Anyone can be good with a little effort. Anyone can be really good with a little more effort. But no one can be great–at anything–unless they put in an incredible amount of focused effort. There are no shortcuts. There are no overnight successes. Achieving your goals is based on consistently doing what you know makes the biggest difference in your life.
Of course the key is remembering to do what you need to do — and remembering it at the right moment.
So with all the distractions you face on a daily basis, how can you remember to do something you want to do? Research shows that “reminders by association” are an excellent tool.
- Placing a set of core wheels in your office doorway to remind you to do a set of core exercises every time you walk in or out. (I love these core wheels because they provide enough balance to let me extend my arms sideways as well as the more traditional forwards motion.)
- Hooking a dog leash over your car keys to remind you to take Spot out for a bio break before you leave the house.
- Keeping a bottle of water beside your mouse (or phone, notepad, etc.) to make sure you remember to drink more water throughout the day.
The key is to set up intentional reminders.
That’s what researchers did in this study. They gave participants a variety of cues designed to help them remember to do something in the future. One cue was seeing a statue of an elephant, another was picking up a paper clip, and a third was seeing aToy Story poster. Each was associated with some action.
Sounds simple…but the cues made it twice as likely that participants would remember to perform the action.
As the author of the study said (in surprisingly clear non-researcher-speak), “Our results suggest that people are more likely to follow through on their good intentions if they are reminded to follow through by noticeable cues that appear at the exact place and time in which follow-through can occur.”
You can do the same thing. Think about a goal that requires consistent effort to achieve, and pick a repeated task that will get you there.
- Say you want to cold-call 1,000 prospects this year. That’s a big number…but four calls a day is not. Put a note by your phone. Or a plastic ice cube. Or a slinky. Pick anything that will remind you of the task you want to complete, and every time you see it…make one call. (Of course that means keeping your list of prospects handy as well.)
- Say you want to add 500 genuine connections to your network this year.That’s a lot…but two every day is not. Buy a small frame with one of those cheesy stock photos in it to remind you that you want to connect with someone you don’t know well.
- Say you want to walk more. A friend sticks a lime green Post-it note on the right-hand side of his office doorway to remind himself not to take a right turn. Every time he leaves his office, he turns left, walks down a flight of stairs, traverses that hallway, and walks back up the stairs at the other end (even though he might only intend to pop into an office two doors down the hall). I know that sounds odd, but for him it works because he can’t help but see the Post-it note–and that reminds him not just of his goal but of his task.
Give it a try. Pick something you want to do, break that down into daily chunks, create a visual reminder that helps you remember to perform those daily chunks at the right moments…and one day you’ll realize you’ve accomplished what once seemed impossible–even to you.
Sometimes the key to doing what you want to do is just to be reminded at the perfect time to do it.
All it takes is a simple reminder.
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