How To Get Stuff Done. Period.

When it comes to goal setting and motivation, there are a couple of schools of thought:

  • You should set big, ambitious, audacious goals … ones that challenge you and inspire you
  • You should set small, easy, minimum targets … ones that you can do without fail every single day

Who’s right? I think that both can be. A big goal (like writing a book, or losing 50lbs) can be really inspiring, but it can also be daunting. Small targets aren’t so inspiring or exciting … but they are reassuringly do-able.

Here’s how to combine both for maximum effect.

Ambitious Goals: Shoot for the Moon

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown

Big goals are inspiring. They give you something really worthwhile to go for: in many cases, achieving one of your biggest goals could make a huge difference to your life.

And, as the Les Brown quote says, even if you miss your goal, you’ll still have accomplished something worthwhile. Let’s say you aim to lose 50lbs and you lose 30lb: that’s still a great achievement, and one that will have huge benefits for your health.

Your ambitious goals might be something like:

  • Run a marathon
  • Write a book and get it published
  • Change to a new career
  • Run a successful small business
  • Get back into those old jeans

When you’re looking ahead to the long-term, set yourself some big goals. Don’t make them so huge that they’re totally unrealistic, but do make them inspiring and potentially life-changing.

Do it: Pick one big goal that you’d like to accomplish within the next one to three years. That might be writing a book, losing weight, starting a business, getting a new qualification … or anything that’s important to you. Write your goal down. (Tell us about it in the comments below, if you want.)

Minimum Targets: A String of Successes

“Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.” – Saul Bellow

While big goals can be inspiring, they can also be daunting. You might get excited when you think about having your published book on the shelves … but that excitement can easily give way to endless procrastination when you think of all the work involved.

This is where minimum targets come in. A minimum target is something that you achieve every single day (or perhaps every weekday), without fail. That could be:

  • Exercise for 10 minutes
  • Write for 15 minutes
  • Send one email to an old contact
  • Read two pages of a book
  • Eat two pieces of fruit

…or anything at all that relates to your own goal. Ideally, your minimum target should take no more than 15 – 20 minutes: the idea is that you can do this on even the busiest days.

Of course, you may well have days when you go far beyond your minimum target. The target is there to ensure that you do make progress (and that you have an encouraging sense of achievement) even when things aren’t going so well.

Do it: Come up with a minimum target that relates to your big goal. Get a calendar and put it somewhere visible (e.g. over your desk). Mark an X on every day that you achieve your minimum target. Your aim is to create a string of Xs.

You can achieve great things in your life. Even if you’ve struggled to reach your goals before, you can use straightforward techniques like the ones above to boost your chances of success. And if you’d like to share a tip with us, or tell us about your own goals, just pop a comment below.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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