Every year, I like to make and set goals for myself. You can read about the goals from 2021 and 2022 here: https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2021/12/31/new-years-resolutions-2022/ Over the past several years, I have had people ask me about my system for setting and reaching goals. It’s fairly extensive and I realize it may not work for everyone, but it works for me.
One of the first things I do is to think about where I want to be a year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. This can be career related, hobby related, location related, fitness related or anything else I want to change in my life. I like to work backwards. So I start with where I want to be in five or ten years and go backwards from there.
Also, I’ve been learning I need to limit goals. Charlie Gilkey (I’ll link to his book later) does a great job of talking about this in his book Start Finishing. He suggests picking no more than 3-5 goals (or projects as he calls them) at a time. So I limit myself every year to 3-5 projects, all based on where I want to be in 5 or 10 years but narrowed down so they are doable in a year.
I’m also learning to set SMART goals. Gilkey talks about this a lot. I made up my own pintables to help me to do so, but there are many out there. I will link to them below if anyone wants to print off the ones I made and use them. I shared a picture below that breaks down how I set the goals, thinking about each component (are they specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely?) Gilkey’s planner adds to this a lot. My sheets are just extras because I wanted more space to actually write out each goal and reflect on it.
One, Five and Ten Year Plans
It’s hard to plan too far ahead because life gets in the way. I start with an idea of where I want to be, but the real planning is for the next year. My 5- and 10-year goals play a role in where I want to be a year from now, but I don’t do a lot with them. For example, I want to be a published author. I want to write books. The reality is that writing books takes time, and it may take me closer to 5 or even 10 years to reach that goal. I could write out an entire five-year plan to write several books in the next few years and try to get them published, but life gets in the way, and I would likely never reach that goal.
So instead, I focus on the upcoming year. I know that long term, I want to publish several books. That’s a great goal, but too much can change between now and year 5. So instead, I make a plan for the coming year. What can I do this year? I can write a book, edit it, and begin to look for beta readers. I may even be able to get it sent out to publishers. So that becomes a goal for the coming year, knowing that in five years I want to have more than one book published, but I’m going to focus on one year at a time. I believe it is important to think about the future but planning too far in advance can lead to a lot of frustration if things don’t pan out.
One Year Goal Month by Month
Once I have an idea of where I want to go long term, I make a plan for the year on how I’m going to get there. I lay out quarterly and monthly plans. I use a system through Productive Flourishing Momentum Planners. The owner also wrote a book called ‘Start Finishing.‘ I highly recommend the book if you really want to start finishing projects you start. Productive Flourishing Planners have pages to layout the year and months. You can get a month at a time free on their site, but I recommend purchasing the planner. You can choose a digital PDF version or a printed copy, and I believe they are working on an app as well which should be available next year. I don’t get anything for advertising their products, but their planners have helped me so much, I like to tell others about them whenever I can.
Using their planners, I layout each quarter and each month. I set goals for each quarter, then use those goals to set goals for the month. Going back to my writing goal, I would break that goal down. So instead of “This year, I will write a book,” the goal becomes “In this quarter, I will write 80,000 words in my story.” Then, In January, I will write 50,000 words.” In February, I might write “In February, I will write 30,000 more words.” In March, the goal might be “I will catchup any missed words and begin the editing process.”
Over the course of the year, I will break down what I need to do to reach the initial goal of publishing a book. This includes editing, beta readers, and sending it to a publisher. I lay it out in the planners and set deadlines for myself of when each thing needs to be done. Everything from the quarterly and month goals then gets transferred week by week to the weekly planners, with the goals broken down a little more.
Weekly and Daily
Every week, I look at my schedule for the week and my goals for that month. I set goals for that week, based on the overall goal for that month. For example, if my goal in January is to write 50,000 words, I divide that by the number of weeks in January (about 4) and make a goal for the week based on that. I would aim to write about 12,500 words that week. I would then divide this up by the number of words to write per day (1785) and by the end of the month, I should have at least 50,000 words.
Now, when I look at my weekly schedule, let’s say I notice Friday is a really busy day that week. As I move from writing my weekly schedule to my daily schedule, I will keep this in mind and set a lower goal for that day. Instead of setting my goal to write 1785 words that day, I’ll add extra words to another day and write more to make up the difference. In that way, I can still reach my goal, but I’ve got a better cushion when life gets in the way.
At the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year, I try to take time to reflect on where I’m at with my goals. This doesn’t happen every day, or even every week. Life gets in the way. But it’s still important to keep track of where I’m at and consider where I want to go from there.
I also use visual trackers, such as goal ladders and habit tracker sheets, to help me stay on task and keep track of where I’m at with a goal. This also helps me see if I need to adjust my goal. For example, maybe in January, I plan to write 50,000 words, but then I get sick. (Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but it has in the past.) My visual tracker would either be blank because I was too sick to write on it, or I would have just scribbled “sick” across those days. Now, as I write my goals for the rest of the month each week, or when I get to February’s goal, I may need to adjust. Maybe I’m not going to reach 50,000 words in January, but I can do more in February and push some into March. Or, maybe the goal needs to change all together because of what happened that month.
This isn’t to be an excuse for never reaching my goals. Rather it’s a cushion for times when life does happen; the tire is flat on my car when I am trying to get to the gym; the power goes out when I’ve committed to reading another chapter and I can’t find a flashlight; I get super sick right in the middle of trying to finish 50,000 words in a month. All of these are real life situations that happen. They can stop me for a day, or even a couple of weeks, but the important thing is to not let the setbacks stop me all together. I make adjustments to my goals as needed, and move forward, knowing that at the end of the year, I can look back and say I tried my hardest and did my best despite any obstacles that came my way.
Do I reach every goal 100% of the time? Nope. And that’s ok. I reconfigure and keep going. Change your plan if needed, even change your dreams if you can tell they are shifting, but don’t give up reaching for your goals.
Do you have to do every part of what I do? Nope. That’s the beauty of a plan. It’s your own. You can use what works for you, and even combine this system with another. It’s about finding what works best for you to help you reach the goals you want to accomplish.
The important thing is to find what works and stick with it. Don’t give up just because it gets hard, because it will get hard! I think I could do an entire blogpost just on chasing dreams and not giving up. But just know that once you start trying to set goals and chase your dreams, it will be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. There’s a difference between changing your dreams because they’ve changed and grown with you, and giving up on your dreams. Make a plan, be ready to adjust that plan, but never give up on reaching the final goal unless you know for certain that final goal needs to change.
Sometimes I can be wordy. So here is a quick summary of the above:
Amazing Resources I’ve found over the last few years:
(Most cost, but are so worth it!)
Links to Gilkey’s Planners and his book…. Because I can’t recommend them enough!!!!
Links to other helpful planning sheets I’ve found:
(Again, I don’t get paid to share any of these, I just like to share great products when I find them!)
Other Helpful Planning Sheets:
Cute Calendars for 2022:
Link that includes a Visual Ladder for tracking Goals: