Throughout the year, there are many opportunities to revamp your life and set goals. Starting a new job, getting married, graduating college, coming home after a vacation, or celebrating the end of the year are all perfect times to reflect and reset. When you feel refreshed and focused there’s no better time to set yourself on a new path towards your dreams!
But, if you’re like a lot of us, (Yes, including me!) setting goals is easy, but actually achieving them feels impossible. As you search the internet for tips, a lot of the content says, “just do it!” Well, if it were that easy, you would already be a millionaire or a published author or thirty pounds lighter. Right?
So, how do you really set and accomplish your goals? That’s what we’re working on today. In this post, I’ll give you practical advice to achieve your goals—big or small. Here are 7 tips to get things done and hit your targets:
7 Essential Tips for Setting Goals that Actually Produce Results
Make sure your goal is SMART.
A SMART goal is a type of goal that was conceived by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham just a few years ago. Er. I mean, in 1981. The 80s weren’t actually that long ago, were they?
Anyway, these types of goals are thoughtfully designed to be more easily accomplished. SMART is an acronym standing for:
For a goal to be SMART, it isn’t vague. Instead, it’s refined to be really specific and clear. “Pay off all debt aside from the house.” is more specific than “Make better financial choices this year.” The first will be more productive!
Is there a way to actually confirm your goal was accomplished? If there isn’t, you’re unlikely to achieve it. Using the example from above, it’d be easy to see that you hit your target if debt payoff is your goal, because you shouldn’t have any more payments by the end! The second one is hard to measure, because “better” is subjective.
What do you need to reach your goal? Do you need workout equipment or a gym membership? Do you need a second job? If so, do you have time for that? You need to take inventory of any resources you may need to hit your goals.
A SMART goal is something you can actually achieve. Setting HUGE unreachable goals is super unmotivating, and it doesn’t produce big results like you want. If you only have $500 extra at the end of all your bills, paying off $100k in student loans in 6 months is probably not realistic. If you have this problem, you’d need to reframe your goal.
This is where you put your action steps. How will you get to your ultimate goal? And, what due date are you setting for yourself? Start at the end and work backwards to figure out a reasonable timeline to get to the end of your journey.
Having a SMART goal will set you up for success. Thinking through your goal entirely like this will make sure you have something actually achievable. Plus, it’ll smooth out bumps in the road, because you’ve already got it figured out.
Even small goals can feel overwhelming. Chances are, you’re already juggling a lot between work, home, hobbies, families, social obligations, and more! So, even something as seemingly easy as “drinking more water” can be way harder to accomplish than you thought.
To hit these goals, you have to create steps. No goal is too small for steps! Let’s go with the water example. If you don’t drink ANY water right now, expecting yourself to suddenly drink 8 glasses a day isn’t really realistic.
Instead, set short-term targets for yourself starting at one glass a day for a week. Then two glasses a day for a week. And, you just build from there. You might actually find that you accomplish even more when you set steps like this. You’ll get so used to pushing yourself further every week, after six months you might replace all beverages with water!
You could do the same thing with a debt payoff. Don’t aim for saving up the entire sum before you start knocking out those credit cards and loans. Pay off the smallest debt, then use the minimum payment from the former debt and add it to the payment for the next smallest. You’ll gain momentum that will get your debt paid off and keep you motivated.
There is no specific format this has to be in, but setting action steps towards your big dreams is vital for practically achieving your goals.
Do it anyway.
Though working on your goals is invigorating in the beginning, it soon will not feel so exciting. If you’re hoping to start a morning routine, you may imagine this serene 6:00 am bubble bath with a devotional in one hand and a healthy smoothie in the other. However, every morning may not look like this. In fact, I can tell you they won’t!
Some mornings you’ll be tired. Like, REALLY tired. Other days you’ll be wanting that morning coffee so bad, the smoothie tastes like dirt—if you even had time to make it at all! Some days you may oversleep and miss the bath and opt for a rushed shower.
