New Year’s resolutions long gone? Some of us may have kissed ’em goodbye months ago. The good news is, we’re only 3 months into the new year with plenty of time to make 2016 the best year yet! What better way to make this happen than by documenting your goals to hold you accountable?
Some people call them resolutions, others call them goals, and some refer to these aspirations as items on their bucket list. Whatever you specify them as, get on track to making things happen by documenting & acknowledging your intentions. Keep reading for my step-by-step goal setting process.
Step #1: Brainstorm
Set some time aside to really contemplate your goals and what you want to achieve. I recommend starting by brainstorming about what makes you happy. A goal doesn’t need to be a roaring accomplishment – it can be something simple and short-term, like finally hitting up that yoga studio you’ve been meaning to check out.
If you’re like me, you come up with the best ideas at the most random times – driving on the highway, running down the street, standing in the shower, you get the point. You might not always think about your goals all in one convenient sitting. In fact, it would be quite impressive if you did.
I record my brilliant ideas when they arise by jotting them down or typing them into the notepad on my phone. That way, they are readily available for when I set time aside to contemplate and align them.
Setting aside time to evaluate your ideas and brainstorm new ones allows you to take the thought that set the light bulb off one step further. I truly believe that no goal is too big or too far-fetched. However, your brainstorming sesh might help you come to terms with the fact that quitting your job tomorrow, and pursuing your proposed goal of becoming a stay-at-home Netflix-binger, might not pay the bills.
Step #2: Ensure Your Goals are SMART
Weed out any unrealistic goals, like becoming a professional Netflix-binger, by asking yourself if they are all SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, & Timely. This acronym serves as a great reminder throughout the goal-setting process to ensure you’re on the right track. Below is a quick breakdown of what substantiates a SMART goal.
Specific: Ask yourself if the goals you’re setting are specific enough. If your goals aren’t clear and specific, it’ll be difficult to measure them and track your progress. For example, getting in shape is a bit vague, but dropping 5 pounds is a clear goal that will help you move to the next letter of the acronym.
Measurable: After setting a specific goal, ask yourself how you can verify if you’re on the right track to achieving it. In the previous example, it may have been hard to keep tabs on whether you’re “getting in shape” – but the specific goal of “dropping 5 pounds” is both clear and easy to measure.
Attainable: When you set goals that are important to you, you begin to come up with ways to make them attainable. It’s important to keep this in mind when making your plan in Step #4.
To make dropping 5 pounds attainable, you’ll need to figure out what changes need to be made to make your goal possible. For example, allocating time each week towards exercising can help make the proposed weight loss goal attainable.
Realistic: In order for your goals to be realistic, they must be something that you’re willing & able to work towards. Don’t let this reminder stray you away from setting big goals. You can set goals as big as you can dream, as long as you’re willing to work hard to achieve them.
Keep in mind, though, that you must not only be willing but able to achieve your goals based on other factors. I’m sure you’re ready and willing to stay at home all day and watch Netflix, but will this goal enable you to continue living with a roof over your head?
If you feel you are not able to pursue a dream due to financial constraints, explore all of your options before deciding your goal is unattainable or unrealistic. If your goal is to go to college, but you can’t afford the costly tuition rates – research financial aid options. If you want to get in shape but can’t afford a gym membership, search out workouts you can do without a gym.
If you’re passionate about a goal, you’ll find the avenues and resources to bring it within reach.
Timely: Lastly, ground your goals by setting them within a time frame. A goal without a time frame lacks the motivation that a time-bound goal bears. If you say you want to lose 5 pounds someday, you’ll be far less motivated than if you said you want to lose 5 pounds by the end of the month.
Set realistic time frames for reaching your goals, and check in routinely to ensure they’re feasible. Be sure to read Step #5 if you’re avoiding a goal due to it being time-heavy.
Now that we are in the SMART goal-setting mindset, we can start documenting our goals by writing them down.goals
Pictured above is a free PDF download of a goal setting sheet to use when recording your goals. You can download the sheet by clicking on the hyperlink.
Step #3: Write them Down
I come up with goals and ideas of things I’d like to do on a daily basis, but tend to have little follow through unless I put my pen to paper and solidify them. My experience demonstrates the findings in a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California. She found that people are 21% more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down (2007).
Why does writing your goals down matter you might ask? Writing your goals down both forces you to clarify what you want and motivates you to take action. I, personally, feel that writing my goals down on paper makes them seem more concrete.
The above goal-setting sheet is broken down by short-term, long-term, and life goals. A short-term goal can be something as simple as trying that new Mexican restaurant you’ve been meaning to go to, or finally setting aside some time to read that novel you bought in October – totally guilty of this one.
A long-term goal might be something like graduating school, securing your ideal job, or taking that trip to Europe you’ve been dreaming of. If it’s something you are itching to do in the future, write it down.
Life goals can be whatever you yearn to achieve. Maybe you don’t know yet what kind of legacy you want to leave behind. Maybe that legacy is starting a family of your own. Whatever your life goals may be, get them on paper and set the groundwork to make them happen.
Don’t forget to ensure your goals are all passing the SMART goal test. Even the simplest goals can fall into the SMART framework. Let’s take visiting that restaurant you’ve been meaning to go to for example:
Specific – What Mexican restaurant is it? Be sure to include the restaurant’s name when you cite your specific goal. Las Palmas carries much more weight than “Eat at a Mexican restaurant this month.”
Measurable – This one is pretty straightforward – Did you or didn’t you go there?
Attainable – Is the restaurant close by, or should we be purchasing airfare to visit this gem?
Realistic – Are we talking $200 a plate here, or can our pocket book afford this one?
Timely – Set a time frame for hitting this joint up. If you decide it’s within a reasonable distance from your home, and the price for a meal won’t break the bank – commit to going there by a specific date.
There you have it – you can assess even the simplest goals to see if they’re SMART. While it might make more sense to do this for larger goals, aligning any goal to the SMART framework increases your chances of checking it off your list. If you hadn’t set a time frame for dining at Las Palmas, you might not have enjoyed that bombtastic meal.
Step #4: Make a Plan
Now that you’ve established your goals are SMART & solidified them by putting ’em on paper, make a plan of how you’re going to achieve them. If your short-term goal is to read a novel, start by buying the book. If your goal is to graduate college, start by exploring the course catalog and enrolling in classes.
Some goals take more time than others. What’s important is that you’re taking steps that bring you one step closer to reaching them. Take each goal, make a plan, and take action.
Step #5: Track your Goals
It’s so satisfying to check something off your list that you’ve been wanting to accomplish. Be sure to keep tabs on your progress by tracking your goals. Aren’t you glad you made sure your goals are measurable? If your goal is to lose 5 pounds, and your plan is to hit the gym 5 times a week – evaluate after a couple of weeks if your plan is working. If it is – great for you, keep it up!
If you realize that your plan may have been a bit ambitious with your busy schedule, adjust it accordingly. In this example, maybe 3 days a week is a more realistic gym schedule.
Step #6: Don’t Let Time Deter You
This step is a reminder to not overlook goals because you’re intimidated by the time commitment and groundwork they entail. There’s a popular quote that encourages people to never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it – the time is going to pass anyway.
The reason achieving big goals is such an outstanding accomplishment is because they often require a great deal of time and hard work. It’s important to stay focused and let the end result motivate you. Don’t be afraid to set goals that sound intimidating – if all dreams were easy to reach, they wouldn’t be called dreams.
What’s a goal that you’ve been wanting to reach? Share in the comments!