Simple, Smart and Effective Goal Setting for Success - Achieve More in 2018
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You could call me a bit of a "goal" setting fanatic. I'm highly organized and goal setting/planning is honestly what keeps me sane most of the time. I'm one of those people where, if my house is a mess, I'm a mess. If I'm working on a project and I have notes all over the place, I'll spend a bunch of time just re-organizing and prioritizing those notes. This might seem like a hindrance rather than an asset, but have you ever heard that quote by Abraham Lincoln, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Well, that's kind of the philosophy I prescribe to as well. Once I'm organized and have my thoughts laid out, I'm quick and efficient. Then if I can maintain that consistency going forward, I never have to go through that laborious reorganization again. It's all about prioritizing and focusing on what is truly important. If our thoughts are a mess, it will be a mess to navigate how to achieve any of our goals.
I guess I am a big fan of Abraham Lincoln, because I'm going to lay out another quote of his that I also love, "The best way to predict your future is to create it." All those dreams and visions you have for your life… how can you put some freaking action behind them? It would be really nice if someone just handed me and Michael $170k to pay off our student loan debt, but more likely than not, that's just not going to happen. So if paying off that debt is really a goal of ours, then how can we make it happen? Having a clear plan is the key.
In this post I'm going to lay out for you my personal workflow for goal setting and achievement. I will warn you though, it’s not just a set-it-and-forget-it goal planning exercise. My process involves constant re-evaluation and measuring, but I promise, it's effective and if you are truly ready to achieve your goals this year, then you won't be disappointed. This post includes the following:
- My exact workflow for goal setting and achievement
- This is split up into 3 main sections, Quarterly, Monthly and Weekly and each of these sections has an exercise to go with it
- An example from one of my own personal goals
- Free printable downloads for the goal setting exercises
Download the Goal Setting Printables
Get instant acess to the free goal setting printables from the exercises in this post.
The first time you go through the exercises below, you will complete all portions at once, but after you have set a framework, then you will only re-look at some of these things quarterly, monthly or weekly.
Let's get started.
DO THIS ONCE PER QUARTER
Ok, to get the ball rolling, we need to sit down and think about what goals are THE MOST important to us. What are your big goals and dreams for the year or next couple of years, if you have a vision for that far out?
So once per quarter, I go through this exercise (below). Most of the time things don’t change much quarter to quarter, but it’s always good to get aligned and make sure your big goals haven’t changed. It’s inevitable that life will change in unexpected ways and we may decide new things are more important to us than what we had thought 3- 6 months ago.
- Spend 20-30 minutes writing any goals or dreams you can think of that might be important to you. This is a brain dump exercise. Use Printable #1 for this.
- Then using that list, identify and circle 3-5 of those goals as your "high" priority goals. You see, it’s not practical to have a million goals because then you will become super overwhelmed and may not even achieve anything all year. So really try to identify your big hitters. What is most important to you?
- Using Printable 2, print off one sheet per goal and write down each of your goals in the top goal box.
- Next spend some time with each goal and consider a few key details. Add these details to printable #2
- By what date would you like to start and achieve this goal? Utilize bonus worksheet to help visualize a timeline.
- Is this goal and timeline, “realistic”, i.e. it’s definitely OK to push yourself, but if you want to, for example, climb mount Everest without oxygen but you’ve never hiked before in your life, then maybe your timeline for a goal like that would be much longer than a year. You will have a lot of little mini goals to achieve before you reach your big goal.
- I’m almost too good at generating lists of things I want to do, so this part is super easy for me. I want to work on my photography skills so I can better assist Michael in taking some photos for the blog. I want to grow my blog. We want to pay off our student loan debt, + a list of about 1,000 hikes and climbs I’d like to do…Lets just use one for example, I’d like to hike or climb all of the California 14,000 foot peaks (there are 15 and I’ve climbed only 4 so far White Mountain, Mount Langley, Mount Shasta, and Mount Whitney).
- One item from above that is a “big hitter” for me and a goal that we really want to focus our energy around is paying off our student loan debt.
- I’d LOVE to achieve this goal by end of year 2019, which is actually a pretty big stretch to be honest, but still, I think if we really put our energy into it and work really (really) hard, we can figure out a way to do that, so I decided to leave that aggressive timeline there for now. I can always change it in my quarterly evaluation.
OK great, we have big goals and dreams now. How can we get there? Baby steps my friend, baby steps. You know how if you set out on a long hike, and it feels like you will never make it to the end of the trip, but you know you gotta keep going? You get there one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Then next thing you know, you’ve made it! Your calves and feet may be killing you, but you are super proud and you’ve freaking made it.
Do this monthly
I like to do this next exercise the first Monday of every new month. This makes sure that my mini goals, (the goals that get me one step closer to my big goals) are still aligned and on track with my timeline.
- Continuing in Printable #2, take each of your big goals and start writing down some smaller mini goals or milestones you will need to take or reach in order to achieve your big goal. It can be useful to write them in order, so if you want to brainstorm on a piece of scrap paper first, that’s great.
- After you’ve written down those mini steps, attach some “deadlines” to those too, that way you can get a good idea about what you should prioritize that month or not. I like to write my mini goals right underneath my big goals, so that they are all one big happy family.
- Continuing with the first examples big goal of paying off our student loan debt, here are some mini-steps I see as a way for us to reach this goal.
