7 New Alpha Strategies for Achieving Your Goals

7 New Alpha Strategies for Achieving Your Goals

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Going after big goals is challenging. Nevertheless, there are a number of key things that you can do to keep yourself focused and motivated. These seven strategies will help you to get from where you are to where you want to go:


1. Commit to 15 Minutes a Day.

If you find yourself procrastinating on a big task or project, commit to sitting down for just 15 minutes and working on it—with the stipulation that you’re allowed to stop working on it after 15 minutes if you’ve given it your best effort, and just aren’t feeling it. Entire doctoral dissertations have been written by following this strategy, including mine.

This strategy is particularly good for people, like me, who find themselves struggling to get started. In order to remember to actually do this—I usually put a note (in bold/red!) on my daily planner next to tasks that I anticipate will be difficult to start. If I forget to leave the note, I’m much less likely to remember to use this strategy—the procrastinating brain is uncannily adept at making us forget strategies that kill our procrastination urges…


2. Look for Multipliers.

Stanford Professor of Marketing, Jennifer Aaker, suggests that multipliers—single activities that fulfill multiple goals—can be an effective solution for the time-strapped goal seeker.

For instance, if you have a goal around spending quality time with your partner and a goal around physical fitness, then going on a weekend hike with your partner can fulfill both goals. Take a few minutes to look through your list of tasks and routines to see if there are any items that can be combined.


3. Make a Single Thing “Non-Negotiable.”

While planning your day, identify a single thing from your daily schedule that that you absolutely must do: a “non-negotiable.” Identify this item in red and put it as early in the day as possible (when your willpower is the highest). Put it ahead of sending email, checking Facebook/Twitter, and returning that phone call to Aunt Sally. If it’s helpful, leave yourself a few encouraging sticky note reminders around the house (bathroom mirror, door handle, car)—your future self will appreciate your past self’s encouraging words!


4. Use Routines to Save Time & Brainpower—and Increase Productivity.

Routines are sequences of actions or steps that we follow regularly. Used properly, routines can save us time and valuable brainpower—and help us complete high priority tasks and projects. For instance, think about the first time that you drove to a new job. Chances are, your commute took longer than it takes you now. This is because, since that first day, you’ve developed routines around your morning commute: when to change lanes, what shortcuts to take, where to park, etc.. It’s like Steve Jobs’ habit of only wearing black turtlenecks—putting certain actions and decisions on autopilot means one less decision to make every day.

Take a look at your daily planner—are there any items on there that can be routinized? Can you consolidate your email responses to 1 hour at the end of every day instead of answering them throughout the day? How about creating an evening routine to help you end your day and get ready for bed more efficiently? Can you plan to spend the first hour of your work day working on your most high priority project instead of regularly procrastinating on it? Whatever it is that you need to get done, routines make it easier to achieve your goals.


5. Take Regular Breaks.

Sure it’s important to work hard to achieve your goals, but it’s also important to give yourself breaks to recharge during difficult tasks. Research suggests that the “Basic Rest-Activity Cycle” is about 90 minutes for most people. In essence, we start work with gusto and energy, and usually feel somewhat tired and less focused by the end of our 90-minute cycle.

For this reason, it’s not only okay—but even good—to take a break when you feel your energy flagging. For me, physical activity is really important to recharging my energy, so I usually force myself to get up and walk around every 90 minutes or so. Be sure to build a few rest periods into your daily schedule.⁠ I usually take 10-30 minutes, but energy guru, Tony Schwartz, thinks that longer break times can be better for productivity.


6. Celebrate Wins.

Celebrating even small wins as you progress toward your goal can be empowering and motivating. When you have a win (say you finally cleaned out your garage—yaay!), take a moment to congratulate yourself.

This doesn’t have to cost money. Even just treating yourself to a quick walk around the block outside your office after you finally submit your quarterly report, or a bubble bath after cleaning your house, can be immensely rewarding. More than just making you feel good, celebrating wins helps to keep you focused on your goals, increases your motivation, and helps you to recognize the progress that you are making toward what’s most important to you.


7. Increase Your Happiness . . . by Doing Something for Someone Else.

Feeling melancholy and like you might give up on your big goal? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out there to do something for someone else! It’s incredible how motivating and invigorating it can be to set aside your own issues and focus on making someone else’s life better.

In fact, research shows that identifying something concrete that you can do for someone else else will increase your own happiness. So if you find yourself feeling disenchanted with your progress toward a big goal, stop moping, make a list of concrete things that you can do to help someone else, and watch how your own motivation and enthusiasm increases as you serve others.


So there you have it: 7 New Alpha strategies that you can use to help you reach your most important goals. Feel free to experiment with these and see what works best for you. Also—please leave a comment below if you have other useful strategies that people can use to support them in achieving their goals.

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Danielle Harlan is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential (www.leadershipandhumanpotential.com) and author of the leadership book, The New Alpha (amzn.to/29C0V6j). She earned her doctorate in political science and M.A. in education from Stanford University, where she was a Jacob K. Javits National Fellow and received a Centennial Teaching Award for excellence in instruction. Prior to launching the Center, she was the Chief of Operations for the Carnegie Foundation, where she worked to harness the power of networks and quality improvement strategies in order to solve important educational problems. Named one of Silicon Valley's "40 Under 40," Danielle has also been a speaker for TEDx and worked as an instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension's Corporate and Professional Development Program. In addition, she has given guest lectures at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the “d.school”) and the Career Development Center at Stanford, and has been featured in leading publications such as Fast Company, Forbes, and Women's Health. Danielle started her career as a Teach For America corps member and later served as a mentor and advisor for Global Leadership Adventures, an international leadership development and service program. In addition to teaching in the U.S., she has taught in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, and South Africa. She is a member of the International Leadership Association, the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, and the National Association for Female Executives.