Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Secrets for Success

How are those New Year's resolutions going? You haven't given up on them already have you?? Just in case you need some direction, read on.

While I was in Scotland I read this excellent article by John von Radowitz in The Scotsman newspaper. In the article, Radowitz details what techniques do and don't work to help us reach our goals.

Psychologist Richard Wiseman (fitting name!) of the University of Hertfordshire studied 700 volunteers and compared techniques used by those who were successful or unsuccessful in achieving their goals. People who were unsuccessful used techniques that are commonly touted as being useful for helping people achieve their goals such as relying on willpower, fantasizing about being successful, and adopting role models. They also "tended to dwell on the bad things that would happen if they did not achieve their goal."

Professor Wiseman said, "Many of these ideas are frequently recommended by self-help experts but our results suggest that they simply don't work. Because of the widespread nature of this advice, millions of people will fail to achieve their aims."

Wow. So much for self-help books. No wonder people have to keep buying them!

So what does work? Here are some techniques Professor Wiseman has found in his study that are effective at helping people reach their goals:

1) Breaking goals down into small steps, then rewarding themselves when each stage has passed.

2) Telling friends about what they were trying to achieve.

3) Reminding themselves of the benefits of obtaining their goal.

4) Charting their progress.

Being a planner geek, the first thing I thought of was ways to use planners in this way to achieve goals.

There are a variety of planner styles and brands that would be very helpful in the above steps. Filofax and Uncalendar especially come to mind, because both of them have (or can be customized to have) the capacity for listing goals, breaking them down into weekly and daily tasks, and charting progress.

Filofax has accessories like tabbed dividers for giving your book designated sections for your goals. You can have an Exercise section. Or a section for a specific project you are working on. Or you can have an entire Filofax devoted to a specific purpose. There are also paper inserts that are perfect for charting progress such as quad-ruled pages, blank pages, lined, various colors etc. There are many ways to customize your book to fit your needs.

Uncalendar is engineered to help you set and achieve goals. This is where Uncalendar excels and stands out from the rest of the planner crowd. In the Goals section, you can set your goals and break them down into tasks. There are spaces on the weekly pages to write reminders of the benefits of achieving your goals. The book has motivational suggestions like rewarding yourself for reaching your benchmarks.

But #4, Charting Your Progress, is where Uncalendar really shines. There are many places throughout the book to chart and record your progress toward your goals. The weekly worksheet has a grid on which to record or chart data for the week (such as financial totals, daily weight or blood pressure measurements, miles run, inches lost, sales, whatever). In the Notes section there are plenty of graphs for more charting. In the Data section in the back of the book there are more graphs and tables for recording monthly totals or to chart progress. One grid that I especially like has 52 rows (for weekly records) and 12 columns (to record monthly totals).

Your planner can be a very useful tool for managing not only your appointments, but your entire life. How do you use your planner to help you reach your goals?


  1. Some of my goals this year have been to do develop certain daily habits (such as exercising or writing in my journal). To do this, I am using this template ( from DIY Planner. Basically, you cross off a box to indicate that you did that activity that day (or not). At the end of the week, tally up the total of crossed-off boxes. It is a simple (but hopefully effective) way of charting your progress. Ask me in a year how it worked out!

  2. I think I read on Jeff Abbott's blog (was it there or someplace else? Anyway...) that Jerry Seinfeld used a technique similar to this. Every day he wrote, he drew a line on his calendar. He didn't want to "break the chain," so continuing the line on his calendar was incentive for him to write every day. I really like this simple, visual technique!