What is the one habit that all successful people have in common? They all have goals, and they spend their time working towards those goals every single day. As simple as it sounds, one of the easiest ways to ‘get ahead’ in life is to create goals–for your year, your month, your week, and day. But with so much to accomplish and so little time, how do you create goals that not only inspire you, but are actually achievable? Below are 5 easy, quick tips that will help you create such goals:
- Keep the list short. The Chinese have a saying, “a man who chases two rabbits catches none.” As tempting as it is to create a laundry list of goals and try to ‘maximize’ your list, don’t. Keep it short. Ask yourself over and over again when creating your goals, “is this really just a sub-goal of something larger?” For example, if you had two separate goals such as “I want to lose 10 lbs” and “I want to be able to do 50 pushups”, is there really a bigger goal that you could shoot for that would encompass both of those goals? If so, go big, and condense that list.
- Start Long-term, and work backward. It’s true that you have to set high, lofty goals in order to create the self-inspiration and motivation you’ll need to pursue them, but sometimes, large goals can feel more like ‘distant dreams’ than realistic goals. The key? Start long-term, and backward. For example, “I want to read 50 books this year” sounds lofty, but when broken down, that’s less than 1 book a week, and if the average book is 150 pages, that’s roughly 20 pages a day of reading–very attainable.
- Make your goals OUTPUTS. One of the biggest ‘mistakes’ I see in goal setting is making a goal that’s intangible, like “I want to be happy” or “I want to lose weight” or “I want to become fluent in Spanish.” In order for a goal to feel attainable, it must be concrete, and it must be measurable. So instead of “I want to lose weight”, which is a feeling more than it is a goal, pick a number. “I want to lose 20 lbs this year” is a lot more attainable than simply “I want to lose weight” because it’s measurable. The ‘output’ is being 20 pounds lighter, and that makes it very easy to say either “yes I achieved this” or “no, I did not.” Instead of “I want to read more”, say “I will read 50 books this year” or instead of “I want to start journaling”, say “I will write 4 journal entries a week.” By having your goals be ‘outputs’, you make the status of your goals binary: complete or incomplete. This is not only the easiest to track, but also more rewarding for you, psychologically. It’s easy to look back at your year, read your goal of “I want to read more” and feel like you came up short, even if you didn’t! By making your goals ‘outputs’, you eliminate that internal ‘feeling-biased‘, and your goals instantly become more attainable, and more rewarding.
- Breakup goals by category. I’m sure most of you, like myself, have several different ‘personalities’ to manage. There’s the ‘work you’, the ‘home you’, the ‘you with friends’, the ‘you with family’, the ‘private you’, the ‘charitable you’, etc. How do you keep your list of goals short while still appeasing all the different ‘yous’? Solution: Categories. Create 2-4 categories, and create 1-2 goals for each category. For example, I have 3 categories: Professional Goals, Personal Goals, and Character Goals. Then each week, I will create 1-2 goals per category, that are small steps towards my Yearly Goals for such category. Last week, I had a Professional Goal to “finish our web app and push it live”, a Personal Goal to “post twice on Medium”, and a Character Goal to “help 1 stranger a day.” By breaking up my goals by categories, I can keep my goals concise, and appease all the ‘Brians’ in my life.
- Every day, work on the most important goal first. The easiest way to feel ‘accomplished’ every day is to get the most important goal out of the way first thing in the morning. I recommend waking up at least 3 hours before work, and spending that early-morning, quiet-time tackling the most important goal for that day. If that’s “lose 1 lb this week”, start the day at the gym, or if you have a goal to “be able to hold a 5-minute conversation in Spanish”, start your day by doing a Duolingo class. Life has the habit of “getting in the way”, and at times, it’ll be challenging for you to try and juggle “life” and your goals. However, the best way to mitigate this is to do what’s most important to you before anything else! No, you don’t have to check emails in the morning, and no, there’s nothing on the news you ‘have to see.’ Wake up, brew your coffee, and knock out that first goal, first!