Long Term Goal Setting 101: How to make goals manageable and keep momentum all year long

Hi all my Courageous followers! 🙂 In an effort to create content that has meaning I’ve set my sights on organizational to-dos, goal setting tips, and all around motivation. Giving my life structure and focus after I graduated college (*gulp* 8 years ago) was one of the hardest things for me to overcome. It took years for me to figure out how to successfully goal set and stay motivated, especially as I have had countless side hustles along with a full-time job.

A pain point for me was all of the nonsense I found online. I’m not here to bash anyone, that’s not my style, but I couldn’t get over how much of the focus on organization was pretty planners with straight up ART in them. I aspired to be so organized that I would spend my Sundays with rolls of washi tape and stickers and creating beautiful, mystical maps of my life I could follow each week. To anyone that has that kind of skills, by all means, get creative, but for me and I imagine a huge chunk of folks, it’s just not what I was looking for.


I wanted to make my life easier, not harder. I wanted the time I took to organize myself to be valuable for organizing. I wanted to save artistic expression for other areas. But it was truly hard to find information and support for “simple” and “basic” life organization. If it wasn’t gorgeous planners, it was goal setting that required me to get less sleep. And I love my sleep! At peak insanity I was trying to write a TV Show, write poetry, post blogs everyday, create a social presence, retrain my dog, get abs, learn French, and cook Pinterest meals every night. I was LITERALLY losing my mind and constantly stressed. I don’t remember actually pausing to enjoy my life or to notice it had gone off the rails.

I’m here to say that goal setting and organization does not have to be nuts! You do not have to tackle all of life’s goals this year. You do not need to HAVE IT ALL. As long as you have a system that works for you (and I will reiterate this until I go blue in the face) it doesn’t matter what it looks like to someone else. It’s your private system built to make life easy for you, not harder.

I recently asked my Instagram followers to chime in with what they wanted to learn about organization and planners. I got a handful of answers but I thought the one pertaining to long term goals would be the best place to start.


How do I set a long term personal goal and stick to it?

Ah the beginning of January… there’s hope. We can start afresh, become new people, achieve all our greatest dreams.


In reality you’re still the same person. BUT you can put processes in place to become the version of yourself you’ve always imagined. (Notice how I didn’t say BETTER.) I am not here to sling cheap motivational quotes about hard work. We all know dreams take work, it’s that we don’t always know how to start or how to move forward from each step. Hopefully I can make this easier to understand and help you set a long term goal.

I live and swear by REVERSE ENGINEERING. There are a million and one articles about reverse engineering out there. I read multiple ones a few years ago because they can differ, but here is a pretty good general post on it. To Reverse Engineer you need to do the following steps:

  1. Determine your goal (Try using the SMART method)
  2. Be realistic about where you are starting from (No shame!)
  3. Work backwards from the goal, breaking down into smaller more manageable goals
  4. START with Basic Goal #1

Determine Your Goal

I don’t always use the SMART method when I goal set (and honestly I really should) but if you’re just starting out this is a great way to stay focused and come up with something tangible and achievable.

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound

To be Specific think of why you want this goal, what/who you will need to achieve it (certifications? a co-owner?). A Measurable goal is that one that has an “end’. Is your goal to open a bakery or is it to open a bakery that hits the black after year one? Notice how Measurable and Specific are intertwined? Achievable goals are ones you’re being realistic about. Could you really go to space this year? Or is a better goal going back to school for Physics? A Relevant goal is one that means something to YOU and no one else. I once thought that to be a writer I had to be a journalist but then I quickly learned I don’t want that and there are other ways to be a writer. Time Bound goals have due dates. To be an astronaut one day isn’t going to cut it, but be an astronaut by 2020, does.


Be Realistic About Your Starting Point

This takes less words to understand. If you’re goal is to run a marathon by next year, but you’ve never run before, don’t start a training plan for runners who have already completed a 10K. You’ll hurt yourself AND get discouraged.

Work Backwards

Once you set your SMART goal, work backwards from it and start to break it down into smaller goals and different milestone dates. If you want to save $30k for the down payment of a house by 2020, calculate how much you will need to save each month, and then from there, what you can cut down on each month to help get you there. Or if you want to lose 50 pounds. Start with doing push-ups at home, advance to running, advance to attending classes. Same with cooking, aim to cook one night a week at home, then two, then three. Don’t EVER start all out, you’ll drive yourself crazy!


This might be the hardest part. The small basic goals can seem minuscule and not worth celebrating. When I started my book last year, it felt hard to celebrate 5 pages. Really. But if you change your mindset to “that’s 5 more pages than yesterday” you’ll find yourself in a steady work state, getting a little more done each day.

Be Okay With Failure

Listen, you may reverse engineer incorrectly. You may think you can get to 12,000 words a month but maybe you overestimated the time you had free that month. Or maybe you thought running would be a breeze but you discover you have asthma or an injury. Setbacks WILL happen. It’s not an IF. Be okay with going back and adjusting your goals or your timeline. You aren’t losing if you’re paying attention and adjusting. It is when you give up, or refuse to give yourself a break that you’ll get stuck. I know this from experience. I spent YEARS doing this to myself. Don’t. Do. It. Keep moving, always!

Let me know what you think of this post. It’s much LONGER and more formal than my usual stuff so the feedback is most appreciated! Did you learn anything? Was it total garbage? Let me know so I can adjust my goals. 😉



And Now the Words are Bubbling Up…

“And if you don’t live, you have nothing to write about.” – Maynard James Keenan

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for the blog, mostly because I’ve been out there in the real world dealing with so many “adult” things I think my head may explode. The great news is that I have been feeling inspired to write creatively again and I’ve been writing every day.

