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Legacy is a common term that is often used in reference to what we leave behind when we have passed. But legacy is so much more. It is about the actions we take on a daily basis that will lead and inspire others. In this sense, legacy is something we can contribute to every day. However, true inspiration does not come through the initiation of our actions, but through the completion of the tasks we embark upon. Real legacy comes from the fulfillment of an activity we set out to accomplish.
Focus and follow-through are where many of us fall short. President Dwight D. Eisenhower has a famous quote that states, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Identifying, differentiating and prioritizing between these two types of activities is paramount to finishing what you start.
A common challenge of completing the tasks that we set out to do is that we are often distracted by other things that we perceive to require immediate attention. We convince ourselves that these distractions are necessary, like immediately returning an email, and we let them take us off our path of completing what is important.
According to the University of Scranton, a whopping 92% of people who set New Year’s goals never actually achieve them. Some of the most common reasons people fail to complete their goals are lack of specificity, lack of a clear plan, lack of proper motivation and lack of proper resources. Below are five tips to help finish what you start:
1. Establish the right mindset
Something that is important to you must be given priority. This means it deserves the proper amount of time, consideration and resources to be completed. It also means that taking steps towards its completion should not be set aside or replaced with urgent matters, unless absolutely necessary. And in the case where it is necessary, the time you missed needs to be rescheduled.
2. Acknowledge the specific goal
The first step is to have complete clarity on your specific goal. What is it? Why is it important? What do you hope to accomplish? This will give you motivation and purpose. The second step is to share that goal with others. This creates a sense of accountability and a support system.
3. Operate with purpose-driven action
We often accept staying busy as a substitute for being effective when it comes to time management. But anything important deserves a plan. What are the specific steps you need to execute to complete your activity? And how can you segment these steps into reasonable mini-steps that can be done each day? When you make positive action part of your routine, it becomes a healthy habit.
4. Apply the “rule of one”
Psychologically, we feed off of feeling like we have completed something. The challenge with bigger goals is that it often takes a longer time to complete them. And this is one reason why we fail to follow through. Thus, we need to reshape our perspective on what it means to accomplish things while using the “rule of one.” Let’s say you set out a goal of rewriting your company’s employee training manual, and you know it is going to take at least a month to complete the task. Instead of feeling dejected and overwhelmed every day that is not completed, insert the goal of the “rule of one” to the task.
Schedule 30 minutes every day that will be devoted to the task. Every day that you accomplish that one goal of working on it for 30 minutes means you have accomplished your goal for the day. Then the process becomes about accomplishing the steps towards the ultimate goal, keeps you focused and gives you a realistic benchmark each day. Do the math. If you did only one thing for 30 minutes each day towards the completion of a big goal, in one year you would have completed 365 actions toward this goal and invested over 180 hours. In most cases, many of our goals take far less time than that to complete — but when you break it down into small time commitments, it feels far less daunting.
5. Celebrate your success
While the ultimate goal is to accomplish the task, it is important you celebrate progress and reward yourself accordingly. The benchmarks give you the objective opportunity to track and acknowledge your progress. Reminding yourself of the “why” keeps you motivated. And taking the time to acknowledge your progress gives you the inspiration to keep at it.
When you condition yourself through the habit of right action and begin to finish what you start, you will be on your way to a completely renewed, refreshed, enhanced and expeditious journey toward lasting success.