Small, measurable, manageable commitments help people like me move toward their goals.
Hi, I'm your host, Matt Stauffer, and this is Episode 91 of The Five Minute Geek Show, a weekly show about development and everything around it. It's one topic per episode about front end, back end, mobile project management, design, entrepreneurship, whatever. If it's geeky it fits.
Today we're going to be talking about goals and commitments. I know a lot of people who really value the idea of setting goals and measuring your, long goals. I have a lot of friends who really care about analyzing others. The word that they use for it I forget but basically having metrics about everything you do, how often I eat that, how often I do that.
I do some of those things. I've been tracking my food and calories through either ... I think the old one was called Calorie Counter and the new one's called My Fitness Pal for years. It really helps me have a good understanding of what my health is like and everything so I'm very thankful for those things. One of the things that I've noticed is a lot of those folks who think deeply about journaling and planning, executing, all that kind of stuff, they all talk about setting goals. If you haven't had some teacher or parent or someone at some point in your life tell you you need to set goals I'd be extremely surprised.
Why is it that people like me have so much ... Okay. I have a lot of trouble setting and focusing on goals. I set them and they're really great and a nice idea but some of the things I run into are first, it's really hard to predict what my goals should be. It's like how much should I increase sales by? Well, I guess 10%. Is that realistic? Is that good? Is that bad? How do I really know, I've just kind of made up things. It's good to focus on those made up things but often it's just hard for me to really use them as motivation.
Additionally, the hardest part for me is that they're not present. Unless you do a really good job of keeping them at the forefront of your mind or checking in on them regularly or whatever else which I don't do you set the goal and then you feel guilty when you had forgot about it for three months. That's not to say that goals are bad but if you're like me you might find that there's something a little bit better which is small, measurable commitments. Instead of saying, "I'm going to set a goal to lose a certain amount of weight." Instead make a commitment, "I'm going to make a commitment that I'm going to cap my food at 1800 calories a day." "The source of my calories is going to be 40% protein." "I'm going to make a commitment that I'm going to make 10,000 steps everyday."
What that ends up meaning is when I have that doughnut in the morning that means in the end of the day I'm scrambling a little bit to figure out how am I going to get my protein in or the next day when I feel really bad about that it's going to motivate me to be less likely to have that doughnut. When it's the end of the day and I've only hit 7,000 steps and I want to go to sleep I say, "Hey, I made a commitment." My wife knows that I made that commitment and so she's okay when I, like a crazy person, go walk around in circles in my neighborhood for 45 minutes to get my steps.
Those commitments are easy to make because I say, "I committed to do this thing, therefore I'm going to do it." It's easy to justify the decisions in response to it because it's very hard both to myself and to other people to say, "Well, I need to lose weight. Therefore, I'm going to go walk." That's definitely, it's a true thing but it's vague, it's very distant, and it's very easy to justify away. "Well, I can just skip walking this time, I can just whatever. How much is it really going to matter? I'm already making progress, blah, blah, blah"... but... "I committed to walking 10,000 steps everyday."
You don't justify that away. If you don't make 10,000 steps that day it's because you're breaking your commitment. That's not like you should feel guilty or whatever but it's much closer to the wire thing to fulfill. "I committed to 10,000 steps today, I'm going to do 10,000 steps today, that's it." My hope is that I make commitments that are in line with my values. My value isn't actually losing weight, it's just being healthy. I just want to give examples of things that are maybe small, measurable, and very clear when you broke them in the moment, in the immediate space.
Commitments might be a good way to reach goals. By doing that I now have to worry less about being able to predict what my goals should be in the future. I have to more just say what are healthy decisions to make that are in the same direction as that goal. With my physical health it's very easy because I know what things are healthy. With things that are a little more abstract sometimes it's a little bit tougher. What are the things ... What are the immediate commitments that you can make right now to get you to the place that you want to be in your career or in your business' growth? Well, let's say you want to become a better developer. Well, it might mean saying, "I commit that every single day I will work through my lunch break and I will watch one Laracasts video and I will read at least 10 pages of this book. Regardless of anything else I will do that or every night I'm going to work through this thing or I will spend one hour on this site app every single day so I have a portfolio piece," or whatever else it ends up being.
Maybe if you're a business owner it will be, "Every single day I will put at least 30 minutes into one of 10 business development tasks. I will either blog or make phone calls or follow-up with these people or whatever. I will spend at least 30 minutes doing that every single day regardless." You didn't say, "I'm going to increase my sales," or, "I'm going to be the best developer ever." You said, "Every single day I'm going to do X amount of things to get myself ... Or every week or whatever to get myself moving in the direction I want to go." I think the primary goal of this one is just saying that if you're like me you may find that goals are nice but often just induce guilt when you forget about them.
Small, measurable commitments that will move you in the right direction are a lot easier to keep fresh because you just get in the pattern of them. It's a lot harder to break them and it's a lot easier to justify doing things that might seem a little weird for the sake of them. It's a lot harder to justify not doing them when they're small. It's not as if you're like, "Well, I'm going to lose 50 lbs." Well, it's very easy to feel vaguely non-committal to that when time comes and it's family doughnut time. It's a lot easier to say, "I'm going to walk 10,000 steps today," and you're a little tired and say, "You know, it's only 2,000 more steps and I committed, I'm going to do it."
I hope this helps someone. Thanks for listening to The Five Minute Geek Show. We're at Five Minute Geek Show on Twitter number five. Fiveminutegeekshow.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes via RSS. If you like the show share it with your friends right on iTunes. Thanks. Until next time, Matt Stauffer, Five Minute Geek Show.