This post may contain affiliate links, to find out more information please see our disclosure policy.
The Ultimate Guide to Setting Goals and Achieving Them
Use these goal setting tips to set more effective, achievable goals.
Sometimes the most frustrating part about a goal is not that you didn’t achieve it, but that even the failure feels pointless. Setting a bunch of goals that you won’t stick to and won’t even care about at the end of the week just further encourages procrastination and negativity, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While there are a lot of ways to fall into this type of apathetic goal setting funk, there are also plenty of ways to get out of it. Here are some steps that I took to get the most out of my goals.
Set Goals That are More Effective
One of the ways you can start to feel apathetic about your goals, is if you don’t have any clear direction for them. If you just have a blind dream in mind, with no clear way of how to get there, your work can start to feel useless, and your goals out of reach. On the other hand, when you have bunch of tasks with no clear direction, you can start to feel that everything is meaningless and ineffective.
When you have something that you want to achieve, break it down into long term and short term goals. This seems simple, but it’s easy to overlook. You may get caught up in the day to day of a project, or it may be the opposite. All you can see is the finished project, which keeps you from focusing on the small steps you need to to get there. Both types of goals are necessary for success.
Set Long Term Goals
Long term goals keep you focused, and keep you from losing direction. You don’t want to waste your time on tasks that aren’t getting you to your ultimate destination.
These typically require more effort than short term goals, will take your longer to achieve, and can require more maintenance afterwards.
To set your long term goals, think about the big milestones you aim to pass before achieving your overall goal.
Set Short Term Goals
A short term goal is something that you can achieve within a reasonable time frame, like a week or a month, and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance afterwards.
Short term goals keep you from procrastinating, and they keep you from getting overwhelmed by the scope of your project.
To set your short term goals, break down your long term goals into smaller parts. Think about the tasks you will need to complete and create action steps to achieve these milestones.
Be More Intentional About Your Goals
Another way you can start to lose sight of your goals, is by making them too arbitrary. You may be setting goals, but if they aren’t intentional, you’ll start to feel apathetic about accomplishing them.
Being intentional simply means there is a “why” behind the “what”. It prevents you from approaching your goals haphazardly, and instead sets a precedent for being more organized and efficient.
Remind Yourself of Why You Want to Achieve Your Goal
Whether you have to create a vision board or just put a sticky note in a place you’ll see often, don’t ever forget the reason you want to accomplish the goal. Keeping this reason at the forefront of your mind will automatically make you more intentional about your decisions. You’ll have your overall target in mind, which can make it easier to set up those long term and short term goals you’ll need to get there.
Keep Yourself Accountable
Accountability is essentially recording your work, and whether or not you met your goals.
There’s a lot of advice out there about giving yourself a reward if you meet a goal as a form of accountability. It’s good advice, and can definitely help, but it can also feel like more work than it’s worth. Maintaining accountability can be as simple as recording a plus or a minus in a journal at the end of the week, or writing down how many total hours you worked. It doesn’t have to be something big, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that accountability isn’t about judgement. You shouldn’t look back over your record and beat yourself up for a bad week, or a small failure.
You have to remain detached with your records. When you hold yourself accountable, you should be recording whether or not you met your goal, and objectively looking at what affected the outcome.
How to Stay Motivated to Reach Your Goals
Unfortunately, even the most well thought out, intentional goals can be ruined by negative thoughts. That’s why motivation is such an important factor in accomplishing your goals. Above all else, if you aren’t motivated to work or are suffering from too much doubt and anxiety to work, you will get nowhere.
Fortunately there are some practices you can use to stay motivated through the process.
Reflect on Your Past Progress
As I’ve said, accountability is great, but it’s not the end. When you start keeping a record of your work, you need to reflect on that record. Again, the point is not to berate for yourself for not meeting every goal, it’s to think about what you need to do to make your goals more effective, and to help you achieve them.
Maybe your goals are too strict, and you’re finding yourself getting burnt out trying to meet them. Maybe you’re meeting your goals, but you feel like you could manage your time better to get more work done. Looking at your past progress, or maybe even past projects you’ve completed can help you set up effective, achievable goals for your future. It can also illuminate some issues you may need to address in order to be more efficient.
Overall, recording how much work you’re actually doing is the easiest way to motivate yourself to work even more. When anxiety and doubt creep in, we often forget about all the hard work we’ve already put in and focus only on the long road ahead.
In fact, in addition to keeping a record of how much work you do, you should also keep record of your accomplishments and milestones. Whenever you achieve something notable, no matter how small, take note of it. When you’re feeling discouraged, look back over how far you’ve come for some encouragement.
Find Some Competition
Don’t be afraid to model your long term or even short term goals off of other people’s progress. Find some people in your field that you admire. Look at what went well, and maybe what didn’t go well, and let it inspire your own project. As much as you can, find online communities where people are documenting their own journeys. Use them as a measure for your own work ethic and timeline. There’s no shame in getting help when you need it, so do your research!
Remember though, that these are only for inspiration. Don’t use them as a negative comparison; they may be at a better place than you, but they also had their own difficulties and struggles, and that’s what you should keep in mind. As much as they’ve struggled, they’ve gotten to a place where you want to be. Rather than comparing, use them as an evidence that your dream is possible.
The worst thing you can do for yourself when setting goals, is to attach too much emotion to them. The fact is, not meeting your goal doesn’t make you a bad person anymore than meeting your goal makes you a good person. Your dream may be what you want in life, but it doesn’t determine who you are as an individual. Separate its failure or success from your worth as a human being.
If you want to look at your goals objectively and be able to learn from your mistakes, you have to tell yourself that it’s okay to fail. Because it is!
Failures are absolutely necessary to keep moving forward. If you never fail at all, it means you’re playing it safe. Consider failures and setbacks as a sign of your effort and your ambition. They may take you on a detour to your ultimate destination, but you can learn a lot from them. And trying new, uncertain things, may open up whole new avenues for your success.
Start Finally Getting Real About Your Goals
Sometimes, the issue with our goals is that we’re not taking the time to make them right. It’s a little extra work, but simple things like recording your progress for accountability, reflecting on what might be impacting your goals, and staying objective, can make your goals more effective.
Remember that you’re setting goals for you, not for anything or anyone else. They should reflect the amount of work that you’re capable of doing, and the things that you need to accomplish. Give yourself ambition with some solid long term goals, but keep yourself grounded and on track with short term goals.
And don’t be afraid of failure. You can’t achieve great goals until you push yourself to make them. Some of those lofty goals will fail, and that’s okay too. It doesn’t make you a failure as a person, it just means you need to reflect on how to make them successful next time. Use those setbacks as an opportunity for growth by learning what you can do better to push yourself next time.
Goal setting is meant to help you reach your dreams. It can feel like sometimes we need to give up and try something else, but before quitting, consider your effort. Sometimes it’s not the overall goal that needs to change, but the way you make that goal, and the way you’re planning to achieve it. By being intentional when you develop goals, you can make your goals work better for you and stay motivated to reach them.