You know you want to declutter your house, find a new job, or lose weight. But somehow, you’re not getting around to it. The first place to start is with your goal. Sometimes procrastination occurs because your goal simply isn’t clear enough. To have an effective, motivating goal, you need to know precisely what you’re heading for.
Decluttering your house is too broad; to make it motivating, try breaking it down more specifically. Measurable is helpful, too. Getting rid of 50 books, clearing out all clothes that the kids haven’t worn in six months, reducing the number of DVDs the family has so they all fit on a single shelf… these are motivating goals! They give you something to aim for.
Another common problem with goals is not setting a deadline. Which is more likely to get your rear in gear: Losing weight in order to attend your high school reunion in three months, or losing weight… someday? Even self-imposed deadlines can be effective, so don’t set a goal without setting a deadline.
Many goal-setters set a goal that is too ambitious (“Be debt-free by next month”) or not enough of a stretch (“Ask one person about job openings at her company this month.”). The best goals lie somewhere in the middle. They’re large enough to require some serious effort, but realistic enough that you have a good chance of achieving them.
Effective goals need to be reviewed regularly, too. Just writing them down on an index card on January 1 and sticking them in the back of your Day Planner isn’t going to get you very far; some experts recommend re-reading your goals – OUT LOUD – at least once in the morning and once at night. You might also try posting them throughout your home: On the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, on the dashboard of your car. This leaves no doubt about what you’re aiming for, and also serves as a constant reminder. (It’s harder to reach in the freezer for the Ben & Jerry’s when there’s a picture of a bikini-clad you stuck on the door!).
Maybe the most important thing to evaluate your goal for, though, is to make sure it’s really yours, and really what you want. Sometimes we set goals because they sound good, we think we should want them, or someone else told us it was a good thing to aim for. Forget all that! If your heart isn’t in it, no wonder you’re not working towards it and are watching reruns of “Lost” instead. Find something you can truly put your efforts into – learning Japanese, drawing pictures of famous people on your Etch-A-Sketch, feeding pets that were abandoned in natural disasters – and work on that. You get one go-round in this life, so you may as well spend it where it matters to you. 
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