Setting goals and moving towards the center

Slight, accurate motion causes great, effective movements
Slight, accurate motion causes great, effective movements

This week I was looking at the website of a guy I know; he gives advice about how to reach goals by using small communities of ambitious friends to support each other.  The first piece of advice that struck me, though, was, in his words, “stop the bleeding.”  He recommended naming bad habits and using time spent on them for the goals we want to accomplish.  One of my bad habits is compulsively checking email and Facebook, so I took some time away from those activities this week, and I accomplished a few things that I would not have done otherwise.  I haven’t done the second important piece of advice–examine “why” I want to do these things.  I’ll discuss that in a minute.

Before I list the things that I accomplished, I’ll briefly mention a simple tool that I used.  I set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs.  I put multiple tabs, one for each large goal: start a side business, expand language offerings in the public schools, learn Farsi, learn Somali, develop methods for learning languages at work, and blog.  On the spreadsheet I write individual tasks that I think well keep me moving.  I date when I put tasks down and when I finish them.  I also want to put down a deadline for myself, but I’m afraid of that much commitment at this point.  This way I can actually see what I’m getting accomplished and plan a little more deliberately.

Here are some of the things I actually accomplished.

  • Business.  I have a website that is nearly complete.  It still needs some photos, so I talked to my friend’s wife, who is a photographer, and some international friends at work who will pose with me.  Once the photos are up, I should be done with the site, ending that phase.
  • Languages in Schools.  I contacted a person who has already been working on Somali language in the Minneapolis Schools.  I’m planning on another meeting maybe next Saturday–I ran the idea past my friend/partner.  I’ve put together a list of names to invite to the meeting, and I created an agenda that is manageable for a 1-1.5 hour meeting.
  • Farsi.  I’ve been watching some Iranian sit-coms every evening or every-other evening.  I IM friends in Iran 2-3 times per week at work.  I spoke over Skype with an Iranian friend for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Somali.  I use my limited Somali every day, but I didn’t really move ahead.  Not much happened here.
  • Languages at Work.  I’ve been inputting dialogues for my languages at work packet.  I solicited more translations and ideas from my Somali friends, and we’re discussing ways to re-introduce our Somali table to our company.
  • Blog.  (This is it!)

I’m amazed that I did all this in moments at home and slow moments at work when I would normally kill time.  I’m grateful for this piece of advice to “stop the bleeding.”

I want to look at why I want to accomplish these goals with the hope of encouraging my deeper motivations.  Figuring out the “why” behind these goals appeals to me, because I know that I can motivate myself at my core.  Back in college, when I studied kung fu, my non-English-speaking sifu used to demonstrate effective technique by taking a rope and swinging it in a circle.  He’d point at the small motions of his hand and the large motion of the rope they caused.  When you push from the center, less effort is necessary for an action.  (See photo.)

The technique of finding out the “why” is to ask why I want to do something, and then ask “why” to that answer, five times.  This way I move towards my own center.  So I want to accomplish this technique this week on at least two of my big goals I mentioned above.

I’d love to learn from my readers how you accomplish your goals–or what stands in your way.  I may or may not have suggestions for you; I’d love to learn something from you.

Do any of my readers use accountability groups for setting and keeping short- and long-term goals?  If so, please describe your process.

How do you stay focused on goals?  What techniques do you use?  Do you have examples?

Photo credit: Steve Corey / / CC BY-NC

9 thoughts on “Setting goals and moving towards the center

  1. live.retridemption

    Researching productivity and time management helped me get my goals in order and what tasks I want to accomplish. The 99% website ( helped me immensely because I’m one of those people who have a million ideas but never get any done. I didn’t know until I read a few articles on that website and the ‘Getting Things Done” book that I was afraid of finishing. But not anymore.

    My goals are to blog on each of my five blogs at least once a week. My blogs are also the way I’m going to keep myself accountable. I put up a calendar on each of them which shows the dates I have added content or posted so I can track what blog needs attention and what content I should work on next.

    Team work is the best way for me to get things done because of the expectations of others on my work. Learning about one’s self and the ways in which you work or don’t work effectively is the way forward.


    1. Thanks for commenting. It sounds like 99% and GTD are working well for you. I know the struggle with finishing things. What are you trying to accomplish with your blogs? Is there a bigger picture? Or are you just trying to be a more productive writer?


      1. live.retridemption

        What I’m trying to accomplish with my blogs is:
        – get my works out into the public arena
        – gauge the reaction my works receive from the public
        – use it as an accountability tool
        – track what work needs to be worked on next by using the calendar widget (one post per week on one blog)
        – use the blogs to track my skills acquisition/progression
        – possibly use the blogs to let potential employers know that I’m actively pursuing my interests and learning what I can in my chosen fields

        Productivity has always been a key hurdle for me, so I’m using these blogs to help me work on that skill.


      2. I think I see; let me know if I misunderstand. You’re using blogging to develop skills in other areas. Where blogging isn’t the key skill, blogging helps keep account that you’re working on the key skills you want to improve. I know the productivity hurdle you’re talking about. For me, it’s about stating easily-measured, concrete goals. Often I may have a fear of commitment.


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  3. A very inspiring post! I’ve long been aware that I’m “bleeding” all over the place, lol, and I’d really like to tackle this. I think I might start by spending a few days or a week logging when I’m blatantly wasting time. One method I’ve used successfully in the past was the “pomodoro technique” (you can google this), and I’d quite like to get back on that (very effective) waggon.
    I’m taking time out at the moment being on vacation, and it’s always a good time to reflect upon life and making changes. I’ve got tons of goals, and I need to optimise my time in order to achieve them.


    1. For me, I’ve found awareness of the bleeding extremely helpful. I’ll find myself “bleeding,” and I’ll say to myself, “Let me turn to my list of priorities. What can I work on from that list right now?” This makes me more motivated. I’ve tried logging, and it just beats me up. Gentle shifts in my thinking seem to be more helpful.


      1. Logging can, in itself, become a distraction. I think it’s useful for identifying patterns, but not something that is conducive to progress if continued over long periods of time.
        My main problem, I think, is that a lot of the (“bleeding”) time, I just don’t feel like doing anything constructive at all, lol.


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