Here’s what you really need right now, another “get your life together” list of tips. Insert sarcastic eye roll here.
No really. Let’s get honest about New Year’s resolutions and setting new goals. There’s a lot to unpack when you think about what makes a goal different from objectives or visions. And seriously, do people really achieve their goals, and what are they doing that separates them from the millions of goals that go unattained? What makes a goal worth aiming for in your career and personal life? How can you realistically take action in a way that authentically produces results?
The answer isn’t about what goals you set or how big you dream, for that matter. Those are about as easy to predict as wrangling cats or getting a teenage boy to wear a coat in the winter. They’re important aspects of goal-setting, but they won’t necessarily determine your success in achieving them.
What you CAN do, however, to make a positive shift in your personal, professional, social, and mental life is to get organized. And this is THAT list so you can put some teeth behind your goal-setting this year. Achieving your goals can be so much easier to visualize and execute when you segment and organize your goal-setting process.
1. Understanding What Goals Really Are (And What They’re Not)
When you set out to identify goals, it’s important to understand what they are and what they’re not. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t set the right expectations upfront. Here’s how to define a goal. And it’s important to note the distinctions between goals, visions, missions, objectives, and resolutions.
A Goal Is a Glimpse into the Future
Remember that a goal is a vision you have of your future. It should be carefully considered and established as something you want to achieve. Every step or decision can be made through a lens of whether or not it supports that long-term goal.
A Goal Abides by Time
The most realistic goals are time-sensitive, even if you’re thinking long-term. And one overarching goal can be segmented into smaller, more attainable goals as steps to achieving your long-term goal. Think of the goal as the big prize at the end of a particular journey. It’s like a video game, really. The goal is to beat the game. But you’re prepared to navigate the journey of boss battles to get there.
A Goal Is a Tall Order
When you establish goals for yourself, it’s ok to reach big and far out there. Goals tend to be large in nature as a result of dreaming big. The little wins might get you there. But the goal itself is the big enchilada.
A Goal Is NOT an Objective
If the goal is what you hope to achieve in the long-term future, it’s the objectives that become the smaller tasks that help you get there. As an example, if you set a goal to become a doctor, then your objective is to complete medical school. Other objectives to reach that goal might include securing your finances to pay for medical school, enrolling in the best-fit program, and getting good grades.
A Goal Is NOT a Resolution
We’re approaching a new year, and you might be thinking about resolutions. Resolutions, however, are not goals. Instead, they are temporary gratification steps associated with doing or not doing something. Remember, the goal is something you hope to achieve. There is some degree of finality when you reach a goal. For example, you might make a resolution to take more vacations, but a goal would be to vacation in Fiji.
A Goal Is NOT a Mission
Mission statements can be great compasses for behavior and actions. But they’re directions to follow or best practices, not goals. A goal is a precise achievement. For example, a mission might be to eat healthier, whereas the goal would be to lose 20 pounds. Making healthier food decisions are great best practices for achieving wellness. But the goal itself has a finish line, like losing a specific amount of weight or achieving a certain blood pressure reading.
While missions, resolutions, and objectives are critical to achieving your goals, remember they’re not actually intended to be goals. They instead play a role in your journey to reach those lofty goals. Know the distinctions first so you can set up a roadmap for setting goals and establishing the necessary objectives to get there.
2. Set SMART Goals First
Now that you know what defines a goal, it’s time to get organized about developing them. It’s often best to stick with the SMART format. SMART is an acronym:
When you establish your goals through the SMART lens, you can be sure to quantify your efforts. Sticking to these parameters will allow you to track your progress and build confidence as you get closer and closer to achieving your goals. HubSpot offers a great SMART Goal Template. And with your goal formatting in order, you can start exploring which goals you want to set for yourself, personally and professionally.
There are other methods for goal-setting, too, like the three Ps or the three Rs. The three P’s method involves setting goals in your Professional, Personal, and Physical life. They’ll all be different in nature and approach. The three R’s is another quick-remember idea for goal setting that reminds you to keep your goals Rigorous, Realistic, and Results-Focused. Let’s peel back the onion on what an achievable goal really looks like and the best hybrid approach of all these methods to developing yours.
Start with Your Passions
Allow yourself to have an open mind and explore your passions. Discover what motivates you and think about hobbies, people, and things that make you happy. Those passions can often lead you to set goals that provide you with greater opportunities to enjoy them.
