The Secret to Emptying the Too Hard Basket and Setting Goals

Sometimes we humans have a tendency to put things off or to procrastinate and over think a situation so much that we put it in the “too hard basket”.

The easy way out or no action is chosen over the harder but usually more rewarding and important path in life.  This can be true of many things in life, from building an edible garden, reducing your energy usage, or to changing your lifestyle to a more sustainable one.

However, all the motivation, information, and inspiration in the world will sometimes not help move our sorry behinds off the couch on towards our desired action unless we do actually something about it.  Once in this mindset or behavioural norm, our dreams and goals seem so far away and unreachable.

So what can you do about it?  How do you turn it around and reach your goals?

While you ponder those two questions, let me share a little secret with you.

I have been in this place too!

Every night after work, and each weekend, I would just veg out.  Not wanting to think too hard or do anything to improve myself and no life direction.  It doesn’t feel like a nice place to linger very long, and can be soul destroying if allowed to fester.

This is how I behaved when I was stuck in the consumer culture, and just before my green epiphany.  Dreams and goals would come and go, not being started, or if they did, not completed to my satisfaction.

Even now, on the rare occasion, I can sense that I am slowly creeping towards the too hard basket.  Don’t let your too hard basket fill up.  It feels yucky.

So how do I snap out of it and read my goals each and every time?

Okay, it’s time to share my other secrets.  How to empty that basket!

Turn Dreams into Reality

The first secret is once you have your goal in mind, grab a pencil and paper and write it down.  In this way it becomes real, something you can touch.  It feels more real that it was as a thought.  You have taken it from your mind and given it a life of its own.

I do this action every time that I have something important that I want to achieve in my life.

Now that your goal exists, you need to take the next step the make sure it doesn’t wither and die.

Share Your Goal

You now have your goal on paper, so you can share it.

Tell a friend or family members about your goal, listen to their opinions, but whatever you do, just take their feedback on-board.

Take the good with the bad.  If negative comments come your way, then thank the person for them and ignore these (not the person).  Yes, sounds harsh but the reality of it is that this is your goal.  You have dreamt about it for ages, you know it is time for a change, so use the negativity or criticism to give you strength and purpose.

If the negativity has some validity to it, then incorporate it into the next step.  Show them that you can do it, whatever that may be.  This is what you need to do to move forward.

If I have listened to every negative bit of feedback I have received over the years, I would never had reached any of my lofty goals and would still be laying on the couch in front of the idiot box day after day!  Don’t let negativity get to you and drag you down.  It is simply not worth it.  Rise above it.


Lets flesh out your goal more by making it SMART.  This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely (time based).  Here is an good example of a goal I achieved and what I wrote.

“I am going to build a backyard clay oven from recycled materials over the course of eight weekends, by 31st November 2011″.

Notice how it is specific (I and backyard clay oven), measurable (8 weekends), attainable (cheap materials), realistic (time period is do-able), and time based (you have set a completion date).

Flesh It Out

Grab your pencil and paper again, and break down your goal into steps from start to finish.  Think of all the things you will need along the way.  These would be materials, skills, help in the form of willing helpers, and of course capital if you have to purchase some of the materials.  If you don’t have all the necessary skills, then find someone who does, or do some research.  Library books are free as is the resources of the world wide web.  YouTube videos are especially useful to understand concepts that are unfamiliar to you.

However, one can come unstuck at this point with information overload and once again put your goal in the too hard basket.  This is why the Timely aspect of your goal is so important.  It gives you a sense of urgency, because you announced your goal to the world, didn’t you?  Don’t spend more than a month doing research or your goal will turn into a dream again.  No point in going backwards, is there?

Ready, Set, Go

You have written it down, made it SMART, told people you care about, fleshed out the steps, so what are you waiting for?

Get going!

Don’t forget to measure your progress as you proceed along the way.  Self checking is important to stay on the path to attaining your goal.  If you need help, then ask for it.  People will always lend a hand towards a worthy goal.

I find that if I take pictures as I go along and post them on my blog, it helps to spur me on to completion.  If you need to, start a blog of your own if that helps to document it, especially if it is a really big goal and will take some time.  Make it real for yourself and others.  You will find that it takes on a life of its own, which urges you to finish it.

