How to achieve your goals

So you have some goals that you want to make happen. You may have read the setting goals for the year post and decided your well-articulated goals will not become reality with a little more something.  You need to have some identified goals before continuing so if you need to pop back to setting goals for the year post I’ll wait.

Planning for success

Before you conjure up mental images of 1000 line Gantt charts and pages of checklists – relax.  This is the really easy bit. For each goal consider what you will need to do to make it happen.  If a goal is to take part in a sporting event the elements might be signing up to an event, buying the kit needed to train and participate in the event, training for the event, and then taking part in the event.  Grab a big bit of paper and divide it into 12 sections and label them January – December.

setting goals - a page layout broken into months as described in the text
I didn’t have any A3 paper so I opted for 2 double page spreads in my journal

Pop each activity supporting the first goal on a coloured sticky note and tentatively assign it to a month.  To get some early progress for our sporting event I might have signing up for the event, buying the kit and selecting a training plan all in January so I build up early momentum. The planning step might require a bit of research – when are the events running? How long do the training plans take? If the event is in early June and the training plan is 12 weeks then the “start training” sticky can go in March.  Looking at the calendar I might notice that I’ll be away for two weeks at Easter so need to start 2 weeks early.  I might want to keep 2 weeks in contingency in case I get an illness or injury. This would lead to me moving the  “start training” sticky to early February.  Rather than just have a single “complete training plan” sticky in May I would break down the monthly goals – “complete 10 training sessions”.  This will enable progress tracking.

Repeat this for all of the goals ideally using different coloured sticky notes.  Laying out all the things you will need to do each month gives a visual indication of the amount you are taking on and if there are particular pinch points.  It might be that tasks can be rearranged to lessen pinch points e.g. Starting the sports training early to allow a gap at Easter to enable quality family time. It may be that you need to assess the priority of the different goals and determine in advance which to ease up on if it all gets too much.

When the plan looks sensible enough to start with I keep a record of the goals and tasks somewhere I’ll see them regularly.  For me, this is my Bullet Journal but it could equally be the planning page stuck on the wall, or stuff written on the calendar on the fridge.

Do and review

There is no point in planning goals if you then don’t do anything about them! I like to cement my commitment early to a goal.  This could be spending on a new pair of running shoes and a ticket for a 1/2 marathon or it could be announcing to colleagues I intend to apply for promotion.  This helps to make it real for me.  I also like to celebrate early victories – for a 1/2 marathon that might be running 5k without stopping, running 10k without stopping, 6 weeks without a missed session, and so on.

No plan is ever perfect. A key part of working towards your goals is reviewing progress and making adjustments. At the end of each month look back at what has gone well that you want to keep doing.  Look at challenges you’ve had and how you might overcome them in future months. Above all look at how much closer you are to the goal than you were 4 weeks ago.

A goal without a plan is just a dream

Having goals for the year ahead is a great way of helping you articulate the things you would really like to achieve.  Having a plan to deliver those goals will massively increase the chance of completing what you set out to do.  Planning against all your aspirations will help you make informed trades about how you invest your time in shaping your future.  This is important as great things are never achieved without hard work and at any given moment without that bigger picture view 30 minutes on netflix or candy crush is likely to be more appealing than hard work.

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