Whenever we look at making changes and improvements to our lives we need to set goals and it’s not as easy as it sounds. When I started wanting to change things I would pick what I wanted to change, ponder it for about 10 minutes and then nothing would actually change. The problem was that my 10 minutes of pondering left me with a goal that was so grand and unachievable that I had no hope of reaching it.
That’s not to say that setting grand goals is a bad thing, not by any means – we all still have aspirations of becoming millionaires I’m sure. But what it does mean is that we need to figure out a better way to reach those goals and understand that change doesn’t come instantly or easily.
I had a goal, at the beginning of last year, to set better goals. I bought a goal journal and everything. Great intentions, but zero execution. Why? Two reasons: 1) I rarely write things down any more. I’m at a keyboard most of the time now and my writing is close to illegible. Also, it was never handy when I thought of a goal. It’s harder than it sounds to sit down and think “ok, what do I want to achieve in my life”. 2) I didn’t understand and appreciate the way in which goals, and reaching those goals, truly worked.
So, after some more pondering and tinkering, I found the following solution. I’m sure it’s nothing new, but it’s how interpret goal setting and achievements.
Define Your Goals
The first thing that I found was to properly define what my goals were and why they were goals in the first place. It wasn’t enough to have a goal like “get a new car”. It doesn’t pull at your emotions and emotions is what forces us to take action. The goals you set need a reason, a motivation. What will it mean to your life if you achieve the goal? Try this: the next time you think of a goal, like “get a new car” add the words “so that” after it. Now you’re better equipped to define your goal – “get a new car so that…”. Now you have to define why that goal is important to you. You must be honest with yourself for this. If you’re not, then the goal loses meaning, will never get achieved, and devalues your other goals.
Divide and Conquer
Next, goals need stepping stones. Unless you’re already a millionaire, it’s next to impossible to set your goal, then get it done straight away. In 99% of cases, your goal will need a lot of work before you can consider it achieved. The Divide and Conquer approach says that you should break your goal down into what you need to acquire before you can achieve your goal, what you need to do, what you need others to do and an order each of these should be done. Then go through each one of these items and break them down even further. Keep doing this until you have a whole bunch of small, very achievable, tasks that each don’t take much time to complete. The sum of all these tasks is your goal and you now have your stepping stones to reach it.
Constantly Review and Refine
Things change. It’s the nature of the world. Life circumstances, financial circumstances, relationships, everything. Even your goals change! You need to move with these changes. Set yourself a schedule to review each of your goals and your stepping stones. Once a week, sit down with your goals and stepping stones and evaluate them. Have you made progress on any of them? If you have, great! Tick them off and make some comments on each. If not, write a comment why. This will help you to identify things that might be holding you back. Have any of your tasks changed in priority or responsibility? Update them accordingly. Do you need to add new stepping stones? Add them.
As you continue to evolve your goals you will start to see patterns in how you get through your stepping stones and what types of stones you can get through faster. Use this to craft your new goals and stepping stones to your advantage.
If you write nothing down, nothing will happen. We’ve all thought about goals and thought “right, I’ll get started on that tomorrow” only for nothing to ever happen. Tomorrow you wake up and do exactly the same thing you did yesterday. You need to write down your goals and every single stepping stone. As you jot down your stepping stones you’ll start to think of more and more of them, which is great. The further you can break down your goals into small chunks, the easier it will be to achieve them and to see real progress. It’s the progress that motivates you to complete more stepping stones.
I recommend two methods for tracking goals and stepping stones.
Create a new notebook in Evernote called Goals. Then create a new note for each goal you have. Write down the goal in the subject and a description of what it means to you and how your life will be different once you achieve it. Below that, start listing all your stepping stones. Don’t be concerned with prioritising them just yet. Use the checkboxes for each stone. You can make these as simple or as detailed as you like.
The next step is to make sure you have Evernote installed on every one of your mobile devices, and, make sure that your Goals notebook is marked to sync as an Offline Notebook (this means you’ll be able to update your goals and stepping stones no matter where you are, even if you’re in a cave).
Now there’s no excuse for not reviewing your goals, adding new goals and stepping stones as soon as you think of them and tracking their progress as your tick each of them off.
As you review your stepping stones, the next one that can be done will become obvious. S you can easily find it later, make it bold. Now it’s prioritized. Yep, it’s as easy as that. When it’s done, tick it off nf un-bold it.
lifetick, as the name might imply, is a tool that lets your track your goals and stepping stones. While you could use lifetick and not Evernote, I find using Evernote gives me more freedom to create and manage my goals and reasons why I have them more easily. I use lifetick to remind me to act on key stepping stones, especially when you set yourself due dates (which is a perfect way to ensure progress). Setup your goals and key stepping stones that have dates you want to stick to. lifetick will then email you before the due date and on the due date to remind you to take action. For example, I use lifetick to remind me, and reinforce, that I need to write these kinds of articles. I get a reminder each week if I haven’t written my target quota for the week. And that’s what helps me stay on track and provide you with all this content!
Setup lifetick on your mobile device too. Just go to the application URL in your mobile browser then bookmark it.
So there you have it. Easy, manageable steps to setup your real goals and stepping stones and how you can stay on track to help you reach them faster. What goals are you setting yourself now?