Time management Monday: Setting achievable goals

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Crow Peak summit. Chugach Mountains, Alaska

This time of year there’s a lot of talk about goals. And inevitably, there are a lot of new goals that start to falter almost immediately.

Making lifestyle changes is hard. Changing the way you do things is hard. But, it’s not impossible. Here are some tips on how to set goals that are achievable.

It’s easy to write down goals, but many people later realize they don’t have the tools to achieve them. Or, they fail at their goals and don’t understand why.

The trick is to set goals that push your limits and encourage you to grow, within your timeframe and abilities.

First, write down all your goals, big and small, realistic and crazy. Do a mind map if that works for you, categorize your goals, or just do a big brain dump. Everything from finishing your degree to running a marathon, getting promoted at work to learning how to play guitar, joining your local drama troupe to starting a garden. Maybe you want to read 15 books per month. Maybe you want to learn another language. Write it all down.

Now, for each goal, write out the approximate time it will take to do each. For example if you want to finish your degree, write out how many classes you still need to take. If you want to run a marathon, write down the amount of time you’ll need to train each day/ week. If you want to get a promotion at work, how much extra time will that take?

Now take a look at what you are already doing. The simple fact is, if you are going to add more activities to your day, you’ll need to make time for them by eliminating other activities.

This is where many goals fail. People don’t make the necessary adjustments to work these goal tasks into their schedule. For example, if you are going to train for a marathon, when are you going to run? Before work? After work? For how long? What do you normally do at these times, and how can you do those things at a different time (or get someone else to do them for you)? This may involve everything from getting up earlier in the morning to additional childcare or changing your work hours.

Now is when you have to get ruthless with your time. You have to decide your priorities. What is more important to you? Your status quo? Or your new goals? People who are successful make their goals their priorities.

Look at those goals you wrote down, and the amount of time it would take to achieve them. Decide which goals you can work on right now, and which ones need to be done some other time.

Now, schedule the time you need to work toward your goals into your planner. You have to make time in your days and weeks to work toward each goal. These goal tasks aren’t going to magically fit themselves into your schedule. Think about your time, and make conscious decisions about where you are going to fit in your goal tasks.

There are many methods for working on goals. Some people find they are more successful if they focus on a goal for a limited time, like a month or 12 weeks. Here are some more tips on working your goal tasks into your schedule. I’ll talk more about this in next Monday’s post.

If you are thinking of a big, life-changing goal, take a look at this post for a step by step guide.

Some things to keep in mind:

Mindful, meaningful goals are important for helping you grow and reach your full potential. But don’t have your eyes so fixed on the prize that you miss other opportunities. It’s just as important to keep yourself open to opportunities (and ready to jump on them when they arise). Sometimes your goals will come through in ways you hadn’t imagined.

When you are working toward a specific goal, the path is rarely linear. Things come up, life happens. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Just evaluate your situation, readjust your expectations and jump back in where you can.

Next Monday here on Quo Vadis blog I’ll have more tips on how and when to work toward your goals.

Wishing you a successful 2017!


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