There are many ways to set your goals and achieve them. I find most of them too vague for my liking.
I prefer tangible steps to the inspirational and motivational, the how is important. So when Robbie asked me for a framework on goal settings, I reflected and refined the process I have used successfully in the past.
Step 1 – Start thinking what you want to be able to say at the end of the year (or whatever timeline)
Write them down in the past tense, for example I have lost weight, or I have run a marathon. You might have 1, 3 or 20, that’s okay. This may take 5 minutes or be worked on over a few days.
Step 2 – Split them into buckets or themes.
I use WISH to bucket them –
- Individual (personal development),
- Social (relationships) and
This allows us to identify similar goals, areas where the most “work” is required. If the majority fall into one area, that is perhaps the area of your life that has been most neglected.
Step 3 – Harmonise similar ones.
Fewer are better, sometimes once grouped they may be similar enough to combine them into one. Try cover at least 3 areas across WISH, but one goal achieved is far more powerful and beneficial, than 20 merely WISH’d. If the majority are in one area, focus there (for now).
Goal achievement tends to cascade and compound to positively affect other areas of your life. Running, may help sleep, sleep then helps with the energy to run, both sleep and running may allow you to be happier, this improves your relationships, improved relationships may help your happiness…
Step 4 – Prioritise them.
This is non-judgemental, losing weight may be above spending time with your family. A healthy happy you, means better time with your family.
A financially stressed family is also tough on the family, prioritising working extra hours may reduce this stress. A better you, makes a better husband/wife/mother/brother etc.
Pick 1-5 priority goals to achieve, they can be split over the year. Some may span a whole year, 2 may be split over the year, 1 following on from the other. I try not to have more than 3 at any one time, with 1-2 clearly prioritised.
Step 5 – Make the prioritised ones more tangible and specific.
So reduce debt, becomes be debt free by August 2019, by reducing debt £X per month through being frugal and…..
Note that goals should be seen as directional or a way-point rather than achievements in themselves. Goal achievement is a moment to be celebrated, but far more important is the direction of travel and movement (however small).
Step 6 – Work out what habits, challenges etc. you need to do to make your goals a reality. Schedule them in, as reminders or blocks of time.
Work out how what to make this a reality, by defining the diary/habits that mean the outcome takes care of itself.
So losing weight can be done by exercising 3 days a week and 5 healthy eating days. Habits should be reviewed regularly, goals less frequently.
Note, the specificity of step 4 is to crystallise and clarify the achievement, but it’s more about the process. Trust the process. If you invest time in the right areas and trust the compound effect, the results will take care of themselves.
Step 7 – Set baselines on each goal and targets.
A baseline is where you are now, your weight, your debt level etc. Movement against this will allow you to know if the process you have set up is working. Note that some processes take time to build and measurable improvement make take months.
Step 8 – Set review time.
Set time in the diary to check-in. This should be frequent enough to not allow drift to set, but allow sufficient time for identifiable change to be able to be measured, weekly/fortnightly/monthly, all could work.
This time is the time to evaluate progress, make adjustments and tweaks needed and check adherence. Make it work for you. Ideally you would have an accountability buddy, but lack of one shouldn’t stop you.
Step 9 – Reflect back – if I do these things, will the results take care of themselves.
An average plan you do, is better than a great plan you don’t. Make it a stretch, but realistic, positive goal.
Always factor in failure and accept it. Too often we allow a small setback to erode everything. For example if you on a diet, then eat a slice of cake at a birthday party, don’t let that mean you give up completely, accept that it happens, enjoy (don’t feel guilty) the cake and know you can (and will be) better tomorrow.
Aim for 80% of the time making better decisions. Practically, if you target 5 gym sessions, be delighted with 4 (more than you would have?), accepting of 3, disappointed with 2, knowing that next week you will be better. Life happens.
Consistency is key, it is far more important than grand efforts. Remember that excellence and success is just simple good habits performed consistently over time.