We have this amazing, creative ability as humans to imagine something in our mind and then bring that idea into reality through our actions. We can literally create something out of nothing! But, most of the time, we leave our ideas at the brainstorming stage and never bring them into reality. While I think that some ideas should just die on the vine, most ideas don't come to life due to our lack of focus.
It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about resolutions for next year. A new year’s resolution is one of the most popular forms of reflection and visualization practices in the world. The problem? We set resolutions with the best intentions, but have no achievable plan in place to actually make the ideas a reality.
That’s where goal setting comes in. Goals that are achieved can change your life, but most people don’t accomplish goals because they don't take the time to break them down into small, actionable steps. Instead of trying to jump across a wide creek, it's best to step on one stone at a time starting with the first stone. So it is with goals.
I used to spend so much time getting side-tracked or derailed by everything that came my way. I also used to feel frazzled at the end of each day feeling like I rarely accomplished what I set out to do. About 2 years ago, I started setting goals using the following plan and have accomplished more than I ever thought possible. It revolutionized my daily habits and time management. It also brought joy and purpose to my daily tasks.
Goals that are achieved can change your life, but most people don’t accomplish goals because they don't take the time to break them down into small, actionable steps.
1) SET A QUARTERLY TARGET GOAL
Start by setting a goal. Make it an achievable goal that you can accomplish in a certain period of time. I recommend setting quarterly goals instead of annual goals (although you could have 4 quarterly goals that are a broken down annual goal). Pick a quarterly goal that’s a challenge, but also achievable in 90 days. Let’s call this our target goal. If you’re just starting out with goal setting, I would only do 4 target goals a year (1 each quarter) so that you can stay focused. That goal could be something like losing 20 pounds or starting a blog.
2) CHOOSE 3 MILESTONES
After you write down the specific target goal, define it further by breaking it into 3 milestones. These are 3 mini goals that, once accomplished, will bring you closer to your target goal. Milestones don’t have to be in order, but I find that accomplishing them in a certain order helps me stay focused.
Let’s look at losing weight…
You can’t always control how fast you will lose weight, but you can control what actions you take. Once you determine how you're going to lose weight, break that goal into 3 milestones. I know I’ll lose weight if I eat healthy meals on a regular basis. So, I would like to eat 180 healthy meals in 90 days (of course, you have to determine exactly what “healthy” means, but that’s a different topic altogether).
Break those 180 meals into 3 deadline-driven milestones.
1. Eat 60 healthy meals by 1/31
2. Eat 60 healthy meals by 2/28
3. Eat 60 healthy meals by 3/28
Once you determine your milestones, then you can break them down even further into daily/weekly tasks.
3) CREATE A DAILY PLAN & WEEKLY REVIEW
This is the key to completing every goal. You have to have a daily plan and weekly review. Spend time every day (or every weekday at least) to plan your day.
Try time blocking. Time blocking can seem overwhelming at first, but once you start doing it, you’ll love it and have the satisfaction of seeing exactly where your time is going. Once you’ve written out your daily schedule (this only takes about 5 minutes once you get used to it), make it a priority to block out time each day or each week to work on tasks that lead you closer to accomplishing your milestones.
"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan."
– Tom Landry
I write down my next milestone almost every day to remind myself what I need to accomplish in addition to my regular work. Then, I plan time each week (or a little time each day) to work on tasks that help me accomplish the next milestone.
For instance, If I was going to start a blog, I might spend 2 hours every week writing. That would give me 1 blog post a week, which would give me 4 a month. So by the end of 90 days, I’ve got 12 solid posts. So every day, I’d write down what I’m going to accomplish that week in addition to my other work: Write 1 blog post.
Seems easy enough, right? Yes, but sticking to the plan can be difficult. In addition to making this a daily habit, I found that having the right tool is essential.
This is where the SELF Journal comes in. It breaks this entire process down into a journal that you can use to plan your days and tasks, a weekly review section to be sure you're moving towards your milestones, and a detailed area to plan out your quarterly goals complete with 3 milestones per month.
I’ve used the SELF Journal for 2 years now and it has revolutionized my goal setting. Like anything, it takes discipline at first, but once you get the routine down, you’ll start really accomplishing your goals, bringing your ideas to life, and be happy with what you’ve accomplished knowing that you’ve given it your best shot.