- Develop a Budget and Tracking sheet for 2018-2019 in Excel that includes paying off the loans – January 2018
- Start living off of one paycheck, my work paycheck, and put Michael’s paycheck toward student loan debt – Start this by February 2018
- Start a “side hustle” or two for extra income! (This one is really key for us if we want to try and reach a EOY 2019 deadline). So this mini goal has actually become a big goal all on its own with its own little mini goals and timelines.
- Attempt to grow and monetize my blog for extra income (this is an experiment, as I’m not sure how successful this will be. You can read more about our journey with this in our income and traffic reports.)
- Create and Sell a product of my own… I am still learning about this idea, but I’ve been reading a few books to help facilitate some ideas like Side Hustle, and Four Hour Work Week. I’ve also listened to quite a few podcasts on the topic like Side Hustle School and The Amazing Seller. I’ve recently focused a lot of my energy on the blog, but the product idea is definitely still on my radar.
- I’m also always keeping my eye open for other “passive” income opportunities… whatever they may be.
do this weekly
Goals are like one of those wooden nesting dolls, if you know what I mean… Big goals (evaluated quarterly) have mini goals (evaluated monthly), and mini goals have to do lists (evaluated weekly).
- You should be able to generate a to do list off of your mini goals that you can fit into your week plan. Again, using printable #2, write down some to do list items that will get you to take action toward your mini goals.
- Then take that to do list of specific items you wrote out, and try to schedule time for them in your week. You can use Printable #3 for this if you’d like, OR..
For my weekly planning I like to use a physical calendar. I went through a few different planner “styles” before landing on my favorite. Here are a few options:
- The Passion Planner - This is my planner of choice right now. It's organized almost exactly how I wanted it and I love the bigger planner style since my handwriting is fairly large. I primarily use the Monthly Tabs and the Weekly Tabs. They also have a smaller more portable version. What I love the most about it though is that I can see a whole week in just one glance. I like being able to sit down monday and schedule out my entire week and see it in full view. Then I can move things around in my brain easier. I just function better that way I guess.
- The Panda Planner Pro - This is another option that I tried, but for me it's almost got a little too much going on. I love the idea of being able to track so many different things on one page, but in the end I just get overwhelmed by it. Also, Its missing that whole week view on one open book page. However, you might like it if you enjoy this style better.
- The Self Journal - At first I was really excited about this journal. I started using it every day, but soon found myself overwhelmed with all the details I felt obligated to write in it every day. In the end it was a little too much like a journal (I should've guessed with the title) and didn't work well for my brain. I just ended up feeling guilty at the end of the day if I had forgotten to write my 3 things I was grateful for, or didn't evaluate "what went well".
So in the end, for my style of planning and organizing, I like The Passion Planner the best, but what works best for me may not work best for you. Get something you think will help you to stay motivated. We all think differently so goal planning isn't going to be a one size fits all formula.
- One of my mini goals was to develop a budget and tracking sheet for 2018-2019 in Excel that includes paying off the loans. Well if I’m thinking of things that I’d like to do to accomplish this, here are some example things I might add to my to do list to achieve this.
- Build a loan amortization table and organize paying off those loans by highest interest rate to lowest.
- Build one sheet in excel to track all monthly expenses including (rent, gas, phone, groceries.. etc.)
- Estimate how much “additional” income it will take to achieve paying off our student loans by 2019
- Look for opportunities to save money on our current bills
- For instance, did you know that Spotify has a family plan? Michael and I had each been paying for our own separate Spotify accounts, but when we combined accounts we save $5/month. That example isn’t a ton of money, but there are lots of opportunities to optimize your spending habits
- Based on income and expense streams, set a weekly budget for both of us.
So essentially, in my opinion, the key to goal setting success can be boiled down to these 4 rituals
- Prioritize your big goals (3-5 max)
- Take your big goals and understand your ideal timeline for achieving the goal?
- What are some mini goals you can set that are stepping stones to the big goals and what are their timelines?
- Write to do list items to put these goals into action, and assign your goals weekly to your schedule
Download the Goal Setting Printables
Get instant acess to the free goal setting printables from the exercises in this post.
And last but not least... give yourself a break if you don't get everything done that you put on your planner. If you are anything like me, you will probably bite off way more than you can chew sometimes, and guess what? That is OK! Seriously... we need to stop being so fucking hard on ourselves sometimes. I can get caught up with my goals so much that I'll stress myself out majorly sometimes. Whenever that happens, I sort of have to sit back and laugh a little because I'm hustling because I chose to, I decided I wanted this in my life and if I take one evening or weekend off away from hustling, it's all going to be just fine. Don't forget to have fun. Creating the future and the life that you want should be fun in the end. Yes it will be hard work, but it should also mostly be fun. Just make sure to take regular breaks from your hustling. Schedule those in too. You deserve it. I’d love to know if you tried this process above out and liked it, so leave me a comment below. Also, what are some of your big goals this year?
Ok, now get planning! 2018 my friends, is bound to be a great one! I can already feel it!
Oh, and by the way, one of my goals in 2018 is to read more, so I’ve started a virtual book club community Facebook Group for outdoor adventurers who also love to get lost in a great story or book. Each month we will vote on a book to read, something outdoor, adventure or wanderlust related and the facebook group will be a place where we can connect to discuss our favorite parts of the books, favorite quotes, and what the books inspired us to do or be. You can read more about it here, or go directly to the facebook group to join in the discussion! We already have over 85 members in the group. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so I hope you join in! It’s so much easier to stay accountable for your goals when you have a group to share it with.
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