THE BLOG
08/08/2013 12:18 pm ET | Updated Oct 08, 2013

The (Successful) Lazy Man's Approach to Achieving Goals

Growing up, most people are taught variations of this mantra: "The harder you work, the more you'll accomplish." It's no surprise, then, that they end up putting in long hours at work, skipping vacation time and burning the midnight oil to reach their goals.

But in reality, they're making it much more difficult than it needs to be. Let me explain.

I've worked with thousands of people to help them accomplish both personal and professional goals. There's one common trend among them all: They're trying to accomplish their goals the hard way.

Here's an example of what I mean:

My client, Brian, has ten different goals that he'd like to accomplish -- but each goal is so large that he doesn't even know where to start. Not only does he have to figure out the best way to accomplish each goal, but he also has to shoulder his many other life responsibilities at the same time. As a result of feverishly working to accomplish too many goals at once, Brian actually achieves fewer goals than he's truly capable of achieving.

Unfortunately, Brian's is a typical story to which many people can relate. Fortunately, it's entirely possible to avoid the pitfalls of over-working yourself in the name of reaching goals. Here are five ways to do it:

1. Less is more: Many goals do not equal many accomplishments. In fact, the opposite is true. The most successful people are laser-focused on just one or two goals at a time. So prioritize! Cut out any secondary goals on your list and focus on the more important ones.

2. Baby steps: Break down your goals into small, manageable pieces. Think of a child learning to walk -- she doesn't go from being stuck on her back to walking. Rather, a child will learn to crawl, then stand, and then finally to walk. If your goal is to start a business, the solution isn't to quit your job today and hang up a shingle somewhere else. Instead, you should break down the process into baby steps like developing savings, learning the industry, finding mentors and so on.

3. Take your time: One of the biggest mistakes people make when working towards goals is not setting realistic timeframes. It's always best to assume that a goal will take longer to achieve than you expect. Develop a timeline of benchmarks to achieve along the way so you don't become frustrated with being behind schedule. Remember, you have time! Don't rush things arbitrarily. You'd rather achieve a goal in two years' time than not at all, wouldn't you? By setting a longer horizon for your goals, you take pressure off of yourself and focus more of your energy on meeting shorter-term benchmarks along the way to your goal.

4. Don't do it alone: Seek out people who are where you want to be and bring them on board as mentors to help you navigate a road they've already travelled. Chances are that someone's already achieved the goal you're looking to accomplish. Mentors can give you advice as to what you should -- and shouldn't -- do to accomplish your goal.

5. Just say "no": We're constantly being pulled in different directions when it comes to how we spend our valuable time. Taking that new job you're not crazy about, volunteering for that group, and meeting with those people are all taking away time that you could be putting toward accomplishing your goals. Successful people are masters at eliminating distractions from their lives so that they can focus completely on whatever they have to do in order to accomplish their goals. Of course, some responsibilities are unavoidable, but many can be avoided. Time is your scarcest resource, so guard it jealously and stay on task. If you feel so overwhelmed by your commitments that you have little time to focus on your goals, then you need to take some commitments off of your plate and get back on track!

By focusing on these five points, you can accomplish goals far more easily. While it's never easy to achieve a worthwhile goal, it shouldn't be impossible either. Making your goals easier to accomplish is a choice. What will you choose?

How do you pave the way for making goals easier to accomplish? Please share in the comments.