Eyes on the Prize: 11 Stick Strategies to Stay Focused on Your Goals

So far in this series, we've talked about planning for your goals and how to craft your goals. Today, we'll learn how to actually stick to them! Read on for my favorite strategies to stay focused on what you want to accomplish.

1 // Write your goals down and post them where you see them often.

You wrote down your goals, right? I hope so! Studies show that those who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who don’t. So get out that sharpie, get an index card, Post It, or whatever¸ and get to writing! But writing it isn’t enough – now post those goals where you can see them often, such as a vanity mirror or the corner of your computer screen. I personally wrote mine in HUGE letters and stuck them on the wall in front of my bed so they’re the first thing I see every morning.

2 // Create an action plan.

I bet you’re looking at your lofty goal feeling good about yourself for making it (which you definitely should). What now? This is the part where many people fall short. Instead of looking at your goal as one major action, break it down into small digestible chunks that you can achieve more easily. For example, if you made the goal to lose 30 lbs by May 31, how do you plan to do that? Your action plan could be to work out three times per week with a trainer, or even something smaller, such as to switch your morning latte with a cup of green tea. Small changes lead to the big results! 

3 // Identify obstacles that will prevent you from reaching your goals, and plan around them.

What stands in the way of your success? For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, you may notice that you tend to grab junk when you don’t bring your lunch to work. Mitigate this risk by planning your meals ahead of time and meal prepping. Have trouble finding the energy to go to the gym after work? Try working out first thing in the morning. Bonus: working out in the AM has lots of benefits!

4 // Anchor your goals in the five senses.

This one is similar to the first tip, as it’s a regular reminder of your goals. Choose a reminder for each of your senses, and use that anchor to remind you of why you want to accomplish your goals. Say you want to lose weight to lessen the risk of developing diabetes. Your anchors may be a favorite song, the taste of your morning coffee, a commercial on tv, the smell of fresh laundry, and the feeling of your phone vibrating in your pocket. Each time you experience these anchors, think of why you’re striving to achieve your goal.

5 // Use an app to track your progress and nudge you along.

Cellphones are an awesome thing. They’re like little personal assistants and laptops in our pockets. There are countless apps out there that help you stay on track and make reaching your goals fun and interactive. Some of my favorites include MyFitnessPal and LoseIt for food tracking; C25K, MapMyFitness, and Nike Training Club for fitness; and iDrated to remind you to drink water. What are yours?

6 // Reward your successes along the way.

I cannot stress the importance of positive reinforcement in working towards your goals. And neither should you! By all means, reward yourself for the many small victories along the way. When I was trying to drop weight from my former 190 lb frame, I set rewards for various things such as losing 10 lbs, meal prepping for an entire week, hitting my gym goals, etc. The rewards should be things that reinforce your good habits, not indulge in bad ones! Some of mine were new workout clothes, new hair color, and a big vacation when I hit my final goal.

7 // …and set consequences for not following through.

Just as you reward yourself for your victories, setting consequences for when you don’t follow through is just as impactful. Years ago, my roommate and I would have to put money in a jar when we didn’t do our weekly chores. I saw a great suggestion somewhere that when a person didn’t do the behaviors they had planned for themselves (in this case, write 6 pages per week with the goal of writing a novel in one year), they had to donate money to a cause they hated. That’ll keep you from slipping up! Which brings me to the next tip…

8 // Keep your goals to yourself.

This is a surprising one. Usually, we get so jazzed up about our goals that we want to shout them from a mountaintop. (Or, if you’re a city dweller like me, a fancy rooftop somewhere.) However, it’s been proven that telling everyone you meet about your aspirations actually has a negative effect – turns out talking about your goals tricks your mind into feeling like you’ve already accomplished them. There’s a pretty cool TED Talk about this.

9 // …except when you’re talking to your accountability partner(s).

An accountability partner is different from the random people on the street. This person is there to make sure you’re staying on track and doing what you need to do. Health coaches, for instance, are awesome accountability partners – it’s pretty much 50% of our role in your lives! Here's a fun fact: one study showed that 76% of people who shared a goal and reported progress regularly to a friend achieved or made progress on those goals. Seventy-six percent!

10 // Check in regularly.

I read somewhere once that most people drop their New Year’s resolutions by January 17. People last a measly 17 days before giving up on their plans for the entire year. You won’t do that, of course, because you have so many great tips to keep you focused. However, it’s always good to do a regular check-in to make sure you’re on track and adjust goals or action plans as necessary. I like to do it monthly. A great way to remember this is to set reminders (with alerts!) on your calendar RIGHT NOW for the rest of the year. Do it. I’ll wait.

11 // Remember that setbacks happen.

If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and keep on trucking. Don’t let a setback derail what you want for yourself. Busy at work and missed a week at the gym? Had a bad day and ate an entire container of ice cream? We’re human, it happens. Acknowledge that you messed up, think about why you did it and how it can be prevented in the future, and move the hell on. Tomorrow is another chance to get it right!

Hopefully these stick strategies will help propel you to your greatest heights in the new year. Want to keep these strategies where you can see them to help you stay on track? Download the free printable list!

Are there any other tricks you use to keep you focused? Share them in the comments!