Guest Post: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

Guest Poster: June from The Reshaping of Everyday Life

Setting Goals

I’ve personally never been very good at setting long-term goals. I think many people are like this. They sign up for the Day Zero project 101 Things in 1,001 Days and think, “Oh, yes! This is so cool! I will get so much done!”

Do you know how long 1,001 days is? You’re looking at a list of goals that is supposed to hold you over for 2.5 years (plus a couple months). That doesn’t seem that long until you sit down and start the goal-making. In the past, I have joined this project with goals such as:

  1. Write in a journal every day for a year.
  2. Write one short story per month for a year.
  3. Fly a kite.
  4. Tell [insert name here] how I really feel.
  5. Watch 30 “classic” old movies (pre 1980).

There are a number of things right with these goals– they are all things I want to do. They are attainable within the given time frame. They don’t leave a lot for interpretation (except that last one). There are also, however, a number of things wrongwith these goals. For example, I made a lot of “every day for a year” kind of goals– Individually, seems like a good idea, yeah? But when you put them together, you’re looking at possibly doing 15+ things per day in your already hectic schedule.

“Fly a kite” seems reasonable, but what about when you forget? Oh, it’s winter again, and you can’t take that kite out and now only have ONE more summer to work with.

I’m centering this post around the Day Zero project, but you can use these tips towards any goal you make:

  1. Make them attainable. Say you want to be a pilot some day, but you work for $7/hour and spend 3/4 of your paycheck on rent and gas. Making a Day Zero goal “learn to fly” is a little ambitious. Even just your first flight lesson will cost around $300, and that’s not to mention the $400-some written test that you have to take first. Make sure the goals you set are attainable within your means and time frame.
  2. Make them measurable. It is important to make certain that the goals you’re setting are realistic. You want to be able to achieve them without jumping through hoops or inventing a new life for yourself. Instead of saying, “Learn to fly,” say, “Save $400 towards pilot’s license by October 31, 2012.”
  3. Write them down. The best way for you to remember what your goals are is if you have a list to refer back to. Don’t be afraid to write them down– online, in a Word file, in a notebook… Maybe you want to scrapbook them! However you do it, make sure you get your goals down on paper so you have something to remind you what they all are!
  4. Organize them into groups. This goes hand in hand with the above, but you might also want to think about this as you’re thinking about what goals to make. Organizing them into categories helps you see which ones you can knock out together, which ones may take more time than the others, and which ones might after all not be achievable. For example, I’d put all of my “every day” goals together, all my “automobile” goals together, all my “family/friends” goals in one group, etc.
  5. Make sure the goal is heart-felt, not just something you “may want to do some day” or something thatsounds good. The easiest explanation of why is this: If you don’t set a goal you’re motivated to accomplish, you won’t accomplish it. Sit down and imagine yourself actually setting aside the time to do this goal; if it doesn’t seem reasonable, move onto the next. (But keep note of it– it might fit in your life later!)
  6. Don’t set two-step goals. This is especially relevant for the Day Zero project, but let’s see what multi-step goals really look like. You want to simplify your goal as much as you can, even if it means making several goals that move towards the same result. The more complicated/”big” the goal is, the less likely you’ll achieve it in a timely manner. Especially with 100 other goals to get through– it’s hard to find that motivation. Micro-manage! Break huge goals into small parts.

I Have A Bunch of Goals! Now What?

Great! Now you’ve made a list of attainable, measurable, realistic goals. You’re able to visualize yourself doing each of these items, and you’re probably a little excited to get started! First, make sure you’ve written then down and organized them into groups. Your next step really depends on what kind of do-er you are. People have different methods; you’ll just need to do whatever works for your life.

My cousin is a highly organized person with many personal and professional goals. She has no problem achieving them on time because she keeps a detailed/organized calendar (through her Google account) that lays out how much time per day/week/month she needs to spend on each goal. This may work for you– and even if you’ve never made a calendar like this before, try itGoogle Calendar is wonderful because you can color code each item and define how often to repeat it. You can also do the same in a written calendar, on your phone, or through any other goal-making service/software.

On my part, I’m not very organized, except in spirit. I can keep track of what’s going on in my head and what I need to do by the end of the week as long as I review it every once in a while. I write my goals down in email or somewhere I’m going to look every day– at home, they might be on a wipe board in the kitchen, near my crafts, or even written on sticky notes plastered across my bathroom mirror. Instead of waiting for Google to email me a reminder or relying on myself to remember to check a notebook, I break them into parts (“this is what I want to get done this week”) and remind myself daily of those goals until they’ve been completed.

Finally, one of the most awesome ways to keep up with your goals is to always have them in the back of your mindand bring them forward depending on what you’re about to do. I imagine you have to have pretty awesome memory for this, but for example, say you want to buy a new tool set from Home Depot but you also have a goal on your list to “Paint the bathroom walls before Christmas 2012.” Well, maybe you’re not financially ready to start painting, or maybe you just don’t have the time. What you can, do, however, is grab some paint swatches while you’re picking up your tool set and then tape them to the bathroom walls so you can think on color choices even long before you get down to painting. If your goals are always in the back of your mind, you can move further to accomplish them just in everyday life!

The 101 Goals Method

A 101 Goals list is very specific both in action and time frame. Normally when we make goals it’s to strive towards something specific that is happening in life (a move, new baby, new job, etc.) and the list isn’t comprised of so many items. If you’re making your 101 Goals for 1,001 Days, you’re planning on accomplishing (on average) about 1.5 goals per week for 143 weeks. That’s not so daunting, is it? Yet how many of us actually complete 1.5 goals per week? When you follow goal blogs and Day Zero lists, you see people checking off 10 goals at a time per month (assuming they didn’t forget entirely and abandon the project, as happens quite frequently).

Whatever your method in organizing and accomplishing goals, for a project like this, it’s almost vital that you do weekly or bi-weekly reviews of goals accomplished and in progress. This allows reminder for what’s being done, a sense of accomplishment for what’s been done, and a reminder of what needs to be done next.

Whether you’re setting goals for for Day Zero, for fun, or with a specific topic in mind, make certain you’re realistic about them and that you’re motivated to attain them. If you don’t feel like the goal is important enough to spend your time doing it, move onto the next, and remember: Time is all about priority. Set goals that become priorities!

June is a late 20′s creative individual residing near the DC Metro area. She works as a web developer full time, but in her free time she crafts for Swap Bot, creates inspired freelance web design, and writes fiction. She’s a big IDEA person and sets many creative goals that she has no problem achieving, and considers herself a creative cheerleader for others. She doesn’t know where she’s going, but she knows she’ll eventually get somewhere!

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

  1. Pingback: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. | The Reshaping of Everyday Life

  2. Pingback: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. | Notes

  3. Pingback: » Musing on Where I Could Go

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