Today is an exciting day. Well, every day is exciting because every day brings new challenges, new experiences and new opportunities. However, today is especially exciting for me because today I get to continue with my Goal Digging Series and talk to you about getting down to business and making those goals happen! If you’re just joining my Goal Digging Series, welcome and thanks so much for stopping by, but please pause here and head on over to read my first two posts: here and here.
Last week’s focus was on how to choose meaningful goals. We looked at how to fix some common goal setting mistakes and choose goals that are going to serve us well. I also created a workbook for you to download to help you determine what is in your heart. By working through the questions and analyzing your responses, your goals will be infused with intention and love – because they will come from your heart and not just your head.
Now that we have a clearer idea of what we want and what is in our hearts, it time to get specific. By this I mean it is time to determine what goals we are going to work towards and what the action plan will look like.
There are many different ways of approaching goal setting and many people have given their advice and suggestions in the past. It is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to goal setting. It is highly personal and depends on each individual person’s personality and tendencies. So, while I am sharing my system with you because I think it will be beneficial, please know that there is a great deal of wiggle room in these steps for you to customize it to suit your needs. Although everyone is different and what works for some may not work for others, there are some key aspects of goal setting that can and should be part of everyone’s plan; namely, deciding on the goal, creating a deadline, determining the necessary steps and drafting a timeline.
Okay – Let’s get to it!
Before I get into the steps, here are some things that will make your goal setting much easier and more enjoyable:
- a notebook
- a pen or pencil
- a timer
- multi-coloured pens or highlighters
- an open mind and heart
Step one: Brainstorming
Last week, when I guided you through how to choose meaningful goals, you may have found yourself overwhelmed by everything that you wrote down. Maybe you realized that there were so many things that you never knew you wanted. Or, maybe you had a few main items pop up, but they were so different from one another, you’re not sure which one to focus on first. This is why I start with a brainstorming session.
Set a timer for 15 minutes, grab a notebook and a pen and just write down whatever comes to your mind. I like to use the very first question from the How to Choose Meaningful Goals Workbook: “If money or time was no object and you could do anything, be anything or have anything, what would that look like?“. I like this question because it gives you the chance to be as silly or frivolous as you want. Use this as a guiding question and remember to not edit your answers. If small errands like, “buy paper towels” or “book a dentist appointment” come up, write those down too. Consider this your chance to empty your brain and get all of those thoughts that have been swirling around in your mind, however non-distinct they may be, out of your head and in front of you.
Step Two: Sorting your List
Time’s up! You probably have a page full of ideas! Some may be small things and others may be life-changing goals. Regardless of what they are, now you’re going to sort through the items you’ve written down.
The first thing to do is look for any items that you can accomplish in the near future. These would be your “to do” type items. Anything that you can schedule right away, circle or highlight in one colour so you can return to them later.
Next, are there any items that you can group together as belonging to the same goal? For example, if you wrote down “Lead a healthier lifestyle“, did you also write things like, “Eat more vegetables“, “Drink more water” and “Join a gym“? If so, use one colour to identify these as one group. Similarly, if there are any items that would be “steps” to accomplishing another, they get grouped together, too. For instance, “Find a literary agent” would be a step towards “Publish novel“.
For any items that haven’t been grouped off or identified yet, ask yourself, “What kind of time limit would I put on each?“. If there are any long-term or lifetime goals, group them together as one group; this would be things like “Move into my dream home” or “Retire early“. Next, are there any items that you’d mark as 3-5 year goals? What about goals you’d like to accomplish in the next year? Finally, identify goals that can be completed in the near future, say 3-6 months.
Now, you no longer have a page-full of random goals that can feel overwhelming to look at, but manageable blocks of goals organized based on a common theme or time.
Step 3: Filtering your Goals
The next step is to start filtering through these groups. Any of those tasks from your “to do” group can be scheduled right away. Flip through your calendar and start penciling them in. By starting with the small things and setting a deadline, you’re helping to narrow down your list, but also making progress at crossing off items on your “goal list”.
