I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together a master goal plan, and I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned from the process.
1. Keep it SMART
It’s cliche, but the SMART acronym is actually a useful device for ensuring that your goals are as effective as possible. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. These five words vary slightly depending on who you ask, but the basic concept remains the same. Goals like “get in better shape” are not that useful because it’s hard to know when you’ve achieved it, or even what you’re working towards.
2. Categorize for balance
I like to break my life into different areas, like Personal, Professional, Financial, Physical, Spiritual, etc. and ensure that I have one or two goals for each category, to ensure that I’m not ignoring a large swath of my life as I strive for success in another.
3. Consider scope
I’ve got my goals split into different timelines for different periods of time. Here are my current time periods:
- 30 day
- 90 day
- 1 year
- 3 year
- 5 year
- 10 year
I generally have more goals in the timelines that are sooner, and fewer goals in the timelines that are farther out. And the goals get a little more general and higher-level the farther out you go, because so much in my life will change over the next ten years that it’s hard to say who I’ll be or what I’ll be interested in.
4. Don’t forget habits
In addition to the actual goals that I want to accomplish, I maintain a list of habits that I want to do on a regular basis that will help me move towards those goals. I have seven daily habits that I do Mon – Fri, a couple weekly habits, and a couple of monthly habits.
5. Plan for review
One of the biggest reasons that my lists of goals have slipped in the past is that I didn’t have a clear plan or process for reviewing my goals on a regular basis. One of my daily habits now is to review my goals. I’m currently reviewing all the goal timelines, but I think it would be fine to review the ones farther out on a more infrequent basis, such as weekly or monthly. The point is, determine an actual schedule to read through your goal plan and consider whether your current daily actions and habits are moving you closer towards those goals.
6. Track your progress
In addition to reviewing your goals on a regular basis, you’ll need to keep creating new goal plans and recording the outcome of the previous one, in accordance with the timeline of the goals. For example, at the top of every one of my goal timelines, I’ve got the date where that goal plan ends. At the end of that period, I’ll record the progress for every goal and write a new one for that length of time. For example, at the end of the next 30 days, I’ll record the progress for my 30 day list of goals, and then write my list for the next 30 days. After 90 days, I’ll put together my next 90 day list of goals, and so on. That way, I’ll always have a list of things that I’m working towards, and there’s a natural and organic progression of creating new goals based on the latest
7. Be accountable
You have your goals, you’re rocking along, and then you hit a snag. You’ve got a goal deadline coming up and you’re just not there yet. The easy thing to do is just push it back to another timeline and not worry too much about it. This is especially easy when no one will know except for you. But when you’ve got friends and family asking you how your goals are coming, it becomes harder to put them off until later. Find someone who is as passionate as you about reaching their goals and ask them to keep you accountable. It makes a difference.
8. Be flexible
People change. What you think you want in ten years will almost certainly change over the course of a decade, and it doesn’t make any sense to force yourself to adhere to an end that you’re no longer passionate about. So don’t be afraid to change your mind along the way, and adjust your goals accordingly. On the other hand, sometimes you gotta stick it out. One of my favorite books for figuring out the difference is The Dip by Seth Godin