Simple Goal Setting (and an Interview)

fotolia_427841_XSAfter you finish reading this post, please head on over to 1500 Days to Freedom, where Mr. 1500 interviewed me in a piece titled 10 Questions and a Pizza Place.  If you have not checked out his blog, you must!  Leave a comment or share on your favorite social media site.

With 24 days left before I quit my day job, I have a ton of work to finish to leave without a hiccup.  I need to be very clear with my goals right now, and keep them simple.

So simple, in fact, that I do it with a pocket notebook.

The key to simple goal setting is to not have too many goals at once. Even if I have a laundry list of goals, I will focus on only one or two at a time. While that’s not always possible for some people, having too many goals makes things complicated and requires a more complicated (and usually inefficient) system for keeping track of your goals.

So, I try to keep things as simple as possible. It allows me to focus my energies on a select few goals, making me far more effective.  And now, I need to be effective!

Here’s how to simplify your goals:

  1. Empty your brain on paper. Create your list of things you’d like to carry out.  Brainstorm it and get it on paper. You don’t have to do everything on the list, but you need to get it all out of your head. This is just to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  2. Which goal is the game changer?  Which goal on the list will change your life the most within the next month or even the next year? Can you accomplish it in this timeframe? If it will take too long, you may want to create a sub-goal that will take a year or less — any longer and you will lose motivation. Be sure the goal is something you’ll be passionate about, or you’ll lose motivation.
  3. Create a mantra. I stole this idea from Guy Kawasaki, who said that a business should abandon a mission statement and create a 2-5 word mantra instead (Federal Express: “Peace of mind”; Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”.  Create your own mantra based on your goal and write the words somewhere where you will always see them:  on an index card, as your desktop picture/wallpaper, or as a poster on the wall.  Don’t ever forget this mantra — and repeat it out loud every single day.
  4. What can you do this month, week, or day to make that happen? If your goal will take a while to accomplish, you need to create a smaller sub-goal. Figure out a project you can do this month to get yourself a few steps closer to that goal, and focus on this project for the next month.
  5. What can you do right now?  What is the one thing you can do today to get you closer to your goal?  If you do one thing each day, you’ll reach it. Make sure that one thing is the first thing you do each day. Don’t put it off until the end of the day, when it will get pushed back until tomorrow.

These steps are ideal if you have large goals and a time frame of 6-12 months.  In my case, I have less than one month and a ton of goals (most of which are not aligned to my passions). I need to get stuff done here.

What if you have several goals?

Many of us have many goals we are trying to accomplish at the same time. Here’s how I try to manage this:

  1. Do one goal at a time. You can still do the other goals, but put them off for a month or two. Focus on one goal for at least a month … and turn it into a habit. So if you want to run a marathon, create the habit of running each day. If you want to write a novel, create the habit of writing each morning. If you want to create a successful blog, create the habit of writing posts each and every day. Once your first goal becomes a habit and is on autopilot, turn to the next goal — you don’t have to worry as much about the first goal because it has become automatic.
  2. Keep the goals simple. If you spread yourself too thin (I do this a lot), you become in danger of not accomplishing anything. If you have 3-4 goals, it is doable as long as you don’t create a huge list of tasks you need to accomplish for each goal every week.  Instead, find ways to focus on one goal at a time: just focus on one of your goals this week, or just one of your goals each day, or just one of your goals in the morning and another in the afternoon, for example. This way you will stay effective.

How do you set and achieve your goals? Leave a comment and let us all know!

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