizing isn’t a one time thing, no matter how much we might like it to be. Neither is decluttering. Even if you did that big hairy entire garage organizing and declutter project, you’ll have to do it again next year. Such is the way of stuff.

I find it simpler to do a little here and there on a regular basis, just the way you maintain other parts of your life. Think of little doses of decluttering as being like doing the laundry. It may not be your favorite way to spend time, but you do it anyway. It’s clear to you that it has to happen and has to happen regularly.

You don’t want to keep wearing sweaty clothes or sleep on dirty sheets. It’s not so much that those consequences inspire you to do the laundry; it’s simply an accepted part of life. If you can get to the point of treating organizing and decluttering that way, you are winning.

My advice for spending your time off is first, play and have fun and rest. Then, spend a little time on a small project you know you can finish. Feel good about that. Feel so good about it that you won’t resist doing it again next week, and the week after, etc.

What you can do right now: Pick that little project. Here are some more ideas: kitchen counter, dining table, front hall entryway, linen closet or medicine cabinet. No matter what you pick, you’re getting the Clutter Coach seal of approval!