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Make Progress on Your Goals: 13 Questions

We’ve all been there. We make a goal, get psyched, lose momentum, and don’t make progress. You might feel like you’re to blame. Like there’s something “wrong with you.” Instead of turning on yourself, tune into yourself.

You can read books about productivity and goal-setting till the cows come home, but ultimately you have the answers. Only you know what helps you make progress.

Here are 13 questions to help you figure out what helps you move forward:

#1 Who made this goal?

Is this a goal you want to reach, or something you set because of external expectations (friends, family, society)? Working towards a goal someone else made isn’t very fun. Make it your own!

#2 What drives me?

I have a friend who wanted to read more. But she didn’t. Not one book. Until she joined a book club. She realized that doing things with other people was a huge motivator for her. Observe yourself. What makes you take action? (e.g. money, making a difference, creativity, beauty, being part of a team, solitude, consistency, innovation, connection, fun)?

#3 How much time do I spend on other people’s goals?

Track your time for a week with something like Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours Time Management Spreadsheet. Notice where it goes. If you’re helping other people move towards their goals, that’s lovely! Just be sure to make time for your own too.

#4 How much time do I spend online?

It is easy for time to fly by on social media, or while “doomscrolling” the news. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Gently remind yourself that time spent doing those things is time away from doing something you really care about. My post, 5 Ideas for How to Find Time for the Things You Really Want to Do might provide some inspiration.

#5 How long have I been pursuing this goal in the same way?

You’ve probably heard the Albert Einstein-credited saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If taking the same actions to achieve your goal isn’t working, try something new!

#6 What else is going on in my life?

Financial challenges, physical and mental illness, family issues, loss of a loved one, and stress from things like COVID, racism, and climate change affect how we make progress. It doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your goals. But your action plan needs to take them into consideration.

#7 How much sleep am I getting?

When you’re tired, it’s hard to take action and meet challenges. Sometimes sleeping enough is all it takes to get energized.

#8 How big are my action steps?

When you’re making your action plan, are you breaking things down into manageable chunks? If your action steps are too big, it can feel intimidating. Turn you big steps into lots of little ones. My Big Vision, Small Steps Workbook might help!

#9 How long is my to-do list?

If every day you face a to-do list that you can never complete, it can be pretty demoralizing. Challenge yourself to make a list each day that is actually doable ( : When my list gets too long, I do a process like I described in, How to Shorten Your to Do List by Making Three.

#10 Am I experiencing burnout?

As we approach the 18-month mark of the pandemic, burnout is rising. See my post Experiencing Burnout? 3 Ideas to Try for ideas on how to work with this oh too common phenomenon. The most important tip: take a break and get some rest.

#11 What would happen if I embraced medium?

Big goals and big visions inspire us! But sometimes, even when we break them down into small steps, they overwhelm us. Especially if we’re perfectionists. Perfection can’t be achieved, but good enough can. If you dialed back your high standards and embraced medium, you might find that you’re closer to your goal than you realized.

#12 When is my highest energy level?

Are you trying to be a morning person because you think you should be? Are you following the hot time management / productivity model of the moment even though it doesn’t feel like you? As my painting teacher often advised, “Where’s the Energy?” Notice when you have the most energy for different activities during the day, week, month — even year. Try to shape your action plan around your natural energy cycle.

#13 What kind of support do I need?

Here in the States, being independent and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is a part of the culture, but not a very healthy part. When you’re working towards your Big Vision, you’re going to need help. If you’re feeling stuck, try completing the sentence, “I need help with________________ and ________________ can help me,” until you’re out of ideas. Give yourself the gift of support.

Want to make more progress around your Big Vision for your work in the world? Set up a free, sample coaching call.

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