2020 turned our lives upside down and inside out and it’s not over yet. So, how do we make resolutions for the coming year with this continuing uncertainty? We don’t. Instead, we become master strategists of our own success stories.
We have learned that resolutions don’t always last and we understand that it takes more than a declaration to achieve a goal. Therefore, now, more than ever, articulating specific goals to give purpose to our restricted existence is essential.
The difference between a resolution that is merely a whimsical wish and a resolution that amounts to achieving a well-considered objective that aligns to your top-priority values, is colossal. And, formulating a realistic strategy and plan to achieve that goal is fundamental to your success.
Think about completing your thesis or dissertation in 2021. This undeniably amounts to more than just a resolution. It is tangible. You can feel it in your blood. And, you have actively started the journey. So, what do you do to ensure that you accomplish your goal of submitting your research assignment in order to graduate on time? Here are my insights on goal setting and succeeding.
1. You have to name it
You have a goal, so own it. Write it down, and be explicit. If that means writing in a diary or placing it on a vision board, find a way to acknowledge this goal. Tell your family and friends- and learn to say no. When those in your network understand how important this is for you, they will be more inclined to support you every day. This step is important and also holds you accountable, ultimately to yourself.
Tip: Why not create a personal # for the coming year? #MyThesisYear
2. You need a planned strategy
Despite the fact that we often use the terms strategy and plan interchangeably, there’s quite a significant difference between them.
“A plan is an arrangement, a pattern, a program, or a scheme for a definite purpose. A plan is very concrete in nature and doesn’t allow for deviation. If “Plan A” doesn’t work, you don’t alter “Plan A” and try again. Rather, you move to “Plan B;” something totally different.”
“A strategy, on the other hand, is a blueprint, layout, design, or idea used to accomplish a specific goal. A strategy is very flexible and open for adaptation and change when needed…A strategy allows for a natural flow of thought and continual momentum that builds until success isn’t only reached, but expectations are blown out of the water. A strategy can surprise, impress, and put you on track to becoming a competitive powerhouse.” – Cherissa Newton
Because a strategy forces you to continuously assess your progress by taking your past into consideration, you are more likely to find ways to achieve your goal. For example, there’s no point in planning to wake up at 4 am every morning to work on your research if you are not a morning person. By thinking strategically, you will find another way to get the time you need to work.
When planning for the future, which is undeniably unknown, it helps to strategise and consider the various scenarios you might be faced with and be prepared to modify your strategy so you can keep moving forward, rather than starting over at the beginning.
Tip: If you are having trouble prioritising work, family and other obligations, I recommend reading Essentialism (more here).
3. Understand where your own motivation comes from
We are all driven by our own motivation to land in a place where we can make a difference. Where we can serve the world based on our own unique qualities, history and experiences. This is the drive that gets us out of bed in the morning.
The best way I can explain this is by introducing a motivation theory, specifically Self Determination Theory (SDT). Deci & Ryan explicitly state that the first and foremost primary drive of humans is our drive for autonomy (independence): we are the masters of our own destiny and in charge of where we are going. Autonomy being a powerful energy source is the precursor to the second drive that emerges from SDT: the need for competence, our desire to be good at things.
In summary, if we take the fuel source from our autonomous motivation and invest it into the small step by step changes we must make to build that competence we so desire, we will achieve our goals. But, we must understand this energy source so we can harness it every day. Perhaps read some scholarly articles on SDT.
So, set up a schedule / weekly plan that will have you working consistently instead of in bursts when your motivation is low. Remember this is a marathon, constantly remind yourself of your ultimate success and pace yourself.
Tip: Make diary appointments with yourself setting aside time to work on your thesis.
4. Use tools to stay productive
Google calendars and Apps such as ASANA will help you keep track of your tasks list. Break your day down into 30-45 minute bite sizes and set timers to help you stay focused and within time limits. Try Boomerang for your Gmail: this application allows you to pause your mailbox for a set time, in which all incoming emails are held back until the time you’ve allocated. If social media eats into your productivity, install ScreenTime on your phone and set yourself some hard limits on the aimless scrolling.
5. Find balance & Believe in yourself
I’m a firm believer in internal validation. You need to back you. You are in charge of your time and how you spend your energy. You’ve come this far, you definitely have it in you to get through the final stretch. Take regular stock of your progress. Reward yourself. And when you are tired, take a break – but don’t quit. You’ve got this!