If you have tasks you want to accomplish and dreams you want to realize, you’ll need to set goals that increase your productivity.

Setting these kinds of goals can be a great way to track your progress and keep your motivation high. Be aware, however, that some goals can actually increase stress and anxiety.

Stress and anxiety can cause us to create habits that may seem productive and supportive, but in fact increase stress and sabotage our productivity and progress toward a goal. Before you know it, not only are you feeling like you’ve made little progress, but your anxiety and stress levels are through the roof.

Here are 5 tips to help you set goals that make you feel less stressed and more productive.


1. Connect to the Meaning of a Goal  

Why are you really working toward this? Is it just because you think you’re supposed to, or because it would be of genuine value to you?  

Goals become oppressive when they are based on what you feel you “should” be doing. When you connect to a meaning that is clear and dear to you, the things that keep you “busy” yet unproductive will fall away and you will focus on the things that get you to what you truly desire.  

Set goals that are meaningful to you and break them down into daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals (and beyond)!  

2. Doing Lists The Right Way  

Setting goals that increase productivity and reduce anxiety means being realistic about what you can accomplish in a day, in a month and in a year. You’re setting yourself up to fail if your list is a scattered mess (on paper or in your mind) of every single thing that you need to do over the next year. A list becomes an oppressive enemy if you don’t set it up as a measurable, trackable, easily completed tool for success.  

Your list of things to do today is useful if it only has the most important things on it. Typically, I pick 1-3 things that I know will make me feel on track with my goal even if I get nothing else done. Everything else that I do feels like a bonus: an extra boost of productivity.  

Somehow the urgent things always get done if I take some time to focus on my creative projects first. I have been training myself to use this method because it is widely used by some of the most productive people in the world.  

3. Being Honest and (Very) Clear About Expectations  

How many goals do you have? How detailed are they?   Anxiety can trick you into keeping a goal broad in order to protect yourself from the “failure” of not meeting your goal. In reality, when your goal is not specific it is nearly impossible to measure your progress toward it. You’ll feel burnt out exponentially more quickly with an immeasurable goal.  

Increase productivity by making your goals clear and measurable from the start.   For example, if my goal is to lose weight, I could name it: “lose a lot of weight.” In that case, it’s likely that I will become burnt out quickly because I have no clear way of tracking my progress. If I name my goal: “lose 25 lbs,” or “lose 5 inches”, every single pound or centimeter is a measurable step closer to my specific goal.  

In other words, for a goal to increase productivity you must know your numbers. Be clear about what you want to achieve and brave enough to dedicate a certain amount of time each week to clear action steps toward that goal.  

4. Embrace Unplanned Bumps In The Road (Mistakes, Failures, etc).  

Learn to love the unexpected changes in your plan. Embrace them. Give them a giant hug.  

Anxiety invites you to fear the unknown. Stress and anxiety will even take hold of your self-esteem and have you believe that unexpected challenges not only mean there’s something wrong with your plan, but that there’s something wrong with you as a person.  

As long as you write down specific information (see #3), you can modify it later as you learn more about what it takes to stay focused on achieving your goal. If you never write down exact details for your goal, you’ll feel scattered and disorganized as you learn new information along the way.  

5. Celebrate and Re-Group Often  

Picture the energy within your body like the budget in a business. As the owner and CEO of yourself, you’ll need to schedule frequent meetings to determine how and where the budget is being spent, and how effective they are when it comes to getting back your “investment” in some way.  

Keep your hard working “team” (in this case, you) feeling appreciated. Celebrate the small victories so that everyone (again, you) is excited to accomplish more before the next re-group meeting!  

You can do this daily, weekly, monthly, yearly… or all of the above. I try to challenge myself to do a mini version a few times during the day by pausing to appreciate small wins. If you don’t get any credit for the work you’re putting in, why would you keep working for yourself?  

Bottom line: Connect your goal to something meaningful, prioritize, be honest and clear with yourself, embrace the unexpected, and re-assess and re-encourage often!  

What helps you to feel productive, fulfilled, and calm as you work toward your goals?   Come back to these tips every time you set new goals for yourself.


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