Most people set goals without even knowing it. They might plan to get to work on time, eat a nutritious meal for lunch or lose five pounds before the end of the year. Even if you don’t write these down or organize them in any way, you’re setting goals.
If you’ve ever accomplished one of your goals, you know how good it feels. What if you could harness the ability to set and meet goals for everything in life?
Unfortunately, you’re probably also familiar with setting goals that never get done. Those can make you feel disheartened.
Even the best intentions don’t end up as accomplished objectives if you go about goal-setting the wrong way. If you’ve had trouble meeting your goals in the past, your intentions aren’t flawed. However, you might need to refine your process.
Do You Set Yourself Up for Failure?
We’re all familiar with New Year’s resolutions. When the future is still a blank canvas, we feel like we can paint a different picture.
But then we look back to the previous year and realize that we didn’t meet our resolutions then. In fact, few of our New Year’s resolutions make it to February. About 80 percent of them are extinguished in January.
What goes wrong? One reason that our New Year’s resolutions disintegrate is that we set them and forget them. Announcing your intentions can hold you accountable for achieving them. However, if you don’t have a process to take you from start to finish, you’re likely to get caught up somewhere along the way.
Another reason that people may fail when setting goals is that they get hung up by the past. If they’ve set goals and failed, they carry a story of limiting beliefs with them. When things get hard, they may scrap their plans altogether.
If you’re not used to setting goals, the process is going to feel uncomfortable. It will take time. It might feel like pulling teeth until it becomes a habit.
Don’t sabotage your goals just because setting them makes you squirm or you haven’t accomplished them in the past. This is the year to change your story. Make that one of your goals.
If you’ve experienced hardship in the past, ask yourself if you want the future to be different. Use that desire to fuel your goal-setting strategy as you move forward.
The Benefits of Daily Goal Setting
Have you ever gone on a beach vacation? Maybe it was a goal of yours. You worked hard, saved up for the trip and accrued some time off of work. You scheduled a two-week vacation because you wanted to immerse yourself in relaxation.
By day five, you might have gotten antsy. Lounging on the beach no longer felt as exciting as it did on day one.
That’s the feeling that you can get in life if you don’t set goals. You may want something badly and figure out how to get it. But once you do, the results could be anticlimactic.
If you get into the practice of goal setting, however, all of the steps that led up to the main goal would be meaningful. If you wrote down your goals, you would have a chance to cross them off a list, which makes you feel proud and rewarded.
Plus, you would probably set another goal to propel you forward after you reached the first one. Even if you didn’t, you might be more likely to revel in the luxury and lack of responsibility on the beach if you had made “relax on the beach” one of your goals.
Setting goals has numerous benefits, including:
- Giving you direction
- Guiding your focus
- Helping you make clear decisions
- Allowing you to take control of your future
- Motivating you
- Giving you personal satisfaction
- Identifying your purpose in life
When you set daily goals, you’re able to take your large-scale goals and hold them in your mind as you go about your life. You focus on the small things that add up to the big picture. By doing this, reaching your wildest dreams becomes achievable.
Is it a Goal or a Task?
Some experts believe that New Year’s resolutions aren’t really goals anyway. So what’s the difference between a resolution, goal and task?
A task is often an activity, whereas a goal is typically a result that you want to achieve.
Take the following examples:
- Goal – Increase sales by 10%
- Task – Write weekly sales report
- Goal – Launch 10 new products
- Task – Hold a weekly product development meeting
- Goal – Reduce customer turnover by 10%
- Task – Hire more customer service representatives
By the time you’re setting daily goals, they may seem more like tasks or activities. That’s ok as long as they support a greater mission.
You don’t want to get bogged down by tasks that don’t contribute to a greater goal. For example, if you load your daily goals list with activities such as “do the laundry, vacuum and scrub the shower,” that’s fine as long as your weekly goal is “keep the house clean.”
What Are the Steps for Setting Goals?
