Goal Setting

I set up goals on a yearly basis. Anything beyond that doesn’t work for me because anything beyond one year makes me feel trapped. This may be different for you so feel free to adjust as you see fit.

How to start working towards your goals

Everything in the universe is made of tiny components. So, how do you take a big hairy audacious goal and achieve it? You have to break it down into tiny components. Write this all down.

First, why do you want to do this?

Intrinsic motivation is a huge determining factor in success. Hint: the word should must never show up. If it shows up as you’re thinking this through, it’s probably a red flag. Everyone has the same amount of time but you only prioritize what you really want. That’s the truth of time management.

What’s stopping you?

What are the roadblocks that are keeping you from having this right now? If you really want it, why don’t you have it already? You have to define what’s different between right now and this ideal situation. You can’t solve a problem you can’t see.

Break it down

The use of the word need is important. If you are going to achieve the goal, you must start thinking in terms of needs and musts. There is no room for vaguary. Yes, words matter.

  • I need to take time off work.
  • I must learn XCode in order to build an app.
  • Research says the trip will cost me about $8,000 USD after food, equipment rentals and transportation. I need to have money before I go.

Don’t forget to question the word need too. Most people don’t need what they think they do.

Now, you have to break it down further: if you must learn a new skill, what does that mean? What specifically do you need to know? Are there tutorials available to you which will teach you what you need to know? Can someone teach you?

It’s important that the majority of the things you write down are things you can personally affect. You cannot achieve a goal if you think it’s dependant on someone else.

Assign a timeline

Once you’ve broken it down into the smallest steps possible, there are a few lists you need to make.

  • I can do right now
  • I can do tomorrow
  • I can do this week
  • Backlog
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

Most of your tasks should be in the first three categories but there may be things you are blocked on for whatever reason. I put those in my backlog until they’re ready to be moved up into the first three categories.

There may be things that need to be on a timed basis, which is what daily/weekly/monthly categories are for. Keep them small so you can hit them easier. If you cannot say for sure that you can achieve your daily tasks, break it down even further.

Doing it

Depending on how intense the goal is, you can set yourself a reminder to check in and do a retrospective on your lists on a daily or weekly basis. It’s important you do this.

Retrospectives help you notice your progress even when you feel like you’re standing still, allow you to course-correct when you’ve incorrectly identified the path, and keep you motivated to keep going. You have to fall in love with the process and stay focused on the steps.

Pressing concerns

How many goals per year?

Goal-setting is a skill. If you haven’t done this before, start with one. I started with one, then moved to three per year for a while, and now I’m somewhat regularly focusing on five.

What if I fail?

When I fail, I go back over my plan and identify where I think I went wrong. This arms me with better information so I can build on top of my experience or learn for the next goal. For your own sanity, you have to learn how to forgive yourself for failing.

I like to think of how many times babies fall over when they’re learning how to walk for the first time. The rest of your life is exactly like that.

How do I stay motivated?

This was briefly mentioned above but restrospectives keep me highly motivated. It can be easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees but regularly looking at the small, medium, and big picture helps you stay grounded. I may not be 100% there but at least I moved 1% closer.

This seems excessive

It seems unnatural at first but nowadays it’s become more second nature to me. You have to find a way to make every step fun for you while ensuring you’re on the right track.

Good luck

These are the things which have helped me over the years build a life I wanted to live. It also has profound effects on your confidence and ability to pick up things quickly. This is an amazing skill to have in uncertain and overwhelming situations. You can stay focused on the goal because you know you can do it and you’re going to do it. The mental model shifts from can I to when I.

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