Have you ever sat down determined to do something and then before you knew it the day has gone by and you have not yet accomplished what you set out to do?
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”- Olin Miller
Perhaps the task seemed so overwhelming that you were afraid to get started and therefore just kept putting it off. The first step is to have a plan. A plan will help keep you focused. Your plan should consist of clearly defined goals. Your goals should be S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals. It is very hard to accomplish goals if they are not S.M.A.R.T goals. Know what you are working towards and decide how you will know the goal is completed (be as specific as possible).
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps you have a research paper due in one month. Therefore, your long term goal is “to complete the research paper,” but that is a very overwhelming goal and one that will not be accomplished for (perhaps) a month. Instead, break down the larger goal into short term goals that are easily achievable. Perhaps start with a goal of “reading two research articles on the topic.” This goal is easily attainable and once you achieve the goal you will feel a sense of accomplishment, which is more likely to keep you motivated and will decrease your anxiety/stress level surrounding the project.
“You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future”
- Olin Miller
Focus on the present, the here and now. What happened yesterday is gone and out of your control, but the present is in your control. Therefore, do not focus on what you should have done, could have done, or even what you can’t do, but focus on what you CAN do.
“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do not forget to take breaks and plan for these as well. Breaks are important in order to pace yourself, to clear your head, and to re-focus. Try to identify how long it takes before you lose focus, and take a short break before you get to that point.
Additionally, you can use breaks as small rewards. For example, you could have a plan to take a 20 minute walk after you complete the two readings. Remember having a plan is the first step in following through and achieving your goals.
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”
- William Arthur Ward
Author: Rachel L. Goldman, MA