We did a lot of goals work during my gradeschool years. There was a disconnect during the instruction process, and it seemed to me that this was a tool for school only. They lost their context once I received my diploma, and the concept didn’t exactly come with me to University. I did set goals, but they were more like “don’t fail this paper”, rather than “create X career”. They were almost never written down, so I would usually forget any that I set and flew by the seat of my pants.
Obviously the lack of tangible goal work didn’t hold me back. Or, at least, I didn’t end up on the streets. But I also didn’t have a concrete direction. After University, I started writing down goals, but only things that were huge (like buy a vineyard someday in the far off intangible future). They were put in a notebook that I then never took back out. There was no intellectual follow-through.
My saving grace was that I kept paper lists. I knew what I needed to achieve in a given day, and would write lists so I didn’t forget. I think that’s how I managed for so long.
Unfortunately, I was wooed by the awesome power of the digital, and gave up my paper calendar and task planning a year and a half ago. Oops. Big oops. I’m a writer by night, so it’s no surprise that writing things down means more to my brain than typing it.
The digital got me in trouble. Things wouldn’t sync, I wouldn’t feel like getting out my phone at 11 o’clock at night to add something, or I wouldn’t open the app on my desktop the next day. The digital fell into an “out of sight out of mind” category for me.
The Turning Point
Now, I know many professionals who love digital tracking. It works for them, and I’m glad. The purpose of this article isn’t to deter you from the digital – it’s to talk about goal setting. So let me bring it back around.
Three months ago, I noticed my friend using a paper planner. It looked fancier than a normal calendar, and I could tell she was using it religiously, so I asked about it. I used to worship my paper planner in high school, so my curiosity is easily piqued by these things.
What she had was a Passion Planner. It was a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 that I’d totally missed. The entire catch with this planner is not to write down tasks and dates, but to set goals, then break them down into tasks that you can prioritize and make sure you actually complete.
I was instantly in love. I bought one that night, and I haven’t looked back. I hadn’t recognized how very far I’d drifted from articulating and directing my own future!
Now, let me be clear that I have not been commissioned by Passion Planner to plug their product, nor am I receiving a kickback. There are several paper and digital options out there (which I cover in this article). Use whatever goal setting method works for you. But please start setting goals if you’re not already. Goal setting is the best way to follow through on projects.
Psychology Today defines goals as “an observable and measurable end result that you intend to achieve or accomplish.” THIS is where I was failing in the past. I wasn’t measuring (because I hate measuring), or creating stepping stones for getting to the end result.
Set Some Goals – And Plan Your Path
Goal setting is critical to the success of your business. It’s the first step in understanding where you want to go, and then making it happen. Start with high level thinking – what is it you want your life to be like in five years? Ten years?
From there, break it down. What are the major milestones that will help you get there? Sometimes working backwards is easier than a linear timeline. Heck, throw out the timeline and just use bubbles if you can’t yet see how the milestones will stack up.
Finally, break down the milestones. And keep breaking them down until they become task-like in nature. This is where action takes place. Put the tasks in your calendar or to-do app, but make sure they have deadlines. The purpose of this is to not let yourself down, right? Without a deadline, your goal will float back into the ethos and you’ll never see it again.
Please note: Some goals have goals within them. For example, in order to buy a vineyard, there are several embedded goals, like save xxx amount of dollars, get certifications, etc. You can think of these as milestones, or tasks, but I think of them as sub-goals because they’re sizable in nature.
Something awesome will happen as you begin completing goal-associated tasks, and then achieving goals. You start to feel like the master of your own destiny. And while we can’t control the things that happen to us, the truth is you will have mastered control of your own actions and reactions, which is pretty darn close.