How to Allow Mindful Goal-Setting to Change Your Life

It’s not the act, it’s the intent behind it that matters.

Every night, before I go to bed, I write down the top three things I want to accomplish tomorrow. Here’s yesterday’s list:

  1. Write and schedule two blog posts
  2. Make a meal plan
  3. Purchase ingredients

This is my if-nothing-else list, the three things I want to get done no matter what. Even though it’s short, the power is in the fact that it is short. It allows me to identify and focus on what actually matters to me. It’d be great if I wrote down 10 priorities and got them all done, but that’s not the way human works. As soon as I learned and accepted that, I was able to start working more productively.

Without exaggeration, this one habit changed my life. And the thing is, it just takes three minutes. You sit down, you think of the things that matter most to you today, whether that’s long or short term goals, and you write them down.

By forcing myself to narrow down all the things I want to do tomorrow to a list of three, I prioritize what my true needs are. Work, side-hustle, and health, in this case.

The content of the list doesn't matter. Some days, it will be all work-related. Other days, it might just be “order socks.” It’s the intention behind drafting this single to-do list that drives me to accomplishment rather than the contents of the list.

Why does this one, three-minute habit have such life-changing impacts?

1. My goals are achievable.

“flying basketball and basketball hoop under blue sky during daytime” by Nabil Aiman on Unsplash

If I wrote “write content for the next month” onto my to-do list, I wouldn’t get it done. What’s worse is I wouldn’t even get two done. I’d be so overwhelmed by my task that I’d be paralyzed.

The practice here is to be sure the goals are things I realistically can do in a day. That way, there are no excuses for not getting them done.

Do-or-die mentality is one of the things that holds me back. I think if there’s no way I can do something, there’s no point in even trying. As a common failing for perfectionists, I researched ways to get around it.

And the one strategy that stood out was to break it down to manageable, doable chunks that you feel motivated to take on.

2. Prioritizing is powerful.

“person writing on white printer paper” by rawpixel on Unsplash

When you prioritize your goals, you’re forcing yourself to acknowledge what you truly want to get done tomorrow.

Every time I find my mind drifting at work, or I’m sitting at home watching TV, I remember that there were just three things I wanted to get done today — and a Netflix binge wasn’t on the list.

It doesn’t seem impossible. After all, it’s just three things. I have 16 waking hours in my day. It’s very feasible to get it done.

By realigning my priorities, even if it’s just on a piece of paper, I can ensure that a the end of the day, I go to bed satisfied I accomplished what I set out to do.

3. Specificity is key.

“close-up photography of United Kingdom dart pin” by rawpixel on Unsplash

I haven’t just written “do exercise” or “work on blog.” I have very specific goals with actionable steps to accomplishing them.

By being precise about what you need to achieve, your brain finds it easier to come up with effective strategies to make them happen. This is encouraging and motivating, enabling you to cross the goal off your to-do list today.

Vague goals always sound grand, exciting and enticing. But the fact is, when you consider what you want to get done for the day, quick wins are the way to go.

The best thing about this strategy? It literally takes three minutes. Two minutes to decide what your top three goals are, and one minute to write it down. (Less time if you’re like me and have a speedy scrawl!)

My results with this habit are, for me, fantastic.

My Instagram account has grown tremendously because I’ve gotten better at organizing my time around it mindfully; my work output has increased because I spend less time messing around when I’m conscious of what I want to do for the day.

I struggle with starting tasks because I’m afraid there’s no way I can do them perfectly. It’s a typical issue with perfectionists, and it can paralyze us. This trick of writing down three actionable goals means there’s nothing stopping me from accomplishing my biggest dreams — one baby step at a time.

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MSc by Research. Psychology nerd. She/her. zuliewrites.com

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