I couldn’t tell you why paying my bills, taking care of my dog on my own, dating, working, freelancing, and traveling extensively have fused together to make me feel poetry again, but they have. I think it has to do with the fact that instead of putting so much pressure into the page and into my future with the page, I’ve been applying that intense pressure to my actual life. And now the words are bubbling up.

I haven’t felt like writing poetry in years and yet here I have been writing poems in my tiny red journal. The first day I put the pen down to write a poem was about a month ago. I went to Brooklyn Bookfest, as I always do, to attend panels, to lurk at the stands of my favorite literary magazines, and to soak up the energy that comes from being surrounded by people who love the sweet pain of writing too.

I attended a panel with my favorite contemporary author Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) called “Poets Looking Back.” He sat with Ada Limon, Cate Marvin, and Gregory Pardlo to talk about their collections of poetry and how they use their personal experiences to shape their writing.

I have always loved Nick Flynn as a non-fiction writer because of his fluidity and choppy chapters. His non-fiction is very much influenced by poetry and by rhythm. I have always aspired to be so cool with my words. Beautiful and well-crafted, sure, but man, do I want to be as cool as Nick Flynn.

Being at the panel I started thinking about my own writing and passions. It was very powerful for me to hear from successful poets who combine non-fiction and poetry in such an open and honest way. I feel like I’ve always been afraid to do this upfront, that the two are different, never to be entangled. The Romeo and Juliet of a writing life. I think also we were always taught in school to keep them separate because in poetry you can stretch any truth and in non-fiction you have to be true. Blurring the lines was dangerous and often, not allowed.

It’s silly how I’ve let an education from 15 years ago change the way I write. Silly and embarrassing. But this is how we grow. This is how we change how we write. And this is how we change how we live.

Each poet read a poem, and even though I came for the Flynn, I stayed for the Limon and wound purchasing both of their books of poetry. Flynn’s “My Feelings”, and Limon’s “Bright Dead Things”. I was obsessed with the poem that Limon read, straightforward, sexual, powerful, and knew I had to have the book.

Since that day, I have written poetry almost every day. Most of it is terrible, as I clean off all my rusty hinges, but I have to say, it feels like the words have found a place in me again. And I have missed them.

Being a Woman: I Did It All Wrong

I’ve been spending a lot of my time thinking about women. More specifically, what it means to be a woman and how I interact with other women. I think about the single moms that I know, the athletes that I know, the single women, the coupled women, the women I work with, the women I pay to paint my nails. I’ve been thinking about them all and I’ve been thinking about myself and I came to the realization that…. I’ve been unkind to my own.
I’ve been thinking about my behavior for the past few weeks but Roxanne Gay’s essay “How to Be Friends With Another Woman” confirmed it. I’m unkind to other women.
Out of all the mistakes I’ve made, this is the one of which I am most ashamed. (So naturally of course I am sharing it on my blog.) But honesty is the best policy, I am told.
I was the girl in high school who hated team sports and exercise because I resented the girls who loved their bodies, who were more competitive, and who took the time to cultivate friendships with one another.
I was the young woman in college with “more guy friends than girls”, who would laugh at girls stumbling home alone in their high heels instead of offering them a safe walk home.
I was the woman who adopted the beliefs of many men as her own, because it was easier to see what they saw than to fight it.
All of these errors come from the same place. I am often threatened by other women. I get to say “often” because I am sort of capable of making new female friends, and I have many older women I look up to and admire, and I take their advice very seriously. I do not walk around looking to spite all women, but I’ve done my fair share of distancing myself from womanhood.
Up until this point it has been as if I could remove many of my own personal weaknesses by saying, “That’s what THEY do, this is what I do.” It’s so easy to create a “they”, isn’t it? “They” can give all sorts of matters an air of legitimacy, and it is so much easier to blame “they” than to blame ourselves.
I avoid groups of women at parties because I do not want to be grouped, by men of course, as one of them. “I am not gossipy, I do not care about their work, I do not care about their relationships.” I judge women like men do. The saddest thing is that I am certain that 98% of the conversations I did not engage in were smart and intelligent and wonderful and I missed out, because I was either avoiding them or seeking out attention from men.
The good news is that, even after spending so much of my time cultivating friendships with men, I have a small pack of women who know me as I truly am. And I’m finally learning to love the woman I can be too. Why the hell have I been so afraid of being a woman?
There is nothing wrong with how women handle the world. In fact, it’s probably better in many ways but we’ve been conditioned to think that the feminine way is the wrong way, the weak way. To be feminine is to be lesser. To watch television shows about female relationships is ridiculous. To love deeply and without question and to crave that in return is foolish. To want to study and learn about interpersonal relationships is silly.
(I realize that a lot of time needs to be spent discussing gender norms, identity choices, and how we perform our roles. That’s another conversation that deserves far more time and energy. For my purposes here I am speaking of traditionally feminine traits and our society’s fear to embrace them as legitimate. Caring, nurturing, empathetic, and affectionate.)
I’ve been hiding from what it means to be a woman for quite some time. And I have a lot of questions to ask myself and work to do, but for now… I need to apologize for being half in and half out of womanhood.
I am vocal about reproductive rights. I am vocal about rape culture. I am vocal about being a feminist. One foot in. But I am afraid to admit that I like to nurture the people I love. I want to pretend I am not tender or patient, when really I am. I judge women based on single mistakes. One foot out.
I’d like to stop thinking of women as how they are depicted in television and movies and books. I am a complicated human being. I am not a trope by any means. Neither are my close friends, my mother. Why, oh why, I thought that other women were just movie tropes, I’ll never know for sure. But for now I can focus on seeing all women for what they truly are and not what I choose, or what men choose, to judge them to be.
I’m sorry I’ve turned my back so many times on so many women. I’m here now. I’m warming up…