Here is an example of what I wrote when I began to build my backyard clay oven.  By sharing it with all of you at the time, it kept me motivated to complete it.


Once you achieve your goal/project/task, then be proud of what your have accomplished.  Be very proud.  You worked hard, and took the time, energy, and effort to do something really worthwhile.  Feels great, doesn’t it?  So celebrate with friends and family.  This also helps to reinforce your sense of self-worth.

And while you are celebrating, why not formulate your next goal.  No time like the present  If you can do it once, you will have no problem doing it again, and again.  The world is your oyster!


You will find that if you follow these simple little secrets, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.  Just think, all you need to start is a pencil and paper!  This is how I have achieved all of my goals so far.  It works.

So get to it.  Believe in yourself.  You can do it!

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  1. says

    Hi Gavin,
    Do you feel that starting your blog has helped you in achieving your goals? I started mine in July of this year and it has been a great motivational tool. If I say I’m going to do something on the blog, then I’m now accountable to do it! Also, I need to do things to write about. I have started more projects and am more focused in my goals since starting my blog. These reasons alone have made the time needed to maintain it worth while! Thanks for the great post.

  2. says

    It seems some peoples natural reaction to new things is that they are “too hard”. These people should be avoided when it comes to “Step 2 – Share Your Goal”. They’ll only give you a negative opinion and will try to bring you “back to reality”. Why? Because of their own insecurities and lack of creativity. These are the people that will bulk at a challenge however simple. These are the people that will try to fix a tap, have it not go to plan, and get up in arms at their failure.

    For me, the “Fleshing Out” stage comes early. As soon as I get an idea I research like a man possessed to see whether it is viable. As soon as I realise it is, I progress through the other stages. Right now, I am up to the flesh out stage of buying land and building a straw bale house.

    • says

      Hi Pavel. You picked up on a good point. Sometimes I do flesh out after writing the goal if it is really big, but what usually happens is that I will then split it up into smaller, achievable goals. It works well by keeping them SMART.

      Gav x

  3. says

    Oh Gav, i needed this post today. Im sitting here crying because ive struggled so much in reaching or even starting a goal that will literally save my life. It just seems too big – or should i say, Im just too big. My joints are collasping around me and even the daily pain doesnt seem to motivate me enough. I dont know what im waiting for, death? Thank you my friend. My little angel must have whispered in your ear to write this for me. Frugal Queen the other day posted about food wastage and that if we wanted to see it we just had to look down below our necks. God, what a wake up call and yet also another bout of guilt and shame. Food has always been self medication for me and im very good at medicating not only myself but my family and friends. I love to give. Im going to do as you suggest and write it down and break it up into smaller goals. Ive just rung the doctor and made an appointment. (Shhhh) I have a lapband that doesnt work for me (it only cuts down the good food not the bad) but im going to make an appointment with my specialist anyway and try again by getting it reset Thank you Gav. (did i just share to the world that i have a lapband?) Gulp, i guess im going to have to explain that one as im sure everyone thinks they are a magic cure.

    • says

      Oh Dear, today has been a day full of appointments (that i made after your reading your post) and im looking at some major surgery on one foot. Yuk Its not a choice anymore, i need to lose alot of weight or they wont operate. Still, as i dont have private health insurance im going to have a long wait so i need to get SMART, now.

  4. says

    Hi Gav, love this post I too have been in a bit of a rut this week unable to blog. Crappy week at work. I need to set some more goals for the garden. I know when I made the decision to go solar silly me shared the idea. Most comments were your crazy its a waste of money from many . Now those same people are asking me about solar and wanting to install it. Growing veges and keeping chooks, the comments were why bother you are just making work for yourself , I spend quite a bit of time out admiring the girls and enjoyng the little things outside. It may be a bit of extra work but I enjoy it. Last week was one of those weeks where I let things get to me , but have enjoyed your post today so now Im of to get cracking and plan the next wacky idea as some call it. x

    • says

      I dont think going solar could be seen in anyway shape or form as crazy. Gosh, would i love to have a roof full and only kick myself that i didnt do it back when the rebates were so high. Miss you.

    • says

      I agree with Lynda, Sharon. Solar is mainstream and over 1 million households cannot be wrong. Neither is growing your own food, or keeping chooks. These things are getting more mainstream all the time, much to my delight!

      Keep up the great work.

      Gav x


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