When we don’t get the idealistic version of our goal, our temptation is to give up. If you didn’t wake up until 6:15, when you planned on 6:00, you may say, “Well, I’ll try again tomorrow. I missed it.” With debt, you may have a big car repair throw off your budget. And, with working out, getting off work late might tempt you to skip your leg day.
You understand what I am talking about, but what’s my advice on this? Simply. Do it anyway. Even if you don’t get your hour workout in, do a 15 minute one instead. If you can’t contribute much extra toward debt, give a dollar.
When you compromise your vision, you think you’ve lost. But, that’s dead wrong! Before setting this goal, you weren’t doing anything! No morning routine, no contribution to debt, no working out, no [insert your goal here.]
Now, you’re doing something! Even if it’s just a little more, it’s still better. Plus, continuing your steps despite the quality will help you maintain healthy habits. Your vision for your goal will get easier and better every day if you keep going when things don’t go your way.
Write it down.
You are 42% more likely to accomplish your goal if you write it down. Writing out your goal acts as a sort of commitment to yourself. And, it gives the ambition some sort of permanence.
I recommend you don’t just write it down, but you write down your steps toward your goal and why you want to achieve it. It’s super motivating and will keep you focused even on days when it’s tough to get it done.
Put this goal somewhere where you’ll see it often. Maybe it’s inside a planner. Perhaps it’s on the wall. Or, if you’re like me, it’s in a detailed spreadsheet that allows you to map your progress from anywhere.
Whatever you do, just make sure you have it written. This will set you up for success from the start!
Make it exciting.
Though paying off debt or working out has obvious benefits, you might need to do a little more to make the journey exciting.
When something is exciting, it’s easy to stay focused and motivated. Come up with a reward system or process for yourself that’ll make you want to keep trucking along even when things get tough.
One way to keep the process moving is to use an app! There are quite a few out there that are visually appealing and include entertaining functions that keep you amped up. Habitica and Way of Life are great choices that you can download on your phone.
If that’s not your thing, try creating benchmarks for yourself. When you achieve each one, give yourself a reward that scales to something really cool! It could be something as simple as a treat off the McDonald’s Dollar Menu or as involved as a vacation depending on your financial situation.
You need something a little extra to push you along. And, people are motivated by positive reinforcement. Make your journey invigorating using rewards and visual tools.
Want to publish a book this year? Tell everyone that they’re getting a copy for Christmas. Want to workout every day? Post daily updates on social media. Is paying off debt your goal? Make your progress public!
Now, this isn’t to brag. This is to motivate you using the power of peer pressure! Everyone asking how you’re doing on your goal will keep you grinding toward your dream. No one wants the embarrassment of saying, “I am not doing that anymore. I quit.”
Everyone knowing, even if very few people are really in-tune with the day-to-day process, will drive you forward. It’s a built in accountability system that can do a lot to help you reach your goals.
Get someone in your corner.
Accountability and encouragement are super important. But, like I said above, friends and family are busy and will not be engaged with your goal as much as you need them to be.
In order to really take control and reach your goals, you need someone who makes an effort to keep you on track regularly. They’re completely invested in your target, and are giving you consistent encouragement and accountability to stick with it!
Most people don’t have time for this, so hiring a professional is the way to go. You can opt for a life coach that will help you generically with your goals, but I recommend finding a coach specific to your ambition.
If you want to lose weight, get a personal trainer. If you want to eat better, try a nutritionist. And, if you want to reach money goals, hire a financial coach. Each type of coach will be able to help you with your specific needs while keeping you on-track.
Their wisdom and support are invaluable. Especially if you struggle to make things happen on your own. Don’t hesitate to find someone to walk with you through your journey.
Start conquering your goals with these tips and a specialized coach!
I hope you are about to accomplish more this year than you ever have before. If you have big financial goals, I’d love to personally help you along! I am a trained financial coach who has helped 1,000+ families get back on track and find financial freedom.