How To Set Goals & Actually Accomplish Them
Every January 1st there are millions of New Years resolutions being made…
“This year I’m gonna eat better.”
“I’m finally gonna get out of debt!”
“Time to quit my job and start that business.”
And by January 9th, most of them have been neglected.
It’s not that these goals were bad, or poorly thought out…
Only that there was no plan for follow through.
Especially because some goals are HARD.
Read on and I’ll walk you through how to make an effective plan for your life or business and actually stick to it. I’ll also point you to a free worksheet I made to help you.
Ever tried to set a new morning routine and wake up early to work out? It’s exciting for the first day or two… then it’s just painful. At least until it becomes habit. But that’s not for at least another month.
The ability to stick to a plan is rare — at least when it comes to goals for yourself.
Sometimes it’s too easy to give up on a goal because it seems impossible, or too time consuming, or just boring. The other big reason for not following through is that something else that seems better comes along.
Ooh, shiny! New idea.
Suddenly you’ve gone through 10 new ideas and made no progress, so you give up entirely.
To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
Successful people are quick to choose a path and slow to change it,
Unsuccessful people are slow to choose a path and quick to change it
The lesson here:
Make a plan. Stick to it.
While planning, I’ve found it especially useful to have a time limit and milestones. Previously, I’d set elaborate goals and schedule time to review & plan every single month.
Trouble with that is, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for a plan to be accomplished. If you set an ambitious goal for a month for your work, and you’re working 5 days a week, that’s only about 20 days you have to make it happen!
Might not be enough time.
I found this sort of review schedule to be ineffective because it’s short length allows for shiny object syndrome.
Set Quarterly Goals
3 months. 90 days. About 13 weeks. That’s your time period to plan.
It’s long enough for you to stick to a plan and make some real progress, and short enough that the end doesn’t seem so far off that you’ll procrastinate forever.
Don’t bother with doing a year’s worth of planning…
Do you remember what you were doing a year ago? Was today part of the plan?
It’s hard to be realistic when you’re thinking that far out.
We overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year.”
– Bill Gates
That Bill Gates is a wise man. Ever have one of those days where you tried to fit way too much in? We’re inherently bad at planning when we’re really busy, so don’t fall into that trap.
The solution is to have your quarterly plan. That way you can base your daily and weekly schedule to suit your quarterly goals.
The other side of that coin, though, is that you needn’t sell yourself short with what you can accomplish in the long run.
So you’re other task is…
Dream Big. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ever hear that question? Often asked in school, job interviews, and other places that feature awkward conversation starters.
But really think about it.
If you’re planning for a year or two, you’ll try to be “realistic”, but you will underestimate what you can accomplish. I promise.
So plan where you want to be in 10 years.
Go all out, as if you couldn’t fail. Think about all the things you want to do.
Then Work Backwards
Then ask yourself, “in order to be there in 10 years, where will I be at 5?” Figure out your halfway point.
And get the halfway point to that. And then halfway to that. Suddenly you’ll see exactly where you’ll need to be in 3 months from now. And you have your quarterly goals!
How To Create Your Plan
Start by writing out your 10 year vision, so you have an idea of where you’re headed. Also include why achieving this is important to you.
Follow that with your vision for where you’ll be in 90 days. Again, include why.
To make that a reality, choose up to 3 goals that will make everything else fall into place.
For example, I know that if I wake up on time and do my morning routine, there’s a high chance that the rest of the day is gonna be productive, so I focus on that.
It could be working out, scheduling time to make sales calls, or meditation.
Business: increase sales $ by 50%.
Fitness & health: lose 10 pounds.
Figure Out What It’s Gonna Take To Achieve It
Next, you’ll want to come up with a process to make it happen.
If I want to be in better shape (and because my goals are specific and measurable, I set the goal of being able to do 20 pull ups), I might choose a home video workout program. Luckily, they’ve got the process all set for me.
If I wanted to write the first draft of a novel…
I’d set a goal of 120,000 words. Then split it up to 10,000 words per week. If I work 5 days per week on it, that’s 2,000 per day.
You get the idea.
Set Up Your Environment so That It Happens Without Thinking About It
Now that you’ve got a goal, you’ll want to build it in to your life.
This is the step that most people miss.
“I have to remember to prepare a shopping list of healthy foods for next time I get groceries.”
If you’re telling yourself to remember something, it’s not gonna work. Our brains are built to come up with ideas, not remember them all.
So build your process in to your environment. It could be your physical environment — like setting multiple alarm clocks in your room if your goal is to wake up at a certain time.
Or your schedule — ie. 8—11pm every night is work on my novel time. And then set an alarm or a notification on your phone to remind you.
Make it as fail-safe as possible. Post its on the computer, notifications on phone, timers, whatever it takes.
Then repeat this for your other goals
The Final Element
The last thing to planning an effective quarter… chose a keyword or a couple words (2 or 3 maximum) that will be your theme for the quarter. A sort of mantra. Something that will keep you motivated or that will remind you how you should be.
“Go For It”
Or it could be more specific. Whatever works for you.
The Full Process…
- Dream big. Come up with your 10 year plan, write why it’s important to you
- Write where you’d like to be in 90 days, so that you’re on track to achieve the 10 year vision
- Choose up to 3 keystone goals for the quarter that will get you there
- Break up each goal into a process
- Put pieces of that process into your environment. Can be schedule or part of you physical space.
- Select a keyword, theme, or mantra for the quarter to keep you focused.
Write all this down and keep it close. At the end of the quarter, review! Figure out what worked, what didn’t. Re-connect with your 10 year plans and get back on track if you need to.
But no matter what… STAY ON TARGET.
Don’t deviate from your plan. The more you work on it, the better it will work.
Download a Quarterly Planning Worksheet
You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging like that, did you?
I’ve made this process easy for you and made a worksheet that you can fill out! Spend a few minutes working on it and I promise you’ll be much more prepared to face the weeks ahead of you. Enter your email and click the button below.
Leave a comment below and let me know how it went! I’ll answer any questions you have.