Now, that the small things are taken care of, it’s time to focus on your bigger goals. It can be overwhelming to look at so many items and not know where to begin. So, start by identifying three that you’d like to make a priority. These three items should be the goals that would have the most significant impact on your life. You may want to choose three goals, each focusing on a different area of your life, such as work, home and personal development, or three that have different time frames. If you have really struggled to meet goals in the past, it might be a good idea to focus on the short-term goals first. Once you’ve experience goal success, you’ll be motivated to start going after some of those 1 year, 3-5 year or even lifetime goals.
Step 4: Getting Specific
For each of these goals, you now need to get specific about what they mean. You need to think about exactly what you want to accomplish and what is required for you to make that happen. Start off by choosing one goal and asking yourself: “How will I know I’ve accomplished my goal?”. If your goal is to be healthier, does that mean losing a certain amount of weight? Does it mean working out 3 days a week? You should be able to track the progress your making towards your goal and establish a reasonable deadline. The important thing to remember is to be realistic, but also challenge yourself. Think about your lifestyle, your schedule and the people in your life. You know yourself best, but it could help to talk to friends or family to see what they think is reasonable.
Step 5: Setting a Timeline
Once you know the deadline, you can start determining what steps you need to take in order to make it to the end. People often say that when it comes to goals, they don’t know where to start; I say, don’t start at the beginning, start at the end and work backwards. Think about what steps or events need to take place between now and the time you meet your goal. Do you need to do any kind of training or attend any conferences? Should you sign up for a course, join an online group or do some research? Do you need to pass certain checkpoints? Chances are there are specific steps that you need to take in order to make your goal happen.
For example, if you want to complete your first marathon in 6 months, maybe you might want to add a half marathon in there somewhere or maybe a 5 or 10km race. You’d also need to include a regular training schedule. Maybe you’d want to meet with a personal trainer or consult someone you know who has done it before? When would be a good time to shop for new running shoes? These are all things to consider.
Once you figure out what they steps are, and you’ve determined how much time you need for each, you can start filling them in on your calendar, starting at the end and working to where you are today. If you realize that there is just too much to do between now and then, you may need to alter your deadline. Don’t worry – nothing is set in stone. At this stage, it’s okay to be flexible and adjust as necessary.
Step 6: Get to Work!
The only thing that is left for you to do is get to work. Start working towards your goals, step by step. Each week, schedule something related to your goal, even if it is just a check-in on your progress. It’s okay to make adjustments to your timeline if you notice that what you initially had planned is not going to work. Don’t feel guilty or like you’ve failed – recognizing that something isn’t working for you and making adjustments as needed is not only nothing to be ashamed of, it shows that you are approaching your goals realistically and with the intention of following through.
Here’s a special little trick I want to share: Think about how your life will be different when you’ve met this goal. Will you feel physically different? Will it influence your energy levels, your mood or your sleep? Will other people benefit from you accomplishing this goal? Can you visualize what your life will be like? Visualizing all the ways that your life will benefit from achieving this goal makes it less like a dream, and more like a reality – one that gets closer and closer with each step and item you cross off on your calendar.
Once you’ve set a timeline for the goal you started with, don’t forget about the other two you identified as being among the most important. It might be easiest to start out with one and see how much progress you’re making. Then, as you start to get comfortable with your habits, you can add in another. It’s perfectly okay to focus on one goal at a time, but if you feel like you can take on more, perhaps one for work, one for family and one for personal, then you go for it!
And remember that page full of ideas and “one day” dreams? Don’t toss it! Keep it somewhere safe so that you may return to it later. I am rarely working on one goal at a time – I usually pick one to focus on, make a little progress and then add in something else, but I’m constantly adding and changing things to match the direction my life is taking me. Sometimes our plans may get off course, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose sight of our goals all together. In fact, next time I’m going to talk about exactly that – what to do when you’ve fallen off course and how to get back on track!
Good luck with your planning this week!