Having a visible reminder of want you out of life is a great way to motivate yourself. The easiest way to do this is by creating a list of your goals and keeping it in a place where you will see it on a regular basis. Maybe you could post it on the bathroom mirror or on the refrigerator next to the kids’ art masterpiece. Chose a location which is highly visible and convenient for you.
In a corporate world this list may be called a Rolling Action Item List. At home it may be called a “To Do” List. Your list can be long term goals or even short term goals. I find that when I make a list of all of the things I need to get done during the weekend that I am more likely to accomplish those things if I have written them down. If I don’t have a reminder of what my priorities are, I tend to ignore my responsibilities and don’t accomplish what I need to.
Here are some tips for making the most out of your list:
Be Specific. When creating a list of your goals, either short term or long term, it is important that they be specific. Having a goal to “Boost My Emergency Fund” is a great goal, but it is much too vague. A better way of wording this goal is “Increase my Emergency Fund balance to $5,000.” Now you have a specific number you can work towards.
Set a Time Limit. Having a time limit gives you a deadline to work against. It is important that you set a reasonable time limit. You don’t want to limit yourself too much because the challenge may cause you to give up if it is too hard to achieve your goal, but you also don’t want to set the deadline too far into the future. If your deadline is too far away you won’t be motivated to work towards the goal and eventually you will just stop working towards the goal. Consider a reasonable time limit that will be challenging but not impossible.
You can take your goal of “Increasing my Emergency Fund to $5,000” and turn it into “Increase my Emergency Fund to $5,000 by December 31, 2009. Now you have a clear picture about how much and how long it is going to take.
Make Your Goals Actionable. By following both of the steps above when creating your list you now know exactly what you want to do and how long it is going to take in order to get it done. By knowing this information you can create a plan to successfully complete your goal. You need to break your goal into smaller steps. You can eat an entire elephant one bite at a time. If your goal is long term such as biking the west coast, your first actionable step would be to begin researching what sort of bicycle you would need. After you have that information you need to get a bike. Then you need to practice riding, increasing your distance each time until you have reached your desired daily distance.
For the example of the emergency fund, if you already have $1,000 saved then you only need $4,000 more in 9 months. That is $445 a month. That is a pretty steep goal. Maybe we can break it down even further to $112 a week. That is still pretty tough. What about $15 a day? That seems more manageable. I am sure that there are ways of reducing our spending by $15 a day without cramping our styles too much. It just takes a little creativity.
A list is one of the easiest ways of motivating yourself towards accomplishing your goals. I always keep a notepad and pen handy so that I can write down my thoughts and goals. I recommend that you do the same and follow the steps I outlined above in order to make your scribbles become a reality. Just remember, a list isn’t going to do all of the work for you, it is just the beginning and the rest is up to you.