I have a goal setting process that took me a little while to figure out, but it is thorough and works for me. When it comes to goal setting I am serious about it. I don’t like taking on too much, but I do like to push my self and achieve whatever it is I set out to do. If you are interested I have some of my financial goals here, my bucket list here and the things I am doing to make 2014 kick butt are here. It can be hard finding balance, or even knowing what goals to set, so here is everything I do, from the idea right through to completion.
1.) Know yourself. By this I mean take the time to work out your values, have a personal mission statement, (mine is here) and what you want in life. There is no point setting goals that sound good but which actually go against your personal value system. Knowing yourself makes the whole goal setting process simpler. If you feel a little lost, a few of the books that helped me and I have reviewed at 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Tuesdays With Morrie and 7 Spiritual Laws Of Success. Ali from The Mindset Effect recommends finding your passion and has some great advice in here.
2.) Clear your head. I get out a piece of paper and write down all my ideas, aims, desires, goals and anything I think I want to do. I sometimes split the paper into the following sections such as health, finance, career, community, relationships, travel/life experiences, home and so on.
3.) Prioritize. What goals are most important or most urgent? Making decisions is not easy. I have posted here and here about some of my methods for making decisions. Another one I do for setting my goals is write down each goal on it’s own piece of paper. On this piece of paper I write the pros and cons of the goal and time limits for each goal to work out which ones to do first and which ones really matter to me.
4.) Plan of action. This is the step where I turn these goals into reality. I make the goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Action, Realistic and Time Bound. I write down exactly what I want to achieve, how I will do it and the steps I need to take to achieve that goal. Sometimes this means creating mini goals, other times it is a simple 3 step process. This is crucial though. A goal not written down and without a plan is just a wish. I love this tip by Glen at Free From Broke “If you want to be successful with your goal then you have to make it easy to work on it. You have to know yourself and eliminate as much friction as possible. For example, if you want to save more then set up automatic transfers for when you get paid. This way you don’t have to think about putting the money into savings.” He also has a great post on 5 reasons your goals fail and what you can do to make yours succeed.
Todd R. Tresidder, of Financial Mentor, who also has a great goal setting system on his site here says: “The key to converting you goals into tangible results is to reverse engineer the goal into action steps. For example, weight loss is a common goal everyone understands. You might convert the goal of losing 35 pounds into something more tangible like 2 pounds per week for the next 20 weeks. Then you further break the goal down into regular exercise habits and eating healthy. Then you break it down one step further into a daily accountability structure of exercising a minimum of 5 days per week allowing for two off days every week and eating healthy 6 days a week allowing for one unhealthy day. The objective is to create a daily/weekly habit that you can actually follow through on that will produce the desired goal.
You then create a 20 week implementation schedule that might start with daily walks around the block and progressively increases each week into longer walks at a more aggressive pace punctuated with brief runs as your conditioning improves. Notice how this process converts the intangible goal of losing 35 pounds into daily action steps that are totally realistic that you can be held accountable for and know exactly how to take action on every single day. You never have to wonder if you are on track or not. You know exactly what to do and by when. The key point is to take any large goal and reverse engineer it down to realistic daily actions that will produce the desired result then create an accountability system to help keep you on track. That is how you convert goals into results.”
5.) Vision Board. Once I know the things I want to achieve and want in my life I create a vision board. I place it somewhere I will see it a lot. I have created an entire motivation wall before (an updated vision board is here) and now I have my ‘creative room’. It’s my office, but it has my vision board, my motivational quotes, calendar, books and artwork.
Peta of Great Googa Moogas has a vision board too. Her goal setting tip is “don’t just pick a general goal, be specific ad then outline how you will achieve that goal, break it down into bite sized steps and pin it up where you can see it. Crossing off the steps will help keep you motivated and including a vision board will help make the goal more real.”
6.) Reminders. To help me stay focused and remember what I am working towards I create reminders. I write my goals in permanent marker on my mirrors. I write my goals on a little piece of paper and put them in the window of my wallet, the section intended for photos. So every time I open my wallet I see what I am working towards. This helps curb spending too.
Tracie from Penny Pinchin’ Mom says “My BEST tip is that you have to write it down and put it where you are reminded by it daily. I recommend putting it on your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror so you can’t help but see it many times a day. We did this when we were working our way out of debt. We’d update our goal with the amount of debt remaining and that just kept us pushing to drop that number to zero – and it worked!”
7.) Accountability. Lance Cothern from Money Life and More recommends an accountability partner. “Whenever you’re setting goals that you actually want to get accomplished, I always suggest finding an accountability partner for that goal. What’s an accountability partner? It is someone that you can share you goal with that will be interested enough in it to continue to ask you how you’re doing. In essence, by telling someone else you’re going to complete a goal, you’ll feel like you’re letting them down if you don’t complete it. That’s some great motivation when you need it most!”
Recently I experimented with a new idea I had of being financially accountable for NOT achieving. I have tried paying myself for working out and other things like that but I have found the reverse works better for me. I write my weekly to do list of things I need to do in order to achieve my goals. I send this list to someone and at the end of the week I update them on what I did or didn’t do. Anything I didn’t do is $10 in their pocket. That’s right, I pay them $10 for anything I don’t do. This has been a great motivator and I have achieved more since trying this than I was before I made myself accountable. Lance gave another alternative – pay a charity the $10 for everything you don’t achieve. I love that idea and for the rest of this year, this is what I will be doing.
8.) Motivation. My vision board, reminders and accountability are all great motivators. What motivates one person is different to what motivates another. I have stacks of posts on motivation here. My motivation is my family and helping the homeless. So whenever I am faced with a choice or a goal gets too hard I think about my daughters, the life I want for us and go spend some time with them or I spend time with the homeless. Both of these motivate me greatly.
MF Dasko of Stapler Confessions has a great method for motivation. “I believe two things must happen. You have to plan for something bold to happen in the future and you must work up to this slowly… I use a calendar in my room to track my daily progress. I give myself an X every single day that I work towards my goal. After a few Xs it becomes addictive and you want more. Creating accountability through sharing your goal with the supportive people in your life can be a great way to stay on track. Whether it’s quitting smoking or paying off debt, it always helps to celebrate successes with a cheerleader and discuss challenges with a confidant.”
9.) Reassess. Life changes and sometimes the plan of action you had for your goal is not the best course of action to help you achieve it.
Andrea Travillian from Take A Smart Step suggests: “The biggest mistake I see when working on goals is setting them and never reassessing how it is going and if that goal is still right. I recommend that at a minimum you review your progress once a quarter and at the same time determine if you need to revamp your approach to achieving that goal. The way we think we will achieve a goal, might not actually end up being the best approach in the end. You only know this and can adjust to stay on track if you are taking the time to analyze your results. For example, when I was writing one of my books I was struggling to get it finished (more so than the others) so I sat down did a review of how I was going about it and why that was not working and then came up with a new plan. Finally after doing this two times, I finished the book!”
10.) Completion. Celebrate goals as you achieve them. Revel in your success. You don’t have to jump straight into the next one. Sometimes completing the goal is reward enough, but sometimes it is nice to go out to dinner/buy some new clothes/have a party/go on a holiday as a reward for achieving your goal. Recognize and celebrate your achievements.
I would love to hear what tips you have for setting, focusing on and achieving your goals. What goals do you currently have?