Many people set goals but not everyone successfully achieves them.
If you’ve ever set New Year’s resolutions only to fail before the end of February, or made a goal to save more money, only to go on an unnecessary impulse shopping spree the week after, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
So then it begs the question… why do so many people fail to achieve their goals and how can you make sure that you’re not one of them?
The answer to this lies in having an effective process to set and track your goals.
Without some structure to your goals, you’re setting yourself up to fail or just plain forget about your goals.
If you’re not really sure where to start or have struggled to reach your goals in the past, fear not!
Here are 5 proven steps that will help you not only stay focused on your goals but show you how to successfully achieve them too.
1. Set Good Goals
Setting good goals is the first step in achieving them, and it’s absolutely critical to your success.
If you don’t set good goals, you’re far more likely to fail.
If you’ve landed here, you’re probably ready to jump right in and start achieving your goals, but before you do just pause for a minute…
Take a moment to think about these three key questions before you start setting your goals:
- What are you trying to achieve and why is it important to you?
- Are you focusing on the right things?
- Do you have a clear vision of what success looks like?
Once you’ve taken a few minutes to think about these three questions and are clear on your vision and why you’re trying to achieve it, you’re ready to set some goals and start achieving them.
So what does a good goal look like?
To understand what a good goal looks like, you need to think about why people set goals and what makes them useful.
Generally the answer to this is that people set goals because they want to achieve something that is important to them.
And goals are useful because they help to keep people motivated and accountable, which in turn increases their chance of success.
So keeping this in mind, let’s look at the elements of a goal that makes them useful.
A good goal is S M A R T…
A good goal should be clear, specific and well defined. Think about what you want to achieve with your goal and really dig into the detail.
Don’t just settle for some vague, high-level goals that are open to interpretation – this will definitely set you up for failure.
Instead, try to clearly define what success looks like for you for each of your goals. This will help provide clarity on what you need to achieve so you can make an actionable plan to actually get it done.
Start with a broad idea if you need to, but then work on breaking it into smaller, more specific chunks.
A good goal needs to be measurable.
Having a measurable goal will make it easier to track your progress and maintain a clear picture of where you’re at.
It will also help you stay motivated to keep working towards your goal because you’ll be able to look at what you’ve already achieved and understand what you still need to do.
Having a goal that is measurable also makes it easier to break it down into smaller chunks or “sub goals“, which can be a great strategy if you find your motivation by seeing small wins.
While it’s great to have some “stretch” goals from time to time, it’s also important to make sure that your goals are actually achievable for you based on your current resources, priorities, and motivation.
If you set yourself goals that you can’t realistically achieve, all you’re going to do is be disappointed with yourself when you can’t make them happen.
To avoid this, make sure that your goals are a good balance of challenging and achievable and/or set yourself a range of realistic and aspirational goals.
Another important point to note here is that you should focus on goals that don’t rely on other people too much. Set goals that you have the power to achieve. For example, rather than setting a goal to get promoted in the next 6 months, you could set a goal focused on gaining all of the skills and knowledge that you would need to be promoted. That way your success isn’t dependent on someone else.
Relevance of your goal ties back in to my previous point about making sure that you’re focusing on the right thing.
A good goal should be relevant to your other goals and help you make progress towards your higher level vision.
To help determine if your goal is relevant, you should consider if it is worth the time and effort, if it aligns with your current priorities, and if it’s the right time to focus on it.
If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then your goal is probably not relevant.
A good goal absolutely needs a deadline.
It’s also a good idea to have some time-bound milestones that you can work towards along the way rather than just focusing on your final deadline.
Having a deadline and some time-bound milestones to work towards is one of the best ways to stay motivated and accountable when working towards achieving your goals.
It will also help you prioritize and focus on getting the most urgent and important tasks done first.
2. Make A Plan
Once you are clear on what you are trying to achieve and have set yourself some well thought out SMART goals, it’s time to make a plan to successfully achieve those goals.
A goal without a plan is only a wish…
Moving from having a vision to having a solid plan is the point were so many people tend to fail.
Have you ever set yourself some new goals that you felt inspired and motivated to achieve, but then promptly forgot about them?
Or maybe you just didn’t make any progress with them.
If this has happened to you, it’s probably because you stopped after you set your goals and didn’t actually continue on and make a plan for how to achieve your goals.
