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.

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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.

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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.

Nah.

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.

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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!

Start

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. 😉

 

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My Mind is a Mess: Passion Planner Review

One night I was visiting my best friend Kate at her apartment and in between sips of wine and bites of cheese (or gulps and hunks) she turned my attention to her brand new Passion Planner. Wow, I thought, I need one of these.

My whole life I’ve wanted to design a planner that functions how my brain functions– which is million different things all happening at once. Passion Planner is almost perfect. (I still want to design the ultimate planner one day. It’s one of my super nerdy life goals.) My only challenge is that it’s broken down by time slots which is incredibly hard for me to stick too but otherwise, I love the layout.

I’ve been using my Compact version for about 4 weeks now. And each week I get better at utilizing it. I let it help me form my week instead of jamming my week into it. I’ve surrendered to the planner a little bit and it seems to be going well. I stole the below image direct from the Passion Planner website because it’s going to do a MUCH better job of explaining how it works:

PP Breakdown

And all of those things get incorporated into your weekly pages. I know what you’re thinking: HOW?! HOW DO THEY GET INCORPORATED? It seems like a lot. Here are some sample pages from mine. Note: I don’t color in for the time I spend at work. I probably should but it scares me to see how much time I actually spend there. Maybe this week I’ll give it a whirl.

Example Week
I’m trying to teach myself to color code so certain things jump out to me. Yellow is my “Personal Life” color… it makes me happy!
example week 2
This was taken on Sunday of this week. I still had more to fill in and you can see my notes page is pretty open. That changes pretty quick.

I’m sure some people are a little tidier with theirs but I do my best… I’m only human. I enjoy seeing everything that I have to do on one open page instead of having to flip around and see what my week looks like. It’s also nice that there are sections on top of each day that say “Today’s Focus”, I use this to keep the “OMG A NEW PROJECT” part of myself toned down.

One of my favorite features of the planner is all of the Goal Setting material in the front of it. Before you even get to any specific months or days, you are guided through a series of exercises to get some awesome goals lined up for the next 3 months, next year and rest of your life! It’s a great way to keep your goals and passions (hehe) up front while you are toiling away on other things.

As for a mistake I made with it, I wish I had ordered the 8 1/2 x 11 sized version. When I ordered, it seemed like a huge pain in the ass to lug around but now that I am using the smaller size, I realize that I could have used the extra space. Especially because I have goofy handwriting. I think next year I’ll try the larger version and see how that goes.

So far so good with this planner and I am a pretty scattered person. This keeps everything I am constantly thinking about in one place. I’m not the most focused, but this has been helping. I strongly suggest checking them out! And, oh yeah, if you can’t afford the bound version, Passion Planner has PDF versions of the planner pages that you can print out and use. Amazing!