CINCINNATI - Sunrise on Tuesday, Sept. 4, marks the start of the official return to normal schedules after the free-form summer months and turns our attention to the lingering, yet-to-be-attained goals we set months before.
Dec. 31 is still sufficiently far enough away to give hope that goals for the year can be achieved -- but yet close enough to instill a sense of real urgency.
If you have an outstanding goal or two, whether it's whittling that waistline or finishing a DIY project, social media may be your best ticket to success.
At its heart, social media is all about community. And the right community of like-minded goal-seekers can provide you with three incredibly powerful benefits: visibility/accountability, inspiration and encouragement.
Visibility/Accountability: When you go it alone, there is nobody to raise an eyebrow if you skip a workout or fail to take a small, daily step you need to get something done. But once you are part of a community, it is easy to find someone to serve as an accountability buddy. The peer pressure that comes with knowing another person will be able to see and track what steps you are taking (or not) dramatically increases your likelihood of following through.
Inspiration and Ideas: When everyone in the community is on the same path, it is only natural that tips and ideas get swapped. This can be tremendously helpful, and possibly even shorten your time to completion if you are able to connect with and learn from someone who has successfully completed the goal before you.
Encouragement: The path to success is rarely a straight line. Having a community of people you can turn to for encouragement when you hit a roadblock or when your motivation falters can spell the difference between failure and success.
The very nature of Twitter, Facebook, Meetups and blogs in particular make it relatively easy to find a group of like-minded people. There are large mainstream communities, like Nike+, as well as hundreds of niche communities, like the monthly "get organized" challenges we run on GetButtonedUp.com or the weight-loss community for blogging moms, Mamavation.com . All you have to do is fire up your browser and start searching.
Here are three tips on using social media to help you achieve your goal(s) by the end of the year.
1. Focus: Bigger is not always better. Often there is an inverse relationship between the size of a community and the strength of the community. Start looking within a tightly defined niche first, and then, if you need to, widen your definition until you find a group that is big enough to adequately support you.
2. Fit: As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks. To get the benefits from a social-media community, it has to be a good fit for you. Pay particular attention to the tone of communications, the frequency of messaging, aesthetics, etc. Those details matter -- if you don't like them, you won't want to interact.
3. Competitions or Challenges: Many groups have structured competitions or challenges that you can participate in to help you achieve your goal more quickly. For example, in the monthly GetButtonedUp.com challenges, we provide a daily email with one task to complete and then require a check-in via email, Facebook or Twitter. The less work you have to do to create a path on your own, the less resistance you have to getting started. In addition, if the road map is combined with a little friendly competition, it can supercharge your motivation.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to email@example.com.
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