Let’s start our months with goal-setting practices that make our resolutions and habits easier.
The Five Golden Rules
1. Set Goals That Motivate You
When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.
Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. This in turn leaves you feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself, both of which are de-motivating. And you can end up in a very destructive “I can’t do anything or be successful at anything” frame of mind.
To make sure that your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make the goal happen.
2. Set SMART Goals
You have probably heard of SMART goals already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be:
- Time Bound
However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to “raise the bar” and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.
Set Relevant Goals
Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll fritter your time – and your life – away.
Set Time-Bound Goals
Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.
3. Set Goals in Writing
The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. As you write, use the word “will” instead of “would like to” or “might.” For example, “I will reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent this year,” not “I would like to reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent this year.” The first goal statement has power and you can “see” yourself reducing expenses, the second lacks passion and gives you an excuse if you get sidetracked
Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.
4. Make an Action Plan
This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term. Read our article on Action Plans for more on how to do this.
5. Stick With It!
Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.
Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced. By following the Five Golden Rules of Goal Setting you can set goals with confidence and enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you achieved what you set out to do.
So, what will you decide to accomplish today
We’re Eleven month into the new year, and it’s about that time where our resolutions we vowed to keep for the year start gradually slipping away.
How can we be intentional in our goal-setting, so that we can accomplish what we want to and keep our habits on track? And how can we stop feeling overwhelmed by our endless check list of tasks we want to get done?
For me, it starts with a planning ritual on the first day of every month. Planning ahead gives me a glimpse at what I desire to focus on and what I need to do to stay on track.
I’ve been struggling for years to find a planner with yearly, monthly, and weekly layouts that have goal-setting in mind in a way that I enjoy. In fact, I’ll typically go through multiple planners in a year and have issues with almost all of them. I thought about creating my own or going back to bullet journaling, but then the founders at Unbound reached out to me with their new planner and as fate would have it, it has the layout I’ve been searching for. The Unbound planner allows me to set, plan, and take action on my goals in a way that holds me accountable and doesn’t let me slug off my goals.
Here’s how I use my planner to plan my month for success:
Monthly calendar layout
I enjoy seeing my months at a glance and planning fun activities for new adventures. I love creating my monthly layout with lots of stickers and fun notes to self to make it feel even more fun. This is where I’ll start on (or close to) the first of every month. I set my monthly goals and schedule in all the activities that I already know are happening. I hate having to scratch things out, so I’ll sometimes use a sticky note for anything that is pending. I adjust this throughout the month and add things in as they come up, but I do all the beautifying at the beginning of the month.
I also change all my backgrounds on my computer and phone. I crave change often, so I like using the new month as an excuse to switch things up.
Monthly, weekly, and daily focuses
Something I started last year is setting a monthly focus. I would create a theme to represent that month. I’d ask myself, “What’s the most important thing I want to do this month?” And set that as my focus. Sometimes it’s hard to choose just one, but it’s important to prioritize.
I like to make a focus and goals for different areas of my life. It’s easy to forget about certain areas of our lives, like bettering our friendships or doing good in the world. We get caught up in the day-to-day so it’s great to think about where we can add value across the spectrum of our lives.
One of my favorite parts of the Unbound planner (and isn’t present in most planners) is the habit tracker. When we’re trying to make a new habit happen, checking off the days we’re making it happen feels rewarding. It’s an accountability tool, and it reminds us to keep working.
I think one of the biggest struggles with keeping up with healthy habits is forgetting that they’re important to us. Tracking our progress, and reminding ourselves why we’re doing it, is so vital to staying focused.
When we decide that we want to tackle a big project or goal, it’s hard to figure out how specifically we’re going to do it without mapping it out and fitting it into our schedules.
By mapping out our big projects, we can break them down into different phases and months. When do we want to accomplish this? How long will it take us? How much time can we realistically dedicate? What is everything we need to do to make it happen?
Break it down.
We have to intentionally take some time to brainstorm and research what it will take to get going on our goals. And instead of feeling overwhelmed at the list of things to do, we’ll start with the first three things we need to do. And then we can add it into our schedules for the month.
Before we know it, we’ll be well on our path to accomplishing our goals.
One of my favorite tricks to feeling like there’s enough time in the day is using the time-blocking method. Time-blocking is assigning every hour (or even minute) with a purpose.
We can get started by blocking out a couple hours every morning for our morning routines and writing down hour by hour what we’ll do. Then we can build out a block for work. We can even create time blocks for white space (time where we have no tasks).
The point of time-blocking is that we’re not left wondering where we can fit stuff in. It’s already built in our schedule.
We can set up our time-blocking at the beginning of each month and adjust weekly or daily, because life can be too messy for perfect time-blocking. And even if it doesn’t work out all the time, it helps us waste less time browsing social media or being unsure about what to work on. We already know what we want to get done, because we planned ahead.
Create space on Sunday or Monday morning to reflect on the past week. What worked and what didn’t work? How can next week be even better?
We can ask ourselves these three questions:
- What goals did I pursue this week and how did it go?
- What challenges did I face?
- What small adjustments could make my goals/habits easier?
If we don’t take time to reflect on our weeks, we risk losing the lessons we could be learning from our mistakes or letdowns. We’re always able to improve and we can challenge ourselves to get better at our habits and goals. If something isn’t working for us, we should adjust instead of letting our lives happen to us.
In the weekly reflection section of my planner, I like to take some time to celebrate what went right that week. Along with my weekly check in to improve weeks ahead, I feel it’s important to think about all the tasks we accomplished this week and the progress we’re making. We look back at the end of the year, but do we give ourselves credit week-to-week? I don’t think we do often enough. Let’s take more time to give ourselves a pat on the back for the times we make progress.
Here’s to making our goals a reality this month. Cheers to a productive and intentional one!