Goal Setting Basics: The surprising methods to actually accomplish goals
I used to like to blame my upbringing for the inability to set and stick to goals, but I learned later on that your upbringing is only responsible for what happened, not for what you do with that.
But it was easier.
I was never a kid whose parents would help them set goals and talk about the importance of them and whatnot. And to be honest (and not to toot my own horn, promise), I was just a kid who was good at stuff.
Lol that sounds a bit odd but as a kid, I didn’t have goals because I didn’t have to work too hard at stuff—and just to make things clear: I was never pushed or challenged to find stuff I needed to work hard toward.
Which means setting myself up for goal setting as an adult…
Didn’t happen. It’s hard, or was hard before I figured out a few things to help (largely thanks to my work over at Self-Publishing School).
And I want to share those things because after all, sharing is caring 😉
What is goal setting?
Goal setting is the practice of developing an actionable plan to work toward your biggest and most important desires in life, work, fun, or relationships. Goal setting often involves a big-picture plan broken down into feasible, action-steps.
Basically, it’s simply telling yourself what you need to do so you end up where you want to be.
Without having goals, our visions and dreams will likely remain as such. Breaking them down into daily, weekly, and monthly steps helps us get there faster—and at all, really.
Goal setting mindset
You can’t set or accomplish big goals without the proper mindset.
You want to live in the world of possibility when setting goals.
So every once in a while, you might have to sit yourself down and have a chat. Ask yourself how you’re feeling. Are you anxious about setting these goals? Are you nervous or excited or are you exhausted and feel like you have to create them?
The mindset you’re in when you set your goals is almost more important than the entire process of goal-setting to begin with.
Here are a few tips to get you in the right mindset for goal setting:
- Write down your reason for accomplishing those goals, your ultimate “why” before even writing another thing
- Now go a step further and write down why that is your deepest desire related to it (remember: saving up $5,000 is not the end-goal. What is that money for)
- Think and envision what your life would look like if you accomplish those goals–and write that down!
- Envision how you would feel in that life you just envisioned if you accomplish those goals.
This is just the first step. But keeping this very list handy as you craft and then work on your goals will help you maintain the right mindset moving into them so you can actually accomplish them.
How do you prioritize goals…when everything is a priority?
As a self-proclaimed multipotentialite, everything I want to do bubbles to the top of my “priority” list when I’m passionate about it—and that means every new thing or idea or initiative I have.
So how do I actually prioritize them based on what needs to get done first?
For me, this has always been my biggest challenge. I’m drawn toward what I think is the most fun, not necessarily what’s the most important.
So, as someone who tends to lean toward working on the “fun” stuff versus the important stuff, here’s how I get around that:
1. List everything you have goals for
Go on. Make a huge list—pages long, if that’s the type of person you are (like me!).
Everything you can think of, even the small shit that will probably get left until the last minute. For me and my goal of launching this site, those items include social images and overall branding.
This list should be long, wholly encompassing everything that goes into accomplishing your end goals.
2. Make another list of “most passionate” items
Now, take that list and pull out the items you’re most passionate about doing, everything that makes you want to drop what you’re doing right now so you can get started.
For me and my current goal of launching this site, that includes writing these blog posts, creating videos, creating fun graphics, and designs.
3. Make a list of what has to be done BEFORE your “passion” items
Unfortunately, we can’t just dive into whatever the fuck we want with our goals or they won’t really get done. Since you’re here, I’m assuming that’s your problem too.
Instead, order your list by what you need to do before you can actually get to your most passionate items.
With this site, that stuff included building the site, picking out the theme, getting hosting, and all that less-than-fun-stuffs.
4. Start with those important items
Signing up for hosting and researching a good hosting provider and all that technical stuff isn’t exactly in my “passion zone” when it comes to my goal of launching this site.
That being said, I couldn’t get to writing content (passion-zone) without doing the annoying stuff first.
And sometimes, it just makes sense to focus on the important first.
While I’d love to sit and make shareable graphics all day long for this site, I can’t do that until the content is written. So while graphics are higher up on my “passion” list, the content must be done first, or I may waste a shit ton of time on graphics that’ll only need to be changed to match the content.
B O N U S: you can even “reward” yourself with a little passion task to keep your spirits up while working on higher priority items!
The basics of goal setting
I won’t sit here and pretend to be an expert on goal setting because let’s be real, this is probably my biggest area of weakness I’m working to improve on.
BUT, that being said, it’s great for you reading this because a ton of my focus and energy has been into finding ways to get better and I’m sharing all that good stuff with you.
So here are a few “basics” of goal setting I wanted to share with you from all the resources I’ve learned from and my own experience.
