The benefits of “dreamlining” & why you should bother to do it

As a natural goal-setter, I never realized that other human beings on the planet find it difficult to define, break down, and plan their own dreams for the future. I never thought about it until I came across the term “dreamlining” in a Tim Ferriss book. It’s a fancy term referring to exactly that: defining your dreams and breaking down the steps necessary for achievement within a certain time frame.

That sounds perfectly legitimate, and perhaps you, another goal-setting master, find it silly. However, there is an important take-away for the digital procrastinators out there–you know, the one currently browsing through this post instead of doing any of the ten-thousand other things you should be doing. Like working. Or talking with your friends. Or even jogging around the park, where the fresh air will recharge your spirits and remind you of the greener side.

The secret to achieving goals is simple: Break down your objectives into small, actionable to-do bullet points, and go after them, one by one.
In fact, social psychology experts have confirmed that people are constantly switching their attention and motivation from goal to goal. Thus any given goal pursuit will interfere with other possible goal achievement processes. The rate of goal accomplishment is routinely low, unless the motivations for such a pursuit are noticeably strong and explicit. That’s why many tips for completing goals recommend writing down your goal, sharing it with friends and family, etc. The point is to create strong motives for accomplishing it, as well as strong(ish) repercussions for not.

Behavioral psychologists have created a helpful acronym, SMART, that both defines and guides for effective goal-setting habits.
In fact, the idea of dreamlining encapsulates this process perfectly. First, grab the worksheet and fill out the top part.  Then, when you get to the “steps now, tomorrow, and the day after” section. Stop. Remember that you should be breaking the steps to your dream/objective into small chunks. And when I say small, I mean tiny, microscopic, nearly laughable steps. Like, a step you can complete in five minutes starting now.

Why is it important to break down the process so much?

Because, really, the problem with goal setting and accomplishment isn’t the act of writing down a goal, although that alone can cause problems for those of us without clearly defined ideas of where we want to go. No, the problem with goal-setting is the overwhelming fear and indecision springing forth from trying to accomplish it. We’re afraid of failing. We’re afraid to take the first step, so we aggrandize the end–transform it into a mental Kilimanjaro–and rationalize away why we haven’t achieved it. The dream was just a dream…no one can do that either…blah blah blah.

“The key is to make tiny, nearly invisible steps forward.”

That way you’re climbing slowly but surely towards your goal, but at the same time, you’ve neatly sidestepped your insidious tendency towards self-sabotage. You only need to convince yourself to do that one teeny first step. You’ve transformed a previously unattainable cloud of future amazingness into a snack-size adjustment to your life.
So try your hand at dreamlining. Keep a file on your desktop with your daily, snackable to-do items, and update it frequently. In the end, you’ll be amazed at how you managed to adjust your lifestyle and thinking without the added stress and fear that outlining big goals can create. You’ll rise every day eager to complete your toddling step forward. And you’ll go to bed content, knowing that you’ve accomplished the one thing–just one–that made your day valuable and complete.