Goal setting : A simple but powerful strategy

Use this simple 9 step goal setting process to set, work towards and achieve your goals today. Don't put it off any longer. Get started now!

For years people have been advocating using the SMART acronym for helping set better goals. I have written about it in the past too. It has been the accepted standard way to set goals so that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. There are different people who use slightly different words for each step but the actions involved are basically the same.

I have used this process to set my own goals in the past (read the post here) but I have to be honest and say that I found it a little difficult to do. To begin with I thought that I was doing something wrong. Then it occurred to me that just as different people have different learning styles, perhaps our preferred goal setting styles differ too.

The SMART goal setting acronym, while a nice place to start, just doesn’t suit me. I find it too specific in some areas and not specific enough in others. I want my goal setting to be simple and tell me exactly what I need to do. I decided to create my own system to help me plan out my goals for the year to come. It works for me and might just work for you too. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Unfortunately it doesn’t lend itself to an easily remembered acronym but you can download the PDF worksheet here to help you work through each step.

Don’t be tempted just to follow this process in your head, ensure that you write it down.

‘Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over lips or through pencil tips.’ Dawson Trotman

1) What do you want?

What is the long term goal you want to achieve? This is where you can simply state what it is you desire. I know that everyone tells you your goal needs to be specific but in this system, it doesn’t need to be. Not yet.

If your goal is to lose weight or save money or write a best selling novel, then in this step I want you to write that down. Sometimes trying to get all of the specifics decided up front can make it all seem just a little too hard. You know what your dream is. Write it down and in the next steps we will chisel down to the information you will need to help you achieve it.

2) Why do you want it?

Take a few moments to think about exactly why this goal is important to you. Make sure that it really is something you want and want badly enough that you will be willing to put the work in to achieve it.

Working on someone else’s goal for your life will not work out so well and working on a goal you only half want to achieve is not such a good idea either. Try to write down three or four reasons for setting this particular goal.

3) Detail exactly what you want to achieve.

So now is the time to be more specific and write down exactly what it is you want to achieve. The goal to ‘lose weight’ does not let you know when you have arrived at the destination. You may only need to lose a few kilograms or you may need to lose quite a lot.

Write down exactly how much weight you want to lose, how much money you want to save or how many chapters you want to write. Put a number on it so that you will know when you have achieved the goal. Decide what your number is and write it down now.

4) Put a date on your goal.

By what date do I want to achieve this?  The reason we do this is that when we set a deadline on something it actually gets done. Think back to the last time you had to complete a project. Did you find yourself procrastinating over it? When did you actually complete it? If you are like many people, you probably put off doing it until it was physically impossible to put off for any longer. Then you finally got stuck in and got it done.

The difficulty with this method is that if your goal is an important one, the last minute super effort just isn’t going to cut it. How can you lose weight for the long term by crash dieting in the two weeks leading up to a special event? How can you save for that holiday of a lifetime unless you put some money away each week in the lead up? Certainly you can put it on your credit card but that is not going to benefit you in the long run either. How can you write a book unless you put time into working on it?

Write down the date by which this goal must be achieved and in the next step we will work out how to get you there.

5) Weekly progress calculation.

Track your progress towards your goal by working out in advance where you will need to be each week along your journey. For example, if you want to lose 7kg (15 pounds) in 14 weeks, then it is clear that each week you will need to lose 1/2 kg (1.1 pound) in order to be on track to achieve that goal by the set date. If you plan to save $2000 in 6 months then putting $80 aside in a separate savings account each week will see that goal easily achieved. If you want to write a 10 chapter book this year then you might think about working on one chapter per month.

Determine what tracking measure you will use and write it down now.

6) What am I willing to give up?

In order to achieve our goals it is necessary to put in a significant amount of effort. Now is the time to determine if you are willing to do what is required to achieve your goal. If not, perhaps this is not the right goal for you to be setting.

It is often necessary to stop doing something so that we can achieve our dreams. Perhaps we will give up eating sugar to help us achieve our weight loss goal, maybe we will spend less on clothes in order to achieve our savings goal, perhaps will we watch less television in order to free up time to work on our book writing goal. If this step seems difficult, ask yourself this: If I am not willing up give up ……., how much do I really want to achieve ……?

7) What will I do to help me achieve my goal?

It’s not all about giving up things in order to achieve our goals, we also need to actively do some things too. In some cases they will replace the things we are giving up such as eating fruit instead of a sugary snack but in others they will be different. For example, we might decide to set up a direct debit so our saving are automatically taken out of our account and we aren’t tempted to spend them on impulse buys.

Write down what you need to do to get you to your end goal. Be as specific as you can here. You might say, “I will not eat after dinner”, “I will only go to the shop to buy groceries” or “I will work on my book for one hour each evening”.

8) What will I do in the next 24 hours?

Here is where we get ourselves off to a good start. Identify one thing that you can do straight away to get you moving towards your end goal. Perhaps you will throw out all of the junk food in the house, set up a loose change jar on the kitchen bench or create a comfortable space for writing.

Do something as soon as possible to get you closer to the end goal.

9) Read through your goal statement every day.

If we are not working towards them every day and every week, the likelihood that we will have achieved our goals by the set date is relatively slim. Out of sight is out of mind so put your goals in a prominent place, set an alert on your phone and read through them every day.

Each day I want you to particularly take the time to have a look at step #8. Decide what it is you need to do today to keep you on track and then go and do it.

Don’t forget to download your copy of the Lifewrangling Goal Setting Template and set yourself on the road to achieving your goals today.