On this week’s episode of The Productive Woman podcast I discuss why setting goals for ourselves is so important and integral to helping us achieve all we want to in the coming year. I also share the five steps to structuring those goals in a way that has been effective for me. (And make sure to listen to the end for a special announcement.)
Setting goals (and achieving them) is an important part of making a life that matters
It’s hard to believe this is the last episode of the year. The last couple of weeks we’ve talked about some important practices that can lay a foundation for setting and achieving goals that matter–that have meaning for you specifically. This week I want to talk about incorporating what we’ve learned into meaningful goals for the coming year.
Who we are in the world is largely a function of what we do. We have the ability to choose intentionally who we will be this time next year . . . by determining with intention and purpose what we will do–how we will use our time, energy, and attention in pursuit of goals that will reflect who we are, who we want to be.
What is a goal?
One dictionary defines “goal” as: “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”
- Goals vs. dreams-a goal is something that is specific and achievable whereas a dream is something we fantasize about or accomplish in the future.
- SMART goals-Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based
There are lots of ways to structure your goals
- 23 before 2023 – a list of things you’d like to accomplish or experience before the next year begins.
- Life goals/5-year goals/1-year
- My preference: for each of the life areas/roles identified in the past exercises, identify one objective for each of the areas, then choose 2-3 to focus on for the first quarter of the new year.
How do you decide which to focus on first? Try taking some insights from your annual review. What jumped out at you from that process–any regrets you’d like to address this year? Any good things you want more of?
Personally, I realized that when I thought about the year’s highlights during my year-end review, most of the highlights I identified were family-related, so I know I’ll want to prioritize creating more family experiences this year.
1. Brainstorm: With the values and priorities you identified a couple of weeks ago in mind, along with the insights you gathered from your annual review, brainstorm a list of possible goals/dreams/objectives for the year–using whichever approach you want to use (23 before 2023 or the life areas)–write them down.
- Don’t censor yourself–write things down even if they seem crazy or impossible.
- Don’t worry about formulating them perfectly right now–don’t worry about the SMART formulation or if what you’re writing down is an objective rather than a goal. There’ll be time later to rearticulate the ones you land on.
- Take your time. This might take more than one session. Start the list, walk away, come back and add to it as you think of things.
- For family/marriage goals, get the other family members involved.
- When you have a good list for each life area, put the list away and do something else for a few hours or even a couple of days.
2. Cull: Come back to your list with a fresh eye and scan through it. Which ones are you particularly drawn to? Start a fresh list with just those. Try to narrow it down to 1 or 2 in each area of your life-these will be your primary goal areas for the year. Remember there’s a difference between not now and never. Don’t throw the others away. Maybe you’ll come back to them. Try to choose 2-3 to focus on for the first 3 months of the year.
- Make sure they’re compatible. E.g., a goal to lose weight and a goal to master pastry-making probably conflict; a goal to have more free time and only work 20 hours a week probably is not compatible with starting medical school or a new business.
- I encourage you to set process goals rather than outcome goals. Goals that involve establishing a habit are particularly productive (and prone to success). You can’t always control outcomes, but you can control your actions, and the right actions and habits increase your chances of achieving the outcome you want.
- Example–If your goal is to be in a relationship with a particular kind of person, you can’t control that occurrence, but if you set a goal to go on 100 dates, you are improving your chances of finding the right person.
- Example–if your goal is to sign up X number of new clients or customers, you might not be able to control whether people sign up, but if you set a goal to schedule X number of meetings or consultations, you improve your chances of connecting with the people who will sign up to work with you.
- Example–instead of a goal to lose X pounds, how about a goal to establish 3 healthy habits: (a) daily exercise, (b) eat preplanned healthy meals 6 days a week, and (c) drink 8 glasses of water a day. If you get those habits solidly established, you vastly improve your chances of getting to the weight you want to be at–and either way, you’ll be healthier and feel better.
3. Refine: For each of the 2-3 you’ll start with, write it down as a goal – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound – AND write down your why. Why does it matter? How will your life be better when you achieve this goal? This “why” is important. It has to be meaningful enough to you to keep you going when things get challenging or boring.
As yourself: What exactly does success look like for that goal? If you don’t have a clear target, it’s going to be hard to hit it. Picture it in your mind. How will you feel when you’ve accomplished it?
If you’re visually oriented, consider creating a vision board with images, quotes, etc., for each of these that illustrates your vision of what success looks like for that goal.
4. Specify: For each of these 2-3 goals, turn it into actionable steps. For each one:
- List the resources (internal and external) you’ll need: information, materials, allies, equipment, etc.
- Identify the steps to accomplish. Remember, you can’t put a goal on your to-do list or your calendar. Keep in mind the difference between a project and a task, and break this list down into tasks you can accomplish in a single session, at a single location.
- Here is a great tip I heard somewhere (maybe Youtube): To identify the steps, frame the goal as a question: How might I _______?
- Goal: Lose 10 pounds; Question: How might I lose 10 pounds this year?
- Goal: Write a novel; Question: How might I complete a novel this year?
- Brainstorm all the possible obstacles (internal and external) and for each list 2-3 ways you can be prepared to avoid or overcome them. Each of those will be tasks that can go on your to-do list.
As I was brainstorming for this episode, I thought of a story about the law firm whose client was going to take a particular action that they anticipated some groups would object to. They brainstormed all the possible objections people might raise to get a temporary restraining order, and prepared a brief outlining the facts and law that would persuade a judge not to grant it.
For example, I know one big internal obstacle to certain personal goals is I’m externally motivated–I’m more likely to set aside my own goals to help someone else on theirs. I don’t like to disappoint people. So to address that internal obstacle I might seek an accountability partner or sign up with a coach or take a class that will have time-based assignments related to my goal.
- Example: You have a goal of weight loss. An obstacle could be that you tend to give in to the temptation to snack in the afternoon. An action to take to circumvent that obstacle would be to clear all the junky stuff out of the pantry and refrigerator, and stock it with healthy stuff, or plan a walk with a friend at that time in the afternoon.
When you’ve come up with these lists for each goal, then identify the first action for each. One might be to make a call to get information, or assemble tools and materials, or identify a potential coach or accountability partner. Decide when you will do that first step. Do it now if you can; then add the next action to your calendar.
5. Review: To maintain momentum and stay on track, schedule time at least weekly to review the goals and your progress, to celebrate what you’ve done so far, and to schedule the next step in each goal.
Consider scheduling quarterly times to review your current goals, the others you identified, to re-evaluate, re-set interim goals and targets for the next quarter. For this, it’s great if you can get away from home, overnight if possible, or just a few hours at a library. If you have children at home and getting away is difficult, consider partnering with another mom to trade off childcare and time away–you keep her kids one Saturday while she has her planning time, she keeps yours the next.
If you want and are able to get away for a weekend once or twice during the year, you can come here. I’ll host quarterly weekends at my home in Texas for up to 4 women at a time; if you want a private getaway, we can do that too. If that sounds interesting to you, email me to let me know of your interest and I’ll share more details.
What do you think?
Have you identified your goals for the coming year, or at least the first 3 months or so of the year? Share your suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
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