You are responsible for creating your life. If you don’t set goals, you have no chance of accomplishing them. Things can certainly go well for you, but good fortune will probably be surprising.
Without goals, you can still write the book, land the promotion and marry the partner of your dreams. But you might attribute those incidents to hard work or good luck.
What if you can manifest everything that you want without the hard work? Sure.
Maybe you just need a road map to get you closer to your purpose in life. Although creating that road map doesn’t have to be laborious, it is a consistent process that requires some discipline.
To harness that level of commitment, declare it. Start your goal-setting process by stating that you understand that you create your life.
Create the Big Picture First
Then, consider the potential. Let yourself fantasize. You are only limited by your own skeptical mind.
Ask yourself, “What’s possible for me if I achieve my dreams this year?”
Write down everything that comes to you. That’s how you start setting goals.
Once you have your big dreams spelled out, you can begin to work backward. Start thinking about the route that you can take to achieve the big vision. We’ll talk about what to do when you can’t envision that path in the next section.
You can use different time frames, such as the following:
- 10-year goals
- 5-year goals
- Yearly goals
- Quarterly goals
- Monthly goals
- Weekly goals
- Daily goals
Don’t get too hung up about time periods and deadlines. The idea is that you can break down the larger goals into smaller ones until you can create a specific action plan.
If you aren’t sure what you want to accomplish this year, scrap the notion of time altogether, at least during the brainstorming period. Instead, ask yourself, “What are 3-5 supporting goals for my big vision?” Write that down.
Then, repeat that step. Break those supporting goals down into 2-5 smaller objectives. Keep doing this until you have your map. You can attribute deadlines to these goals arbitrarily. The best way to know what works for you is to experiment.
Look at the First Steps
By the time you’ve whittled down your goals, you probably have small steps that can be completed in a few hours or less. If something will take you less than an hour to achieve, it can go into your daily or weekly goals list.
Does this seem daunting? You may not be able to see the path to your larger goals clearly right away. If you’re having trouble with this exercise, don’t worry about listing everything from the top down.
Instead, ask yourself, “What is the first step that I can take to achieve this goal?” Once you start moving in a certain direction, you can clear the way and begin to determine your next steps. When you get some quick celebrations under your belt, you build momentum and confidence.
Those initial steps that can get you closer to your big vision can go on your daily goals list too.
Ask Yourself What You Want to Get Out of Your Day
If you’re feeling bogged down by daily tasks or goals, consider thinking about what you want to get out of each day. Do this the night before or in the morning as you plan out your schedule. You can keep your bigger goals list handy so that your daily goals resonate with your monthly or yearly ones.
You may experience a time when your daily goals don’t support anything, though. Maybe you have a one-time goal that won’t take a lot of time to complete. It’s ok if that goes on your daily goals list.
One way to make sure that your goals are lined up with your desires and priorities is to ask yourself, “How do I want to feel today?”
When you know that, you may be able to line up your activities to support that intention. You may find that, because you’ve already set up your bigger vision, your daily goals automatically align with it.
What Should Be on Your Daily Goals List?
It’s ok if your daily goals look more like tasks. If you are following the goal-setting steps above, you’ve probably broken a larger goal down into smaller ones.
These action steps are likely to fit perfectly into your daily goals list. By the time your intentions become this minute, the lines between your to-dos and your goals become blurred.
You may wonder whether some of your daily goals should be weekly goals, or vice-versa. You may have some overlap. For example, “keep the kitchen clean” may be a weekly goal that can be broken down into several daily goals, like “wash dishes as soon as they’re in the sink, wipe off the countertops every time I eat, and empty the dishwasher as soon as the cycle is complete.”
On the other hand, “clean the living room” may just entail vacuuming, in which case you can schedule it on a daily goals list.
- Prepwork to complete your weekly goals: If you need to gather items together to work toward something bigger, don’t ignore those action steps. Make it a daily goal!
