How to Set Goals You’ll Keep

How to Set Realistic Goals You'll Keep

Although people often set goals around New Years, there is never a bad time to make changes in your life if you are willing to put in the work. However, over the years, I have found that I am most apt to work towards a goal if I am able to keep track of my progress.

If you struggle to keep the goals you set, then please keep reading for easy-to-implement steps to that can be applied towards any goal.

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Goal Ideation Brainstorm

Step 1: Goal Ideation

When thinking about goals for the year, I often have a multitude of habits I want to change or adapt or tasks that I want to complete. My first step in creating goals is to brainstorm internally. From there, I create categories or umbrellas under which I can organize my goals. For example, this year my categories were as follows:

  • Spiritual
  • Health & Wellness
  • Professional
  • Financial
  • Personal

Step 2: Visualize and Organize Initial Goals

Once I’ve created my categories, I start to place my goals under one of the above umbrellas within my bullet journal, a visual diagram, or a vision board. At this stage, my objectives don’t have to be concrete.

Step 3: Establish Actionable, Quantifiable Goals

First I ask myself, is this item a task? If the answer is “yes,” I will add a deadline and create actionable next steps. An example of a task might be to sign up for a gym membership by May 30th.

In all other cases, I will try to make my goals as quantifiable as possible. A quantifiable goal is a realistic goal that is measurable that may have an associated time-frame or deadline. If a goal is quantifiable, the following questions can be easily answered:

  • What is my objective?
  • Is there a concrete deadline or time-frame?
  • How will I keep track of my progress?
  • What are ways I can meet this goal?

Please see below for an example:

  • I want to read 20 books by the end of 2019.
    • What is the objective? To read 12 books
    • Is there a concrete deadline or time-frame? 11:59 P.M. on December 31, 2019
    • How will I keep track of my progress? I will create and update my “Books Read in 2018” list in my bullet journal. Additionally, I will keep track of my progress using basic math to figure out how close I am to my goal.
    • What are ways I can meet this goal? I will read during my commute to work.

At first glance, some goals may not seem easily quantifiable, but there are ways to tweak goals to make them measurable. Please see the below for an example.

  • Original Goal: I want to spend less frivolously this year.
    • Why is this a vague goal? There no concrete objectives or deadlines to help keep me accountable. I could spend $1 less each month than I did last year and I would technically meet this goal…
  • Alternative: I want to spend less than $200 a month on shopping or eating out.
    • What is my objective? I want to spend less than $200 a month on shopping/eating out (or less than $2,400 this year)
    • Is there a concrete deadline or time frame? 28-31 days, depending on the month or if thinking of this as a long-term goal – 11:59 P.M. on December 31st, 2019
    • How will I keep track of my progress? I can log my monthly expenses using a budget sheet I create in Excel or I can use a mobile budgeting application such as Mint
    • What are ways I can meet this goal? Using Excel or mobile applications, I can create a monthly budget sheet that outlines my expected expenses for the month (i.e. rent, utilities, groceries, savings, shopping/eating out, etc), and log new discretionary expenses as they occur

The original goal is so ill-defined that I am unable to clearly measure my success. In comparison,  the revised goal helps to keep me accountable to certain numbers. I can measure success based on how well I manage to stick to the aforementioned budget.

Can goals be actionable but not quantifiable? Yes! Actionable goals may not always be quantifiable, but they can motivational because they can be broken down into a series of steps. Please see the below example of a goal that is actionable but not quantifiable:

  • I want to run a 5K Marathon in 2019.
    • What is my first step? Personally, I do well with deadlines so I will sign up for a 5K Marathon that takes place during the spring season.
    • What is my next step? Download a fitness app such as C25K.
    • Once the initial prep is set, what will I do? I will make an exercise plan – i.e. a schedule for the days and times I’m working out. I will also set success markers for myself. For example, I want to run two miles without any breaks by March 31st.
    • How will I reward myself for my success? How will I attempt to fix my mistake if I don’t meet my goal? I will reward myself with a manicure if I meet my goal, but if I don’t meet my goal I will give up video streaming for a month to encourage me to be more active.
    • How will I track my progress? Using my C25K app or other apps where I can log daily habits.

While actionable goals can be successful, I still find it easier to gain momentum working towards goals that are both quantifiable and actionable.

Step 4: Log Your Progress

Because I value some semblance of privacy, I actually prefer using Excel to track my personal progress instead of online applications. However, I recognize that apps may be better for those who hate Excel or may not be as savvy with the application. That being said if your goal is something such as drinking 32 fluid ounces of water a day or spending less, using an app may be beneficial for maintaining accuracy.

My number one tip for success is to create as many helpful lists, notes, and visuals as possible. For example, I document and share my progress panning makeup. My internal spreadsheet is extremely comprehensive – it includes details such when I finish or declutter products, as well as my thoughts. However, the most rewarding aspect of my spreadsheet is the pie chart that I use to visualize my progress.

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Progress as of mid-April 2018

My second tip is to log progress as soon as possible because untimely logging, may lead you to stop keeping track altogether.

Step 5: Treat Yourself!

Treat yourself if you are doing a killer job in meeting or exceeding your goal(s)! Hard work deserves a reward – whether that reward is something physical like purchasing new lipstick, an doing something experiential like a spa trip or  “cheat day,” or simply saying words of positive affirmation to yourself.

BONUS: Step 6 – Look Back at a Job Well-Done

One of the most rewarding aspects of setting goals, regardless of whether you meet them, is the ability to look back at all of the hard work and progress. Day over day, it might not feel like positive changes are being made, but looking back at old journal entries, notes, or progress markers will likely prove otherwise.

Any progress towards a goal should be celebrated because of the work it takes to get there. Keep a positive attitude and believe in yourself because you can make positive changes! 🙂

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What are your tips and tricks for setting goals that you can achieve? What are the top apps you use for goal setting?

2 thoughts on “How to Set Goals You’ll Keep

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