How to make an effective plan to achieve your goals
An effective plan can look different to everyone, depending on your preferred working style. However, there are a few key elements that your plan should include that will give you the best chance of successfully achieving your goals.
To make an effective plan, you should:
Break Your Goals Down Into Actionable Tasks
If your goals are about what you want to achieve, your plan should be about how you’re going to do it.
In short, this means that your plan should include all of the specific actions, steps, tasks, and checkpoints that you need to complete to successfully achieve your goal.
The simplest way to do this is to look at your goal and brainstorm all of the individual tasks that you need to complete to achieve your goal.
This can be as detailed as you like, but the key here is to make sure that each point is specific and actionable.
Write It Down
Writing down your goals and action plan is powerful.
By writing it down, you have a tangible record that you can refer back to. This means that you don’t have to rely on your memory or good intentions to achieve your goals.
Once you write down your goals and action plan, it’s so much easier to track your progress and make sure that you’re always moving in the right direction.
Tell Someone About It
This is all about accountability.
If you keep your goals to yourself, it’s easy to forget about them or come up with excuses as to why you can’t achieve them.
The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to share your goals with someone that you trust. If they’re supportive of your plan, even better. But even if they’re not, just telling someone about your goals can be a great motivator to achieve them.
3. Track Your Progress
Once you’ve set your SMART goals and created your action plan, the next step is to take action and start crossing tasks off your to-do list.
If you really want to achieve your goals, you need to review them often and track your progress.
Tracking your progress will help to keep you focused on achieving your goals, and it will also help you to identify any at-risk goals early and re-adjust your plan, if necesary.
There are lots of different ways that you can track your progress, and you need to find one that works for you.
One way to track your goals is to create a document on Google Docs and then set yourself a reminder on your phone to review them regularly. This method gives you the flexibility of being able to access your goals at any time from different locations and devices, and it also reminds you to check in on your progress regularly.
Some other ways you can track your progress include:
- Record it in a journal or planner – this is a great way to track your progress if you prefer to hand-write your notes but still want the flexibility of being able to take your goals with you. This can also be a really fun way to track your progress if you like to decorate your journal or planner.
- Write it down and display in a highly visible location – this method is perfect if you like to have a constant reminder of your goals to keep you focused and motivated. Display them somewhere that you will see them regularly and benefit from the regular reminder and inspiration.
- Track using a mobile app – an excellent option for the more tech-inclined. There are many different apps focused on helping you to achieve your goals. If you want to track using an app, find one with features that will work for you. Check out this article over at Bustle for some recommended goal tracking apps.
4. Celebrate Your Wins
Achieving your goals can sometimes seem like an impossible task, especially if you still have a long way to go.
If you feel like you’re never going to get there, it can be really hard to stay motivated to keep chipping away at your goals.
For this reason, it’s essential to celebrate your wins – both big and small.
As a part of your goal planning process, try building in some incentives to reward yourself when you achieve certain milestones.
For example, if you goal is to lose 20lbs, you might decide to reward yourself with some new makeup or a fresh hair cut when you lose the first 10lbs.
Make sure you try to avoid rewards that aren’t compatible with your goals and focus on incentives that will actually keep you moving in the right direction.
So in this example, you might want to avoid food-based rewards as it’s really not helping you achieve your goal. Plus, if you end up taking a step backwards with your progress rather than moving forward, it can have a negative impact on your motivation and derail your goals.
5. Stick With It
While achieving your goals is a great feeling, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t quite get there. If you’re struggling with making progress on your goal maybe you need to learn How To Be Productive When You Don’t Feel Motivated.
The important thing to remember is to not give up, and that progress (however small), is still progress.
With goals, it’s best if you can avoid falling into the “all or nothing” mindset trap. If you miss your deadline or fall short on one of your goals, don’t throw in the towel and give up on all of them.
Instead, look at what you’ve accomplished so far and celebrate the small achievements and the effort that you have put into making that progress. After all, consistent effort can be an achievement in itself, especially if this is something that you tend to struggle with.
Once you have taken the time to appreciate what you have achieved, re-assess your goals and get back on track.
On that note, I’d like to leave you with some words of wisdom to inspire you when you feel like giving up…
You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.TOM HIDDLESTON