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How Linking Activities Can Increase Goal-setting Success

Last week, we talked about giving yourself some grace when it comes to working towards your goals. I challenged you to review the list you made in week one and see where you can adjust to make your goals more attainable. After all, you’re not going to run a marathon the first time you hit the track!

This week, I introduce a concept called “linking” in which you link a new task to an activity or task that you already do. For example, say one of your goals is to drink more water (side note, one study found that 77% of Americans don’t think they are consuming enough water and that even mild hydration can have a negative impact on productivity, energy levels, and alertness). One way to link this is to fill up a 24 ounce bottle of water before the start of a virtual meeting and make it a goal to drink all of it by the end of that hour. So you’re linking a new habit (drinking water) with something that you’re already doing (attending your 927th Zoom meeting of the year). Make sense?

Here are a few other examples to help solidify this concept:

  • Perhaps you call your customers each morning to make sure that their delivery arrived the day before, intact and in good working order. If that’s already part of your daily routine, why not link three prospecting calls to the customer calls you’re already making? The phone is already in your hand, so link the new activity of making those prospecting dials with the habit onto one that you already have in place of reaching out to your customers.

  • Maybe you forget to consistently take your vitamins and supplements every morning. Put them in a small bowl by your coffee machine so that when you’re brewing that fresh pot of Joe, the supplements are right there, ready to take with breakfast.

  • If you struggle with stretching, do some standing stretches while you brush your teeth or wait for the water for pasta to boil. You’re already standing there doing something, so add in the stretching when and where you can.

  • Remember that professional development book you’ve been wanting to read that’s been sitting on your bookshelf collecting dust for the past 6 months? Purchase the audio book and listen to it while you run errands around town or blast it from your stereo one Saturday when you’re cleaning the house.

It may seem like a small step, but these simple ideas can help you link a new habit to something that you’re already doing. This week, I challenge you to think about the things you daily or semi-weekly and then brainstorm how you can begin linking your goals to those activities. These small steps lead to making forward progress and that’s one of the most important things in goal-setting.

One more thing to keep in mind is that it is much more effective to add these things into your daily routine rather than trying to carve an extra hour out of your day to add something new. Because when we add something new to our day, something else has to come off of our plate. To get back to the basics of what you need to do to reach your goals, what can you link that new habit to that makes sense and will be easily attainable? Also, is there something that you need to leave off your plate or decide to fast from (social media, the news, binge watching that new show on Netflix) for a period of time to focus on your new habits?

BONUS: In 1968, Edwin A. Locke published his groundbreaking theory on goal-setting in Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentive. In it, he demonstrates that employees are motivated by clear, well-defined goals and feedback, and that a little workplace challenge is not a bad thing.

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