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How to Set Goals in 3 Steps

If you did some major goal-setting to start off your year – how’s it going? Have you checked in with those goals regularly, or have you just been running your own personal rat race, trying to stay on top of everything in your business and personal life?

Maybe you didn’t even set goals this year, just sort of kept it moving. I respect a hard-working sister and I’m here for that – in fact, I got sick of taking time to goal set when I didn’t know how to put those goals into action. I decided to change my tune on goal setting for this year, and I am sharing it today in the hopes that it helps you, no matter what time of year we are in or how many goals you have for yourself.

Recently, I went looking for a goal setting statistic and I was astounded to find that only 1% of people write goals down and regularly review them. Can you believe that? This is the same 1% of people that are among the highest achievers. Whatever they are doing to get there, one of them is goal setting – writing down what they want to achieve and going back to it regularly.

Seems kind of simple, right?

There are a lot of reasons why, at this time of year, we don’t spend time on this task. Don’t worry, obviously about 99% of people don’t, either! Here are the common things I hear people say about goal setting anytime after February 1st:

Didn’t we do this already? Perhaps there should be a 13th month, it would start on December 1st and end on January 31st. We could call it “Goalsuary,” since everyone is vision boarding, planning and making lofty goals during this time of year. I’m going to make the case for goal setting and checking in all year long, and I really believe that as your year ebbs and flows, your goals will too.  

I don’t have time. I know you probably work on your goals in between work, family responsibilities, and generally living life. It’s hard to budget some of that free time to do goal setting instead of jumping right in to work, but I can promise you that your time will be more effective if you know that your actions are taking you closer to achieving your dreams.

I don’t know where to start. Goal setting practices can be quite a money making business, there are tons of journals, planners and kits out there that promise to help you set your goals and keep you on track. Whether you’re a pen and paper girl or a digital girl, I am going to share my system that’s worked for me this year.

There’s all the reasons not to do this practice, but the way I look at it is – if that highly successful 1% of people is (1) writing down their goals, and (2) going back to it regularly, then I can certainly take time to do that, too. So can you! Here is my very intentional goal-setting practice that I do each month, and I hope you can learn from it and apply it to your life, business, or both!

Start at the end. I am in business with my husband and out of the two of us, I’m the bigger dreamer when it comes to business. So I like to start at the end, when the goal has been achieved. I ask myself these questions:

“What will it look like?”

“What will it feel like?”

“What will be different?”

Break down the answers to these questions as much as you can. There is actually proof that if you can imagine in as much detail as possible what your goal looks, feels, tastes like, you’re more likely to achieve it. Put it on a vision board; make pictures so that when things get tough, those images don’t fade.

Identify 5 things that need to happen: This is where the actionable steps towards your big, amazing goal comes in. It’s where the real work lives, which is exciting and scary all at the same time. No doubt your goal is huge and very lofty (in fact if it’s not, go back and make it that way, please!) so it needs some actionable steps to get there – or it will just taunt you forever and that’s not okay. I recommend and have always done well with the number 5 for actionable steps to get towards a goal. For example, if one of your goals is to create a podcast, your actionable steps might look like:

    1. Choose a hosting provider, name for podcast, theme colors, etc.
    1. Choose a niche/topic of interest
    1. Record your intro
    1. Make a list of all topics/guests
  1. Take the list of topics/guests and start to outline them for recording.

You can add more actionable steps if you want to (how you’re going to market your podcast, pitching guests to be on your podcast, creating interview questions, etc.) but the idea here is that you see with each small step, you’re getting closer to your goal.

Plan them out ahead of time. If you have a family, a job outside of the home, or both – chances are you’re wondering when in the world this is going to get done. I think part of goal-setting is planning out when these dreams are going to happen, but also planning out when the steps are going to be achieved as well. So if you’ve been saying to yourself “I’ll start a podcast sometime this year,” then you’re just not being actionable enough.

Try taking your steps and giving those space to be done, instead. “I will record the intro to my podcast by the end of April,” is a more actionable step to take. I use Asana to keep me on track with projects, and when it comes time to work on them, I block in time with Google calendar (so that I can be accountable to my husband, as well as myself)!

If you’re more the paper person, I have found that the Life Planner by Erin Condren is the most helpful. It breaks down by the hour, so I can block out the time that my daughter is napping, or when she takes a bath with Daddy, to work on my goals.

I’m a huge proponent of “done, not perfect” especially when it comes to things you have never done before. It’s pretty badass to set, maintain, and achieve a goal you set for yourself, and I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for the things we do accomplish throughout the year.

Do you have a particular goal-setting habit that works every time? I would love to hear it!

Allison Nelson

The Nelson Shop

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