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4 Tips to Abandon a Toxic Time Frame Thinking (and What To Use)

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Do you still remember your new year’s resolutions? Like, all of them, specifically?

I don’t. I never did and never will. Not because I don’t have any goals for this year, but I am not in the same situation I was 6 months ago.

What changed?

I did, my goals did, and so my strategy to complete them. This year, I abandoned the annual time frame I used to track my goals in favor of an easier and more successful one. So here are 4 tips to abandon a toxic time frame thinking.

Why is annual thinking wrong?

In 2020, a study led by Strava showed that the majority of the new year’s resolutions failed in the first twenty days of the same year. The survey was performed on 800 million user inputs, and the 19th of January ironically gained the name of Quitter’s Day.

Last November, after reading the news, I checked how my goals were performing, and I discovered I accomplished only 20% of them. Deluded, I asked myself why I was working so poorly? And I found at least 4 reasons why annual time frame thinking is wrong on so many levels.

I will call those reasons excuses.

Excuse #1 — Annual Time Frame Thinking Makes you Feel Terrible

Every time a year finishes, and I remember my resolutions, my mind goes wild.

Realizing that only a few of my goals are completed after that much time is painful to accept. It fills me with negativity, doubt, and remorse.

When it happens, I think about all the moments in which I could have worked more towards my goals, but I preferred to do something else. And what pains me the most is that I can’t do anything about it.

So I have two choices. The first is to fill my brain with positivity for the year to come and try harder. The second is to give up. Eventually, if neither the following year delivers, I will probably abandon my goal forever.

Excuse #2 — Annual Time Frame Triggers Negative Bias

Because of the negative bias of the first excuse, everything good that I accomplished loses value. So instead of celebrating those few successes, I blame myself for the failures.

This is a well-known effect in human behavioral analysis. We are hardwired for negativity, so it has a higher impact on our minds than positivity. Even if we achieved 50% of our goals, up to 70% sometimes, we wouldn’t be satisfied.

Excuse #3 — Annual Time Frame Creates the Illusion of Abundance

At the start of the year, having 365 days to complete a task seems like a very long time. For this reason, I tend to overstuff my schedule with multiple goals or set too high expectations.

But without a good plan to reach those goals, I have no idea of their feasibility. I can’t know if I set the expectations too high, if I should work on the project longer than I expected, or if the task is impossible at the moment.

Excuse #4 — Annual Time Frame Makes Goal-Tracking Difficult

Keeping track of a goal throughout an entire year is also highly time-consuming. Usually, I can do it for a month or two, and then I stop.

Then I remember it sporadically during the year. When it happens, for some weeks, I return to the goal again, but without the same motivation.

How to Abandon a Toxic Time Frame Thinking

Hopefully, I convinced you that annual thinking doesn’t bring any good vibes, and it would be better to avoid it. So how can you switch from annual to quarterly, monthly, or even weekly goals? Here are 4 tips to abandon your toxic time frame thinking.

Step #1 — Write down your ideal and realistic goals

The first thing I do is subdivide my goals between ideal and realistic ones.

The ideal goals use extended time frames that spread beyond a single year and represent a core concept of your life. These are the goals that you dream about in your sleep. They are your life goals, like buying a big house, maxing a six figures income, or maybe becoming a famous professional driver, for example.

The realistic goals use shorter time frames instead, no longer than a few months. In their book, The 12 Weeks Year, Brian Moran and Michael Lennington use a 12-week time frame, for example. But you can adjust this time frame based on your personality.

Realistic goals are the bricks you use to build your ideal goals. Becoming a professional driver, for example, may need at least 80% of the days in a month of practice for 5 years. This is a realistic strategy for an ideal goal.

Step #2 — Choose a Proper Success Strategy

To reach a goal, you need a strategy. Period.

You need to define the simple actions to take weekly or even daily to reach the goal.

For example, to increase my blogging expertise and my presence on the platform, I set the goal of publishing one article per week.

Also, a proper strategy needs to respect the S.M.A.R.T features. A goal needs to be:

  • Specific: you need to know what to do with accuracy.
  • Measurable: you need to know when the goal is accomplished.
  • Achievable: you need to make it realistic.
  • Relevant: it must result in a change in your reality.
  • Time-Bound: it requires a starting and an ending point.

Step #3 — Choose proper time frames

A proper time frame depends on your personality and motivation. A master grinder, highly motivated, can set long time frames. Low motivation levels, instead, require shorter time frames.

Using the 12 weeks strategy, for example, I was working properly only for the first month. On the second, I was trying to keep up. While on the third, I was abandoning all of my goals. So even if I kept the basic structure of 3 months, I strengthened it with monthly checkups.

A monthly checkup is a general review of my realistic goals. If I have reached them, everything remains the same. If I haven’t, I need to change my strategy.

Frequent checks are fundamental to keep the focus on your goals. They are the firewood that maintains the flame of your dreams ignited. If you don’t use them, your dream-fire will burn out.

Step #4 — Improve your strategy

With the last step, I change my strategy if it doesn’t work. Only a madman would continue doing the same things even if they failed multiple times.

So I use regular checkups to study if my strategy delivers, if it needs a tweak, or is entirely wrong.

Also, regular checkups allow me to manage the workload. For example, for my one-article-per-week goal, I set a daily threshold of at least 500 words. But since I was unable to do it consistently, I committed to writing 500 words on 3 of the weekdays and 1000 words on Saturdays and Sundays. This way, I can still achieve my goal, but I am also more flexible.

Final thoughts

Our society is planned on an annual time frame mindset, and it won’t be easy to plan your goals using a different system. But the benefits of a shorter time frame exceed the expectations.

A trimestral time frame will reduce your negative bias to the minimum and remove the illusion of having plenty of time to reach your goal. Also, it will be easier to track your goals and understand if you are working with purpose or if your expectations are too high. And in case a plan doesn’t satisfy you anymore, you can change it with monthly checkups.

Eventually, by trial and error, anyone can find its proper realistic goals and start working towards its future. You just need 4 tips to abandon a toxic time frame thinking and improve your goals.

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First published on Curious, on Medium.

Cover photo by Markus Winkler from Pexels.