Want to achieve your goals this year?
It’s that time of the year where many of us are setting goals.
And if you haven’t been successful with reaching your goals in the past, this post is for you.
I will go over the 5 crucial steps you need to take to ensure your goal achieving system is rock solid.
1. Pick the right goal
The first step is pretty obvious: pick a goal!
But what is not so obvious is how to pick a good goal and phrase it in a motivating way.
The goldilocks rule of picking a goal
A good goal should stretch you but also not be too challenging.
You can always up the ante and reach for bigger goals down the line. But start with something that is a natural progression from where you are right now to where you ultimately want to be.
A goal is just a stepping stone, not your final destination in life.
Phrase your goal the right way
Make sure to phrase the goal in a positive way that resonates with you.
For example, instead of stating the goal as “Lose weight” try “Be a fit person” or “Be someone who loves looking in the mirror”.
Goals are very personal. Experiment with different ways to phrase the goal and see what jolts a feeling of excitement in you.
Don’t limit yourself
A goal also doesn’t have to be a specific achievement (e.g. making a million dollars, losing X amount of weight or publishing a book) or even measurable. A goal is just a state that you are aiming toward.
You’ll want to write your goals down somewhere where you will be reminded of them frequently. It can be in your journal, sticky notes on your desk, inside your main productivity app, or as a background on your phone. Get creative!
Now, many people stop here.. (big mistake!) Remember this is just the first step of your goal achievement system.
So let’s keep going!
2. Lay out a detailed action plan
Have you ever been frustrated by a self-help book that goes on about a problem you are trying to solve and suggests some vague solutions but doesn’t outline any specific action steps you can take?
Don’t be like that self-help book!
The crucial second step in goal setting is outlining the concrete actions you need to take to achieve your goal.
What an action plan looks like
An action plan is a combination of individual tasks, larger projects and specific habits that must be done to reach your goal.
For example, I have a revenue goal I want to hit by July for my business, Amazing Marvin.
While many activities might indirectly help me grow Marvin’s user base, for my action plan I want to really focus on the actions that will have the biggest impact on growth.
I set up habits that I am going to track:
- Publish 1 blog post per week
- Record 1 video per week
- Send out 2 newsletters per month
- Reach out to 10 people per week (press, partnerships etc.)
I also defined some key projects I need to complete that are crucial for growth. Some of these tie into the habits, such as making a content schedule, refining the email automation etc.
There might also be single tasks such as designing a YouTube cover art image.
Some goals might only consist of habits, others of just projects. What matters is that you have a list of very clear actions you can take that will bring you closer to your goal.
Do you know how to achieve this goal?
Sitting down and writing exactly what you need to do will also reveal if you don’t have clarity about how to achieve the goal in the first place.
If that happens, make the first step of your action plan to get help from someone who does know.
Unsure about what actions to take?
Most goals also can’t be completely outlined ahead of time. This is normal. But try to at least have clarity about the next few steps to take.
Many goals also inherently include a lot of experimenting. For example, no one can tell you for sure what marketing strategy will work for your business or what relaxation technique is going to help you the most with your stress levels.
In those scenarios don’t get stuck overthinking. Pick a clear next action step and see this as an experiment. Just try something and see what results it yields.
The later steps in this goal achievement system will help you circle back and make adjustments when necessary.
3. Track your actions
Going forward you should spend most of your time and headspace focused on your action plan, not just on the goal.
Thinking about the goal itself and your “whys” plays a supporting role: reminding yourself of your vision, the pain points you currently experience and all your “whys” can help you feel motivated and push through resistance when it comes to executing on the action plan.
Make the action plan visible
After you have defined your action plan, you’ll want to make sure you set up a system to keep these actions top of mind.
If you just write your action plan down but then never look at it, you will likely forget it altogether.
You want to be able to “see” your action plan every day. So print it out and place it somewhere you will look at it.
Track your actions with the help of apps
Taking this one step further, if you implement the action plan in a way that lets you track how well you are doing against the plan, you have an even higher chance of succeeding.
If you are using a digital solution (like a productivity app) to stay organized, find a way to incorporate the actions from your plan into the app.
By the way, Amazing Marvin has a goal feature that makes setting up and tracking goals and actions super easy.
Executing the action plan and sticking to your intentions is undoubtedly the hardest part of goal achievement for most people. So I do recommend adding other strategies to help with that as well (e.g. accountability, rewards, mindset work)
4. Do regular check-ins
Every good productivity or goal achieving system needs regular reviews.
A review is a formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary.
Regularly reflect on what is going well and what isn’t
In other words, reviews or check-ins are times where you reflect on how things are going and identify any problems.
If you are like 99% of people, then there will be some problems.
Many problems have a way of cropping up and somehow staying out of your conscious mind (who likes to think about problems?) unless you make an effort to seek them out and clearly name them.
This is exactly what you will do during your check-ins.
5. Address problems that come up
Seeking out problems is only helpful if you are going to do something about them.
Figuring out how to address the problems you have identified in your goal journey is the fifth crucial step to achieve your goals.
Broadly speaking there are two types of problems you are likely to encounter:
- sticking to the action plan (mostly) but not seeing the desired results
- not being able to stick to the action plan
Not seeing results?
If you’re sticking to the plan but not seeing the desired results, you might need to go back to step number 2 and revise the action plan.
There is also a chance you just need to be more patient and stick to the plan longer. Some actions take time to pay off.
But if you are starting to doubt whether you picked the right actions, try to talk to someone who has experience with the goal you are trying to achieve.
Otherwise this doubt will start to evaporate your motivation and you will stop following the action plan.
Struggling to stick to the action plan?
Since knowledge and action steps about all kinds of goals are pretty easy to get these days (although sometimes the huge amount can lead to indecision and confusion) most people struggle more with the second problem: not being able to do what you planned to.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Reaching a goal likely means lots of changes. And change is never easy. There are new habits to form, old habits to break, things to do that you have never done before.
It’s a lot.
So give yourself a break and don’t throw in the towel. There is so much you can do to improve this problem (more articles on this coming up).
Often it is just a matter of making a more realistic plan based on where you are right now. Baby steps!
Summary – how to achieve your goals
All of the five steps are necessary to ultimately achieve a goal. They build on each other.
Think of the entire goal achievement process like a loop. You enter the loop at step one and go through each step:
First, you set a goal and outline the actions you need to take to get there.
Then you keep track of which actions you take and at regular intervals you reflect back on the actions that you took and how much closer you are to your goal.
During this check-in you identify issues you are currently facing.
Based on the problems you identified, you make adjustments to the goal definition and/or the action plan.
If you stay in this loop you will eventually get to your goal.
You only “failed” when you exit the loop and never enter it again.
Having a hard time is not failing. Struggling to take all the actions is not failing. Not seeing results with your actions is not failing. It’s all part of the process. Stick with it!
What to do right now
If you have been struggling to achieve your goals, pick one of your goals and check which step you are failing to implement properly with that goal.
You got this!
Also published on Medium.