Keep these guidelines in mind but, as always, try new things and do what ends up working for you—because we’re all different and our little brains are weird and function completely differently from each other 🙂
1. Reward yourself
This is goal setting 101. We are creatures of reward—our brains have an entire area dedicated to manipulating us into keep doing stuff. Dopamine, anyone?
And while you might hear some self-proclaimed Gurus gush about how, “Accomplishing the goal is reward enough,” that’s actually a hunk of whale shit, floating in an abyss.
The truth is, we need a little more to keep us going until we reach the goal. Because if you’re like me, you have to break your goals down into short term steps just to make them happen.
And I’ll be damned if I’m getting up at 5:30am to work on this site only to be rewarded once it’s finally up and running.
I (and the rest of us) often need a bit more to convince us to work on our goals.
Which means a reward of some sort! These can be daily, weekly, monthly or however frequent you need them to keep going.
Usually for me, it’s weekly.
If I write enough blog posts, I get to pig out on delicious food at a new restaurant I’ve never tried before. It’s a reward for getting my work done, and it’s something I look forward to every day <— and that’s important!
So what are your rewards? Write them down for each goal, or lump them together like I have so it’s a weekly reward. Make sure it’s something you really want!
2. Reach high, but not unrealistically so
I used to pride myself on setting outlandish goals on the basis of “if you shoot higher, you’ll always end up higher,” which might make sense if it weren’t for the fact that the higher you reach, the farther you fall.
The problem is that if you miss by a ridiculous amount, which you will if you aim for unrealistic, your morale will take a hit and you’ll actually accomplish less.
If you continuously fail to accomplish your goals, you’ll stop working toward them.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t challenge yourself, because you absolutely should. That’s the whole point!
But if you take it too far, you’ll end up doing more harm than good.
And this means you have to know yourself. What goals are too high for even you to reach? What are the limits to what makes you bust your ass and what makes you want to keep sitting on it?
3. Use the “S.M.A.R.T.” rules
If you’re not creating your goals by this guideline, you’re just less likely to accomplish them.
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is used in order to make your goals more specific and clear, so you know exactly what needs to be done and when.
S – Specific
If your goal is simply something like, “Save $5000 this year,” you’ll find it so much harder to reach. The idea with specific is just that: make it as specific as possible.
Put down the when, how, where, what, and the why (remember I made you write this down!).
So if you were looking to increase your financial security, your goal might look something like:
When: monthly on the last day of each month
How: by putting $200 in savings and reducing my budget by another $216
Where: my savings account
What: saving $5,000
Why: to have more financial (and emotional) security and emergency fund money
That’s all there is to it! Your goal, if you’re serious about it at least, should never be a single line with a check box. Make it specific if you want to accomplish it.
M – Measurable
You have to be able to measure your progress. Progress is part of the “reward” that keeps us going. It’s actually a lot like writing or reading a fiction novel (one of my other hobbies/goals!).
When there is a sense of progression, we keep going.
^ That’s what makes people flip through pages of a book and lose time. The only difference here is that instead of a book, you’re seeing progress in your goals.
Give yourself a time limit, a time of day, and a frequency.
In the example above about saving $5,000, the time limit is one year and it will be once a month. In this example, the time of day isn’t as necessary as other goals, like going to the gym.
A – Achievable
This is the same idea as not reaching too high, which I talked about before.
Really what you need are goals that push you but don’t break you and you’ll have an achievable goal.
As you continue your life and journey with setting and accomplishing goals, you’ll better be able to define where this line is for ourself.
R – Relevant
The goal has to be relevant to where you’re going or what you want. And this also means in a broader sense than with just the goal.
What I mean by that is: how does this goal feed into where you want to be in life?
It’s not just relevant to where you’re headed in the next month or year but how does this tie into your life vision?
I have a very specific idea of what I want my life to look like in 5, 10, 15 years. This helps me craft my goals and desire around making that vision come to life.
If you’re not sure, this might be a great time to sit down and figure out what you want to do with your life. But don’t worry! This can change as you go. Play it by ear to the best you can.
T – Time-Bound
Put. A. Timer. On. That. Bitch.
Seriously though. When do you want to accomplish this by? What is the deadline and how can you craft that deadline to put the most pressure on you?
I’m someone who has trouble with quarterly goals because I tend to procrastinate and then nearly kill myself in the third month.
For others, quarterly goals are the shit. They get so much done.
You have to figure this out for yourself and it goes back to knowing yourself and your habits.
Because I understand that I’m a procrastinator by nature, I make monthly goals with very specific weekly goals to break those down. This helps me accomplish far more.
4. Write. Them. Down.
Visible goals are goals that get accomplished. Seeing them posted somewhere you frequent (bathroom mirror, sticky notes on your computer, etc.) is even better.
I’ve known a few people who like to brag while tapping fingers to their temple, providing a simple, “I’ve got them all up here,” when asked about their goals.
