It’s that time of year again when we review what we’ve done and look forward to future deeds. An exciting time! But also stressful. In January, we make all these plans and then in December, we realize twelve whole months have whizzed by. We start to wonder if we’ve held down the fast-forward button on the remote that controls our lives. We ask ourselves, what have we accomplished this year? Where did our goal setting efforts go wrong?
If you’re struggling with goal setting and goal achieving, you’re not alone. Despite everything I do, I still fall short sometimes! Here are four ways to set reasonable, achievable #goals in 2018. (Or you know, whatever year you end up reading this!).
1. They have to be actions you reasonably achieve
Well, duh, right? No! This is not as intuitive as you might think.
This bears exploring because of all the eager people out there who want to put the cart before the horse. In January, they’re full of energy, ready to go. Come February, they realize the magnitude of work and resources required to achieve their dreams and they get discouraged. They start to wonder if their dreams of creative entrepreneurship are really worth pursuing (they are) and if things will ever “happen.”
Spoiler alert: things only “happen” for the people who make it happen!
Don’t set yourself up for failure. It would be unreasonable for me at this point to say, “I want to earn $200K in revenue in 2018.” Maybe in a few years that goal will be reasonable. But not this year. And that’s okay. If I made $200K, I’d probably acquire 20 cats. Then I’d have to buy a house with a yard for those cats. And a whole pet store of food. And a maid to clean the litter box every hour. Those expenses really add up and when it comes to cats I have no self-control, so my revenue goals have to reflect that.
But don’t make your goals too easy!
Make a list of everything you want to achieve. Don’t worry about making it look pretty or how you’re going to achieve it–just write everything down you’d like to do.
Done? Okay. Now go over the list. Given that you have 365 days, how many of these items are achievable, given your current resources?
Concentrate on the items you have time and energy for–and save the rest for later.
2. They have to be measurable
I can’t count the number of people who have told me, “I want to write a book someday.”
My natural response is, “Why isn’t someday today?”
Part of creating achievable goals is making them measurable and accountable. This is achieved by adding a deadline or a numerical element. Even if the deadline to writing a book is “by the end of the year” that’s better than “someday.”
Adding a deadline can be stressful. You don’t want the date to be so far in the future that you’ll forget about it, but you also don’t want to rush a project either. I find that picking an ideal release date in the future and then working backwards from there helps me plan out all the creation and production elements for my book project.
Numerical elements in goals are important too. “Keep a consistent blog” is not a measurable goal because it could mean literally anything, depending on the subject matter or purpose of the blog. “Publish one post about cats to publish every Friday” or “Write ten blog posts in January” is better. Both of those give us deadlines and tell us exactly how many posts we need to write.
Take a look at your current list goal list. Quantify your goals and ensure they all have reasonable deadlines.
3. Write them down in categories
When you’re making your list of everything you want to accomplish this year, you may notice that many of your goals fit into natural categories.
My four categories for this year are writing/publishing, earning, fitness, and reading. Fitness and reading are personal categories, while writing/publishing and earning are business categories. I find that having more than four divides my focus.
Within each category, I have one major goal. For example, my major goal for writing/publishing is to publish two books in 2018. Notice how this goal is measurable and a challenge. Up until this point, I’ve put out one book a year. Now I’m doubling my output.
You might notice that several of your goals are in service to an overarching goal. If your goal is “Earn $70K in 2018” a smaller goal might be “Have an $8K month” or “Land a project that pays $3K by April.” If your goal setting aims are all about improving your online business, maybe “create a new website design for product launch” is a large project within that. For my writing/publishing goals, each book or story I want to write is a smaller goal in service of my larger publishing goal.
Take another look at your list. On a separate piece of a paper or in a different document, re-organize your goals into three to five categories. What patterns do you notice? Do any overarching goals present themselves?
4. Goals are one thing, systems are another
Now that you have your reasonable goals in mind–how are you going to achieve them? After all, you can’t just say you’re going to make $80K in revenue, you can’t just say you’re going to write a book–you actually have to do it, after all! The “doing it” part is the hardest, which is where systems come in.
Systems are a prescribed set of actions you do to accomplish your goals. You do them on a regular basis, just like an exercise routine, and every time you get a little bit closer to accomplishing your goal.
For example: I have developed a system that helps me write on command. I know many beginning or aspiring writers wait to be inspired to write–but if you waited for inspiration, it could take years to finish your novel. Since one of my goals this year is to publish 2-3 books, I can’t wait years. I have to write, right now. My writing system involves me sitting down for twenty minutes at a time and doing nothing else but writing. No researching, no outlining, no staring at the screen: for twenty minutes, I only add words to the manuscript. Once twenty minutes are up, I stop writing, and I go over my work. The point of the exercise is not to obsess over meeting word count goals or spinning clever turns of phrase. Sometimes I have fewer words than what I started with, because I’m cutting out a scene–and that’s fine. Because the point is to improve and further the story within twenty minutes.
Time limits work great for me because I know I can perform under pressure, it gamifies the experience, and it creates a natural start and ending point for me to get something done.
Still having trouble? Let me make it easy for you!
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Now excuse me, I have twenty cat pictures to fawn over.