- Baby steps: Do you get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the things that you want to accomplish in a week, month, year or lifetime? Your daily goals are the place to transform your most elusive dreams into possibilities. The smallest steps can go on your daily goals list to help you get from point A to point B with minimal effort.
- Research: If you need to research something that applies to a weekly, monthly or yearly goal, don’t assume that it will get done on its own. Make it a daily objective. Research takes time, and you can pat yourself on the back when you’ve finished it and move on to taking action.
- Practice: If you’re trying to improve something in your life, you might need to practice it regularly. That’s the perfect type of objective to put on your daily goals list.
Determine How Much Time it Will Take You
Most people end up neglecting their list of goals because they feel like they can’t get everything done. This usually has to do with having unrealistic expectations about how long it will take to accomplish a task.
One recommendation is to write down how much time you think it will take to do each thing on your list. Planning your time in this manner may seem tedious, but it can produce valuable revelations.
For example, you might assume that you can get 10 of your action steps done in one day. But if you never end up doing everything on your to-do list, it’s likely that you have underestimated the time that each action will take.
Doing the math will let you know if it’s really possible to cram all of those items into one day.
After you make time predictions for each task, you may want to multiply those times by two or three. Many people find that they underestimate the time that it takes them to do almost everything.
Still, there is a lot of guesswork involved in these suggestions.
There is a way to learn exactly how long it takes you to accomplish a task that’s fairly routine: time yourself. This may seem wearisome at first, but it gives you the exact data that you need to plan successfully for the future.
You might think that you only need 5 minutes to write in your gratitude journal every night. But if you time yourself, you may find that you spend 5 minutes gathering the materials and telling your family not to bother you. When you’re engrossed in journaling, you might end up spending 15 minutes writing down your thoughts.
On the other hand, you might put off doing certain tasks because you feel like they take a long time. For example, you never empty the dishwasher because you’re too busy cooking dinner. But then, the dishes pile up in the sink and you get overwhelmed.
Time yourself. You might find that it only takes you three minutes to clear the entire dishwasher. When you realize this, you can do it while you wait for the water to boil or your smoothie to finish blending.
What if You Can’t Get it All Done?
Scott Young says that adding to your list is worse than not completing what’s already on your list. The reason for this is twofold:
- Adding tasks to your daily goals creates an infinite to-do list that can overwhelm you.
- Without a finite set of goals for the day, you won’t be able to gauge how much you can realistically achieve.
Let’s say that you always write five daily goals on your calendar, and you usually complete them all. If you keep your lists so that you can reflect on them later, you’ll have a visual representation of what you can reasonably get done in a day.
If you keep one never-ending to-do list, you may not know what’s possible for you to accomplish on a given day. This can leave you floundering every time you sit down to plan your schedule.
For some people, an ongoing to-do list is motivating. It can be helpful to do a brain dump and write down everything that you would potentially want to accomplish in a given day or week just so that it doesn’t clutter your mind. However, that should be separate from your to-do list. Looking at it frequently could make you break out in a cold sweat.
Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t accomplish all of your daily tasks. Take that as a sign that you need to strive to do less, not more. If you keep a weekly and monthly lists of goals, you’ll be able to adjust your schedule and expectations without neglecting the things that absolutely need to get done.
Common Goal-Setting Mistakes
If you’ve had trouble achieving your goals in the past, you may not have broken them down into small enough chunks to put on a daily goals list. But what if you’ve followed all of the suggestions that we’ve made so far and still been disappointed in your productivity?
Maybe you’re making one of the following goal-setting mistakes.
You Don’t Write it Down
Telling your friends about your goals isn’t enough.
Gail Matthews, a psychology professor who studied goal achievement in the workplace, found that writing down goals is one of the keys to accomplishing them. In the study, one group wrote down their goals, and another group just thought and talked about them.
If you write down your goal, you’re 42 percent more likely to complete it even if you never look at it again. Writing your intention helps you get clear on where you want to go. Putting pen to paper has a major impact on your goal-setting success.
