About a year ago I got a fitbit. For the uninitiated, it’s a device you either clip to your clothes or wear on your wrist to track activity. I got it because I suspected I wasn’t moving around quite as much as I thought I was and I wanted a way to keep track of it and make sure I was honoring my intentions. When I first got it, I assumed that I would be regularly (and easily) hitting the 10,000 daily step goal. When it arrived, I immediately charged it up and went for my regular fitness walk. And … it was 7000 steps. Wha? Here I thought I was Steppy McSteperson, but maybe not.
So then I mapped out a 10,000 step walk and it was looonnnng. Onerously long. I decided to try to break the steps up over the course of the day so the goal wasn’t so onerous. Some days I would hit the 10,000. Some days I would hit about 6000 then walk in boring loops in my neighborhood until I finally hit 10,000, but on other days, I would reach the end of the day and run out of time. So, I was hitting 10,000 maybe 3 days a week and somewhere around 6,000 the rest of the days.
This was NOT what I expected when I got my fitbit! Doh! I discussed it with some friends, and one suggested that I scale back the goal a bit, get consistent with the lower goal, then think about raising it back to 10,000.
Reluctantly, I went into the app and changed the goal to 8,000 steps. That was a couple of months ago, and here’s the interesting thing. Since I lowered the goal, I have actually averaged more steps a week than I was averaging when my goal was higher. And, I am still getting 2 or 3 10,000-step days per week.
My point isn’t to tell you all about my walking habits. (Unless you’re fascinated, in which case, thanks!) It’s to make a larger point about how to get stuff done. I’ve noticed a similar thing with my writing goals. I’m working on my next novel right now. I got a chunk written on my last school break, and then started thinking about a goal for finishing the manuscript in sections. At first I thought, “ah, yes, I’ll write 1000 words per day, every day, and I’ll be done in two months!” That kind of fell flat, because I have school to worry about, including regular tests, plus my final licensing exam to get ready for in April, and also, life. Then I remembered the thing about the fitbit, and scaled it back to 3000 words a week. The first week I had this goal, I wrote 4,500 words.
Even if I manage only 3000 words a week, I’ll have a full manuscript by June, which is much sooner than I would have it if I sat, paralyzed, because I had chosen an impossible goal.
Goals are great, don’t get me wrong. I run my life on goals, but I have noticed that when they’re unrealistic, they have the effect of either paralyzing me, or burning me out before I’ve gotten where I want to go. On the other hand, when I break them down into manageable chunks I get where I want to go. I might get there a little more slowly than I would if I were to actually achieve the super-goals. (I’ll finish my novel this weekend! Yeah, that’ll totally work!) For me, the operative concept is that I get there, and I’m doing all the things in life that I have dreamed of doing.