Many people have goals and aspirations but do not know how to set goals and make plans that actually work. What is the secret to setting goals that you can actually achieve?
The most important part of making plans or setting goals and objectives is to do it in writing. Writing down goals and plans helps you achieve them. There is almost something magical about written goals – anyone who habitually writes down what they would like to achieve can vouch for the uncanny way that written goals become your reality.1
Written goals act like a road map for your life. Identifying exactly what you would like to achieve and how you plan on achieving those goals helps keep you focused and inspired. Creating the life you want and knowing where you are headed is very empowering. Planning how you can achieve your dreams helps you manage your time, energy, and other resources more effectively.
Short-Term Goals: Write a To-Do List daily to stay organized and achieve more.
Making a plan for your day ahead of time helps you avoid being subject to the whims of your emotions or energy levels. By clearly knowing your agenda and sticking to it, you train your mind to be your servant, instead of it managing you. Giving yourself written instructions composed during times of clarity allows you to stay on track at times when you might feel less balanced or stable. It also helps prevent acting on impulses, which would otherwise lead back towards your bad habits and tendencies.
Keeping a daily to-do list and written goal list helps to re-wire your mind by helping you create new patterns instead of allowing the older patterns to continuously manifest. Staying organized and knowing what you are working towards also helps create a sense of calm, focus, and purpose.
Write or update your to-do list at the time of day when you have the most clarity and energy. For some people, morning is best, while others may be a bit sharper the night before.
Long Term Goals: How to Write an Effective Goal List
1. Make a list of what you would like to achieve. For some ideas to get started, see the exercise below.
2. For each goal you have, write down a few action steps you can take towards achieving that goal. The key is that the actions you list towards achieving your goals must be under your control.
For example, if your goal is to “lose weight and be fit” then “run for 30 minutes 4 days a week” is a better action step than “lose 20 lbs” because you can choose to run but you cannot control the exact outcome of your running. Or if your goal is to support yourself financially through your music, action steps such as “practice 20 hours a week” and “call 10 local venues each month” are better than “get a gig at a local venue” or “get record contract” because the latter aren’t entirely in your control.
Make sure that all your action steps are measurable things that you can do and are within your control – they should be actions, not outcomes. When you write your plan this way, you can only fail if you fail to do your part. You can only let yourself down. If you keep doing your share, the rest will follow and over time you will see that you are achieving your goals.
3. Choose at least one day each month to revise your plan. It’s okay to remove a goal that no longer appeals to you, and it feels great to remove ones you’ve achieved!
4. Keep a copy of your plan somewhere accessible where you can read it over once a day – perhaps on the bathroom mirror. Reading your goal list daily will help keep you focused and inspired.
Ideas for Setting Goals and Objectives
Grab a notebook and take a moment to jot down some ideas for each category below. Use these notes to write out a plan using the guidelines above.
1. List any long-term projects you are working on or plan on undertaking (buying a home, getting a degree, learning an instrument or language, etc.)
2. List any personal habits you would like to eliminate, change, or develop. (Lose weight, stop smoking, stop interrupting, etc.)
3. List any recurring activities you partake in or would like to partake in (gardening, clubs, hobbies, reading, etc)
1. Many self-help coaches reference a study done at either Yale or Harvard that showed that people who habitually write down their goals achieve far more than those who do not. While this is great news and quite motivating, the problem with this study is that it never actually happened! Despite it having never occurred, it still managed to be mentioned in countless books, lectures, and articles.
In an effort to explore the effects of written goals (and to help redeem the credibility of the personal growth industry) Dominican University of California psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews decided to actually run the study in 2007. The results showed that “people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.”