Putting Too Many Things on Your List
Imagine looking at a list of five daily goals. It’s probably relatively easy to decide what to do right away and what to do after lunch. But if your list contains 20 items, you may have trouble determining which takes priority.
You don’t have to put everything on your daily goals list. You might even want to separate your goals and to-dos if you feel like you have to make time for regular, repeat tasks, like doing the laundry or going to the gym.
Adding to Your List Throughout the Day
It seems as though our to-dos never stop. But if you think of tasks that you should be doing, look at your schedule. Decide how to work those tasks into another day.
If you consistently overload your days, you’re likely to burn out. When you’ve finished the tasks on your list, you should do one thing: celebrate.
Most people never make relaxation or self-care a goal. Then, they wonder why they’re so overwhelmed.
Are you one of those people? Do you feel like there’s not enough time in a day? You may have too many daily goals.
If you’re the type of person who needs to be in constant action, you may have trouble taking things off of your daily goals list. The good news is that you don’t have to.
Replace some of your current goals with relaxing, restful ones. You can even make yoga, tai chi or meditation part of your daily goals. These activities have been found to lower the heart rate, reduce stress and improve wellbeing.
Not Building a Portfolio of Goals
Your boss might talk about setting career goals. Your financial advisor might recommend that you set financial goals. But you shouldn’t set goals just to get a promotion or boost your bank account.
If you don’t win at life, you probably won’t win in business. The same rule applies in the other direction too.
When you’re obsessed with your work goals, you could neglect your family life. Your marriage might suffer. Your kids might struggle at school because they’re not getting the attention that they want.
Maybe you have a long bucket list and several financial goals. You work hard to meet those, but your health suffers.
Creating an assortment of goals in various categories can help you maintain the momentum that you need to get through life successfully. If you get sick, you might take so many vacation days that you lose your chance to get a raise. That would impact your career and financial goals.
Every aspect of your life is interconnected. If you’re not cultivating goals across the board, you’ll see the effects in every category.
Leadership mentor Michael Hyatt says that you should focus on the following areas when setting goals:
Each category doesn’t have to be filled with goals, but it should include at least one.
Daily Goals that Nourish Your Body, Mind and Spirit
When you’re setting goals, don’t neglect the ones that are all about you. Many people are uncomfortable with this because they’ve been taught that paying attention to themselves on that level is selfish. However, you can only get so far in life if you don’t take the time to nourish yourself.
Self-care goals can help you:
- Understand yourself better
- Nurture your physical health
- Process emotions
- Keep a positive mindset
- Get in touch with your spirituality
Some ideas for self-care goals include:
- Spending 30 minutes of time with yourself every day – Do something that you love to do, and try to stay off of screens.
- Create a vision board – Envisioning your goals can help you achieve them, but there’s a catch. Don’t just picture yourself getting what you want; imagine yourself taking the steps that are necessary to achieve your goals.
- Drink one nourishing beverage – Herbal tea, bone broth and kombucha are good for you and can replace soda or juice.
- Say positive affirmations – They can reprogram your limiting beliefs and help you get more out of life.
- Declutter – If you want to bring something into your life, you need to make space for it. Regularly decluttering your environment can signal to the universe that you’re ready to take on the success that you desire.
- Connect with others – Spend time with a close friend, a spiritual community or your partner.
- Walk away from your desk at lunch – You deserve to shift away from the work mentality for 30 minutes a day. Leaving the office for lunch can help you shift your mindset when you return.
Now that you know how to set daily goals, you might wonder if the process ever ends.
Can you get to a point where you can stop writing down your goals or breaking them down into smaller pieces? Most experts recommend that you continue to follow this strategy throughout your life.
Goals help you grow. Making progress toward something that matters can keep you fulfilled and motivated. Your goals are not fixed. They can change over time.
Moreover, you’ll have to have a plan for what you’re going to do when you accomplish your goals. That’s easy—set new ones!