Goal setting is the secret to achieving everything you’ve wanted. You want to start a side hustle? You want to learn a new skill? You want to visit all the new restaurants in your city? Goal setting will get you there.
But isn’t it possible to get stuff done without setting goals? Absolutely. But if you have several things you want to accomplish, or it includes several steps, or is quite complicated, setting out some defined goals will help you along the way.
Firstly, I’ll review SMART goals.
S – Specific: Is your goal well-defined? Having an undefined goal will make it far more difficult for you to figure out the steps towards achieving it.
M – Measurable: How will you know you’ve achieved your goal? There needs to be a factual way to define its completion whether it’s a number or can be defined as either done or not done without any in betweens.
A – Attainable: Is it truly possible for you to reach this goal? While your goals should challenge you a little bit, you’ll feel nothing but discouraged if you realize that they are totally beyond your reach.
R – Relevant: Do these goals reflect your values and your season of life right now? If your goals don’t reflect your values or where you are in life, you’ll either feel unmotivated or be unable to complete them.
T – Time-sensitive: When must you finish your goal? If there is no deadline for your goal, you have the opportunity to keep pushing off the steps you need to take to reach it, which means it will never happen.
If you need more details on making SMART goals, there are tons of articles on the internet that can help you.
I do goal setting every month, every quarter, and every year. I make to-do lists for every week and every day. Each daily to-do list is based off my weekly to-do list, and my weekly to-do list is based off my monthly goals, and my monthly goals are created from breaking down my quarterly goals, and my quarterly goals come from breaking down my yearly goals. There’s a visual aid in the free resource I’ve provided at the bottom of this post to explain what I mean.
But the point is, everything fits together and acts like a chain.
I like to create my yearly goals list on January 1st. Crazy, I know. These days I have been playing along with Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft as they create 19 goals for 2019 and 20 goals for 2020.
These goals have varied from something as simple as ‘make unnecessarily fancy cookies’ to bigger projects like ‘edit and publish my book.’
When making a long list of yearly goals, I give myself room for forgiveness. What I mean by that is that I don’t go into the rest of the year without regularly checking back on the list in order to do my best to achieve those goals, but I also let myself know that I might not finish them all. But that’s the beauty of the list. Come December, I’ll be able to look back on my 2020 goals and see which ones were a priority and which ones really weren’t – that information will provide me with more knowledge about my true priorities and what I just think I want to achieve.
In the coming years, I might settle down to just a few yearly goals, or maybe I’ll continue to do 21 goals for 2021. But I’ve given myself permission to be flexible.
Quarterly goals come around once every quarter AKA four times a year in January, April, July, and October. These are the goals that I try to complete over the next three months.
When creating my quarterly goals, I take a look at my yearly goals list and figure out what are the next steps I need to take to achieve those.
For example, one of my yearly goals is to edit and publish my book. I broke that goal into two steps that became two of my quarter one goals: finish the last edits of the novel and send out query letters.
When I have a long list of yearly goals (like 20 for 2020), I never try to tackle all twenty of them at once. That’s where the a (attainable) from SMART goals comes in.
As you have likely puzzled out, monthly goal setting happens every month. Where quarterly goals are steps that build up to yearly goals, monthly goals are steps that build up to quarterly goals.
To bring it back to my yearly goal of editing and publishing my novel, my quarterly goals were to finish edits and to send out query letters. For my January goal, I broke down those quarterly goals even further: edit half of the novel. Editing half of a novel in one month suddenly seems far more attainable than the big project of editing and publishing. But that smaller monthly goal builds up to the quarterly goal, which will build up towards that lofty yearly goal.
Weekly and Daily To-Do Lists
Again, the smaller amount of time the list represents, the more it is broken down from the larger goal. From my monthly goal list I break those goals down into steps that I can do in a week.
Because editing a novel is a task that takes a lot of time, I put it into my weekly to-do list as a five-point note: Edit novel M T W TH F. This means that I need to spend some time editing my novel each day of the week, and I can cross off each day as I go.
And from my weekly to-do list, I break it down and create my daily to-do list. Because I’ve already established that I want to spend a little time editing every day, editing makes it onto my daily to-do list every day.
Sometimes my daily to-do list doesn’t get completed. Oftentimes, I finish everything on my weekly to-do list. Sometimes I push tasks on my daily and weekly to-do lists to a later date. I give myself flexibility when I need it and recognize when something just isn’t a priority for me and needs to be left off the list entirely.
When the next month comes around, I can see what goals I successfully completed and which ones need TLC. In February, my editing goal went from ‘edit first half of the novel’ to ‘finish editing the novel.’
When the next quarter comes around, I look again to see what larger goals have been completed, and I figure out next steps for attaining those larger yearly goals. My editing and publishing goal for quarter two was ‘get an agent.’ While I don’t have a ton of control over this step and it can’t technically be called a SMART goal, it’s the next step in the journey towards my yearly goal. My third quarter goal will either be something related to publishing because I successfully found an agent, or it will be ‘research and send queries to more agents and publishers.’
Tracking Your Goals
For all 20 of my goals for 2020, I have drawn up charts or empty space in my notebook for tracking my progress. For something simple like ‘bake unnecessarily fancy cookies,’ all I need is the goal and a spot to check off whether it’s done or not. For something like ‘read 24 books,’ I’ve left 24 empty lines in my notebook where I will progressively write down each book I read throughout the year. For my editing and publishing goal, I’ve left a blank spot where I simply write down updates and on how it’s going. Right now that looks like ‘Edited. Query letter written. Sent to agents. 1 rejection. 2 rejections.’
Tracking progress on your yearly goals as you go along will help with knowing how to break down your quarterly goals in the next quarter. And tracking your progress on your quarterly goals will help you figure out how to break it down to create your monthly goals. All the goal lists are so entwined with each other and they clarify what the next step is.
Want to start creating your own goals? Check out this free resource I made for you!
To review, my goal setting routine looks like this:
- Yearly goals once a year
- Quarterly goals 4x a year in January, April, July, October
- Monthly goals at the start of each month
- Weekly to-do lists
- Daily to-do lists
If this system doesn’t work for you, don’t do it! But if you’re curious, give it a shot. I’ve found it immensely helpful for breaking down those big dream goals and not getting discouraged by their magnitude. This system helps me keep track of where I’m putting my effort and where I’m letting things slide.
If you give this system a try, comment below to let me know how it works for you!
Do you have any other goal setting techniques?
Enjoy the journey!