You Should Set ‘Anti-goals’ Too

You Should Set ‘Anti-goals’ Too

When you’re setting your goals for the day, consider adding in “anti-goals” to amp up your productivity a little bit. The idea may be inherently negative, but the results can be positive and you can end up getting more done.

What are anti-goals? 

Anti-goals are an idea from Andrew Wilkinson and they’re similar to a “to-don’t” list: When you make a list of goals related to what you don’t want to do, you’re making avoidance goals, which have been shown to make people more driven and eager to take immediate action. According to Wilkinson, who oversees the Tiny investment firm, you start by outlining your worst possible day at work, taking note of all the things a day like that would include, from too many meetings to too many emails, no time for lunch, or a lack of resources to get everything done. 

Then, you come up with strategies to avoid those pitfalls. For instance, try to schedule all your meetings on one day (if you can), utilize an email management strategy to spend less time wading through your inbox, or schedule your day down to the minute so you don’t ever have to miss lunch.

Your anti-goal list will be direct and detailed: “Don’t waste time in meetings,” “Don’t get bogged down by emails,” “Don’t get distracted by coworkers,” etc. 

Why anti-goals work

This seems negative, yes, but that’s why it works: In outlining what you don’t want to do, you turn the bad parts of your day into something actionable you can take steps to avoid. Those steps become part of the goal-setting and -achieving process, since you’re taking care to avoid something detrimental. 

When outlining the anti-goals (and the goals for your day overall), consider what will happen if the negative things you’re trying to avoid do happen. Will you waste time? Miss a deadline? Not do well in a review? Keeping the consequences in mind will also propel you to avoid them, ultimately making you more efficient and goal-driven. 

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