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Tiered Goal Setting: The Secret To Perpetual Motion

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.

So, I’m super behind this week upgrading the weekly free-training and I was considering skipping out on this email.

(One of the most powerful ways to get big things done is to get comfortable with intentionally letting other things occasionally fall off your plate.)

Then I realised it’s a great chance to talk about one of my other favourite productivity tricks:

  • Tiering – a powerful way to keep up momentum on any goal or a habit, even when you face unexpected setbacks or find yourself swamped.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Take an outcome or habit you’re working on;
  2. Convert it into 2 to 3 fall-back options;
  3. Prep those options in advance; and
  4. Roll out one of those “lite” options whenever “plan A” isn’t viable.

Here’s an example to illustrate…

Let’s say we want to build an exercise habit, so we tell ourselves we’ll start exercising for an hour per day, 4 days a week.

Problem? We struggle to consistently carve out an hour in our day, or get motivated for a full hour in the gym.

Result? We end up doing nothing. Because we’ve set our goal up as a single win-or-lose outcome, we basically end up doing mostly no exercise, most of the time. We never really get a chance to get started.

Here’s an alternative…

First, set your big outcome goal – if that’s exercising for an hour per day, 4 days a week then that’s great.

Next, break your big outcome down into 2 – 3 manageable backups that you decide you’ll still count as a win. E.g.,

  • Tier 1: I exercise for 60 minutes;
  • Tier 2: I exercise for 30 minutes; and
  • Tier 3: I exercise for 5 mins.

Then, decide in advance what each of those tiers looks like. So:

  • Tier 1: Is a full weights and stretch session in the gym;
  • Tier 2: Might be a 30-minute body-weight routine; and
  • Tier 3: Could be 40 pushups and sit-ups.

Result? By breaking your big goal down into manageable alternatives, you’ve broken the win-or-lose pattern.

Your ready-made backups make it far more likely you’ll do SOMETHING rather than nothing.

And the great news is that this works for everything…

Can’t spend the whole evening at home? Make it back before bath-time or make sure you call home for at least 15 minutes before your kids go to bed.

Don’t have time for a full evening review? Clear your most important inboxes, review your calendar and set six top actions for tomorrow.

Have to cancel your date night? Schedule an hour of quality time at home and/or make it up with a gift to your partner.

No time for a full weekly email? Pick a topic you know inside-out, write a quick how-to guide and make sure you connect with your peeps. 👋

We all know that doing something is almost always better than nothing but all too often we leave coming up with our backup plans until after we’re already overwhelmed and overrun.

And by that point, it’s already too late.

That stops now. ✋

Here’s what you need to do next:

Pick something today that you know you’re consistently failing on. It could be a habit or some goal you’re really procrastinating over.

Now, convert it into 2 to 3 fall-back options.

Then, take 5 minutes to prep those options in advance.

And finally, roll out one of those “lite” options whenever “plan A” isn’t viable.

Start somewhere, do something, build momentum.

LEAVE A COMMENT to let me know what you’re working on.

Come to this week’s free training take a look at what I’m working on:

And whatever you do…

Have a wonderful week, be your best self and go well 🙌

Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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