Those people are stupid shits.
Now, maybe they’re not all stupid but they are going about their goals in the wrong way. Because if they’re only in your head, you can’t see any progress.
And not only that, but they don’t have the visible reminder to keep going.
I personally print my goals out. My annual goals, at least. And then each month when I craft my monthly goals to make those happen, they’re written on a frame next to my annual goals (like a white board, but with the framed paper saying “Monthly Goals” on it).
I see these daily. They’re right by my desk. And not only that…I also print out my why. My “ultimate” why. When they’re all in one place, it’s easy to feel motivated to work on them.
5. Share them with accountability partners
This can be a friend, coworker, family member, or even the public. Public humiliation is a great motivator, so sharing your list of goals across social media or any platform you may have is also super helpful.
But you can also just find someone who’s also working toward goals and be accountable to each other.
The CEO of the company I work for (Self-Publishing School), even has an accountability business partner. They swap their monthly goals and push each other to stay on track.
The great thing about this is that you don’t feel like you’re going through this damn thing alone.
I also have a friend working on building her website, brand, and eventually a course. We swap our goals and check in daily, sharing our accomplishments for the day with each other.
It’s inspiring to see someone else kicking ass, and that even forces you to work harder.
6. Practice makes perfect
The more you follow these basics and learn how you operate, the easier goal setting (and accomplishing!) will be.
For most of us, this shit is so damn hard because it’s new.
School doesn’t exactly do a great job of teaching us how to set, work toward, and accomplish goals. Because that would be helpful (but that’s for another blog post).
So we have to practice. We do this over and over and over again until we have it down. We know ourselves and how we operate when it comes to goals so well that crafting them and working toward them becomes easy.
7. Use a planner
I probably wouldn’t get half the shit I do done if I didn’t plan out each day. I personally use the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and his team.
It’s literally designed to help you accomplish goals, and has a bunch of these goal setting basics baked into the planner.
Everything from your yearly overview to a quarterly, monthly, and daily breakdown. It also gives you space at the end of the week to go over wins, losses, and ways to improve so you’re also getting to know yourself more.
But, that’s not the only planner out there. It’s just one I like and use.
8. Work backwards
You can’t set a yearly goal and that’s it. If you do that, you’ll be confused as fuck about what you need to do on a daily or weekly basis to make it happen.
Starting with the end in mind, work backward.
You have this yearly goal. What do you need to do monthly in order to get there?
And what needs to happen each week in order to hit that monthly goal?
What needs to be done daily to hit that goal?
Sometimes this is easier said than done. But you get the idea.
For me and launching this website as my goal, there are about a million things that have to get done, ranging from making content to social channels to email marketing, and beyond.
When I break that down, it’s actually doable, which allows me to have more hope and motivation to work toward it.
9. Put down one for fun
This isnt’ something I learned somewhere, necessarily, but it’s something I think should be in the basics because of how it’s impacted my own goal setting.
When you have a bunch of goals that you really want to accomplish, you can get overwhelmed with the “work” of it all—even if it’s stuff you enjoy doing.
That’s why I always put down a full-fledged goal for fun. One thing on the list that’s exclusively for fun-having.
On my list that goes along with launching this website, is a goal for finding the best burger in Colorado Springs (where I live!).
Might seem silly but this is a goal I can look forward to, that’s fun for me (big foodie!), and something that eases the pressures of the rest of the goals.
What’s that for you? Make it a priority and the rest of your goals will seem less daunting.
10. Don’t be tooooo hard on yourself
There’s a fine line between holding yourself accountable and emotionally abusing the shit out of yourself for not hitting goals.
You can admit when you were slacking off. You can admit when you weren’t working hard enough or that you didn’t formulate our goals best for you.
But you can’t emotionally abuse yourself. It’s okay not to hit them. It’s okay to let a month go by where you had to rearrange things for higher priority things in your life.
But make sure you’re honest with why you didn’t make it happen.
When you’re honest with yourself about that, you can work toward betting your goal-setting in order to find success with them in the future.
11. BONUS: Cut or delegate the draining shit
Not everyone can do this. I’m not in a position currently where I can outsource certain not-fun tasks with this blog.
However, if you can, delegate or get rid of the stuff you know will drain your energy and spirit.
If they’re absolutely crucial to your end-game, you’ll have to find a way to get them done, but that doesn’t always mean you have to be the one doing them.
It’s so much harder to accomplish our goals when one of them makes us want to jump off the nearest cliffside.
Whenever possible, I try to cut the things that add no value to me and pull me down when it comes to my mindset.
Goal setting and accomplishing your goals isn’t always easy. It can take some time to find a method that works for you, but these tips and tricks will give you a great place to start.