Envision Your Future
Step out of the day-to-day and critically reflect on where your current trajectory will take you over the next year, five years, and decade. If those outcomes aren’t aligning with your plan, you can set new goals for those future achievements. And goals come in many forms, too. So, be open to setting process goals, performance goals, outcome goals, and wellness goals that are important to your future.
Lofty goals are great, so long as they’re not completely unattainable. You can’t set a goal to be taller. When you create your list of goals, go through them and do a litmus test to make sure they’re rooted in reality. You’ll want to establish goals you can actually control; otherwise, you won’t be able to set reasonable objectives to reach them.
Consider the Why
When you set new goals for yourself, professionally or personally, it’s important to understand your “why” and the motives behind them. Why are these goals important to you? What does success in achieving them look like? Are you better because of them? Malintent can lead you to set goals that don’t have the desired outcomes you want or unintended consequences.
3. Carve Organized Steps to Achieve Goals
With all your newly created goals in mind, rooted in reality, and defined for achievable success, it’s time to get organized. It’s not good enough to set goals. You must also organize a series of steps needed to achieve them. And organization will get you there.
One of the first organizational steps involves tracking your progress. As you set out to achieve your goals, you’ll want to measure the various steps you take to get there. Spreadsheets are great tracking methods, whether you’re documenting time, activities, or numbers. There are a host of software solutions and apps out there worth exploring, too. Fitness and wellness trackers, for example, can help you visualize your progress and manage the path toward your final goal.
Keeping an Agenda
Goals are one thing. How long it takes you to achieve them can be an entirely different thing. Keep an agenda where you can jot down thoughts, ideas, and progress. Yes, you’ll have that to-do list we mentioned earlier. But a calendar agenda can help you document your progress over time. You can flip back to see how far you’ve come. And you can flip forward to make notes and reminders for yourself. Document the journey you travel toward reaching your goals. It’s the organizational tip that will help you set and plan for other goals, too.
Every year, people commit to New Year’s resolutions that don’t stick. Most fail because they don’t establish accountability measures to keep them on track. When you’re setting goals, accountability matters, too. Consider putting together a few accountability safety nets. For example, tell others about your goals who can support your efforts. Establish deadlines and short-term pulse checks along the way to maintain your momentum. And set a few rewards for yourself as you inch closer to bringing your goals to fruition.
Get Comfortable with To-Do Lists
Even if your memory is pristine, get organized with to-do lists. Itemizing your tasks for the day, week, and month can help you visualize what it is you need to accomplish. And those tasks, when thoughtfully created, can all help you move one step closer to achieving your goals. The other benefit of proper and regular to-do list management is confidence. As you cross off tasks, you feel more organized and accomplished, helping you to build a positive and productive momentum.
You know how sometimes, you watch one YouTube or TikTok video, only to realize that you’ve soon lost an hour of your day because you fell down the rabbit hole? Distractions can derail your efforts in a big way. So be mindful of where and how you spend your time. A little diversion here or there is perfectly healthy. But don’t let those momentary diversions create devastating distractions that keep you from achieving your goals.
Keeping a Clean Environment
You won’t feel like you’re accomplishing anything if your desk is a hot mess, your house is getting filthy, and your mind is cluttered or overburdened. Stay the course more effectively by allocating enough time and effort to keep your environment uncluttered and clean. This might include a little time every week to organize documents or close out a few apps on your phone. It might also involve incorporating some yoga or mindfulness practices to bring moments of clarity and mental focus. And on those days that you don’t feel so productive about moving the ball down the field toward reaching your goals, you’ll still feel accomplished because you’ve at least made time to declutter some aspect of your life.
4. Goal Organizing and Planning Requires Flexibility
Here’s the other caveat about goal-setting. There are going to be unknown and uncontrollable factors that come into play along your journey. There will be problems, and issues will arise that command your complete attention. It’s ok. In fact, you should organize and plan for those unknowns and be flexible with yourself and your time. You can be flexible in a micro sense, like allocating an extra hour every day to put out work fires. Flexibility can be big-picture, too, especially if something health-related comes up that puts a hold on your greater plans. Know those hiccups are out there and plan ahead so you can be ready to stay the course, even if there’s a detour involved.
It’s the perfect goal-setting time of year! So, start reflecting on what you want your future to hold and get organized. Keep these tips and organizational insights in mind as you go. It’s what makes the difference between setting goals and achieving them. And it’s how the most successful people stay focused on the prize to achieve big things.
Remember, too; if your goals include content in any form, let Ghost Blog Writers help! From starting a company blog or newsletter to launching thought-leadership initiatives and storytelling, our talented pool of writers can help you achieve any content-related goals you might have in 2023.