Do you feel adrift in a sea of to-do items that bury your short-term goals alive? Read this to find out how to set powerful short-term goals that will help you take control of your life.
A year ago, if asked to choose between planning an outdoor school adventure for 82 or delineating my plan to achieve short-term goals, I would have chosen the trip for 82. Piece of cake.
I can plan a thousand-mile trip that includes pit stops, food, camping arrangements, and curriculum to keep everyone engaged and occupied for seven days. But ask me to tell you how to accomplish my own short-term goals? Not so much. But my mindset has changed over the past year.
Honestly, as a wife, mother, grandma, and teacher, I don’t think I’ve had much practice at accomplishing my own short-term goals. Every mother knows that schedules and deadlines must remain elastic in order to accommodate the unforseens in life: Baby burp, a lap full of vomit, difficult homework, volleyball or basketball games, and mom-taxi-rides to last-minute (or unremembered) events.
When planning short-term goals for work (such as outdoor school), my time and creative energies belong to my work realm, and my family and friends understand my need for focus. Accomplishing my own short-term or mid-range goals requires that I see myself as valuable enough to plan them out and execute them.
I haven’t always done this. But as I’ve journeyed through career, cancer and mental health caregiving, and parenthood (not necessarily in that order), I’ve come to understand that I owe it to the ones I love to take care of myself.
As a woman, I often feel subsumed by the needs and goals of those I love. I fail to steer my own boat and end up frustrated and lost at sea. But I discovered a few things last year that have helped me stop drifting and focus on the important things.
How to Set Short-Term Goals
Having a purpose, goals, and a plan help me to allocate my time wisely. Since I’ve changed my goal-setting habits, I find myself more at peace. At the end of the day, I don’t regret all I didn’t accomplish. Instead, I celebrate all I did accomplish and know that I didn’t just accomplish a bunch of stuff on a to-do list. I made progress (even if small) towards my goals.
Short-term goals act as the day-to-day plan that helps you move forward on your house-building project (see last week’s post). For example, I want to swing from grapevines when I’m 90 and take my great-grandchildren on hikes and adventures well into my dotage. In order to accomplish that, I need to eat healthfully, maintain muscle mass, have aerobic conditioning, and keep my mind sharp.
The actions I take on a daily basis—having adequate time for sleep, exercise, and healthy eating—determine whether or not I’ll meet my goals of good health and grapevine swinging.
Without meaningful long-term goals, you’ll find it difficult to plan and execute short-term goals. Long-term goals give us purpose (I highly recommend reading Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, but short-term goals give us focus.Long-term goals give us purpose, but short-term goals give us focus. #goals #habits #bestversionofme Click To Tweet
These tips will help you set short-term goals that will focus your efforts in the right areas.
1. SMART or SMARTER
Learn how to create SMART or SMARTER goals. Although some controversy exists about who created SMART goals in which decade (the 70s or the 80s), most people have some idea what the acronym stands for.
A-Assignable (who will do it) or Actionable
Michael Hyatt, one of my favorite goal-setting gurus, has tweaked the acronym based on research. He uses the SMARTER acronym.
A-Action-oriented (start the goal with an action verb, not a to be verb)
R-Risky (Hyatt believes if a goal doesn’t scare us a little, we won’t stick with it)
T-Time-keyed (have an end-date on when you will achieve this goal)
E-Exciting (if the goal doesn’t excite us, why stick with it?)
R-Relevant (make sure your goals have relevance for your season of life)
2. Take Time to Set Goals
In Living Forward Hyatt and Harvaky suggest spending an entire day away from home once every three months to review and think about goals for the next quarter. While this sounds wonderful, I’ve only done it once, when I spent two days camping and developing my life plan.
Most of the time, I budget extra time each day at the end of a quarter to review what I’ve accomplished and set goals for the next quarter. This year I will approach my goal setting with more intentionality.
3. Know Your Why
If you don’t understand and acknowledge your motivation, you’ll find it difficult to commit to accomplishing a goal. This goes back to having a life plan and knowing your long-term goals. If you want to improve your level of self-care, for example, you can take the time to fill out this self-care checklist that walks you through improving your self-care routine.
Knowing our why gives us a better understanding of the importance of the goal. Which in turn helps us achieve the goal.
4. Write Them Down and Share Them, too!
Don’t just think about your goals, write them down! Dr. Gail Matthews a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, shows in her 2015 study that three elements will help you achieve your goals more quickly. If you write your goals down, have accountability, and make a commitment to your goals, you have a 76% better chance of accomplishing your goals.
4. Not too Many of Either Kind
Setting dozens of goals for the next year seems like a great idea in January. But experts agree that limiting your short-term goals to ten or fewer will help you actually achieve them.
Goals tend to fall into one of two categories: achievement goals and habit goals. Achievement goals involve something you’d like to accomplish that you know you can work on daily. For example, getting a college degree or completing a training certification.
Last January I identified one of my short-term goals as doubling my blog traffic. Each day I did something that I thought would help achieve this goal. By December 31, much to my surprise, I had doubled my blog traffic. All too often we underestimate the power of taking daily small steps.We underestimate the power of taking small steps each day. #goals #achievement #selfcare Click To Tweet
Habit goals involve those things we know we need to do on a daily basis to improve our health of the quality of our relationships. Perhaps you’d like to form the habit of praying with your spouse each morning. Maybe you want to take more steps each day. Whatever the case, it will take approximately 70 days of repetition to ingrain that habit into your life.
Make both achievement goals and habit goals, but remember to not overload yourself with too many. One of my goals last year, lose 20 pounds and maintain that weight loss, took about three months to reach. Now I’ve entered the maintenance phase, which means I can’t pick up old habits that made me gain the 20 extra pounds in the first place. I need to constantly monitor my progress and make healthier choices.
5. Find a Good Goal-Setting Planner or System
The best goal-setting planner is the one that works for you. I dabbled with different systems, everything from a blank notebook to a bullet journal, to a Panda Planner. Last year I purchased a year-long subscription to Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner and discovered planner nirvana (affiliate link).
A good planner will help you:
a. Articulate long-term life goals.
b. Break those goals down into short-term goals.
c. Provide training for using their system (I found this with both the Panda Planner and the Full Focus Planner, with the Full-Focus system having the most comprehensive training).
d. Include weekly and daily preview activities.
e. Lead you through after-action review activities.
f. Look and feel like something you want to carry around with you at all times.
Avoid the Drift
You can avoid drifting through life and the constant twinge of regret over things you didn’t accomplish. It takes setting aside time to do deep thinking about long-term goals as well as time to think about short-term goals.
Next week we’ll delve into the science and application of forming new habits.