Goal setting is an important component to success. But you already know that.

And you also know what makes a goal good. For example, your goal should be S.M.A.R.T.

  • Specific – Answers the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When, Why
  • Measurable – Quantify your goal, make it objective
  • Attainable – Keep it challenging, but achievable
  • Relevant – Does the goal matter; does it align with your other goals?
  • Time-bound – Set the time-frame for achieving the goal

The challenge I’ve found with goals is this: after you’ve set your goals, how do you create a plan that puts you on the path to successfully achieving your goals???

I find that this part is often left out – you’re told what a goal is and that you need to set them, but nobody helps you actually reach the goals you set. You might as well give me a new Ikea BESTÅ desk but leave out the instructions to assemble it. So cruel!

ikea so cruel

Time to change this.

Here’s a simple technique that gets you from setting goals to achieving them. You’ll do this through three steps:

  1. Create a general goal concept
  2. Objectify your goal
  3. Detail the steps you need to reach your goal

I wasn’t lying – I said simple!

Pre-Reqs: Define Topic Areas To Give Relevance to Your Goals

Before we get started on your goals first begin by listing out a few high-level areas that are important. For example, if you’re goal setting for a project you might just have category – the project. If you’re setting personal new years goals you might have a few. I focus on: Family & Friends, Career Growth, BlueFletch/Less Meeting, and Personal Goals.

Then within each category write a single statement that describes why this category is important to you. This is your mission statement. A good practice is to also think about this both near term (1-3 years) and long term (5-10 years).

If I’m focusing on Personal Goals a vision statement might be “To continually grow and learn while keeping a balanced lifestyle that is both fun and challenging.”

Now, repeat the following three steps below for each topic, making sure that each step ties back to your topic and vision statement.

Step 1: Aspire

Time to let the creativity flow. Create aspirations that are strategic, subjective and unmeasurable

Brainstorm a long list of aspirations for each topic area. Then refine the list so you have a handful of the best for each topic area. One aspiration for my personal goals could be to “stay active and healthy”. Very unmeasurable but that’s 100% ok for this step.

Step 2: Achieve

Now we’ll start reigning it in.

For each aspiration identify some achievements that’ll give a rough indication whether you’ve met your aspirations. Goals for staying active and healthy might be to keep my weight below a target of 185 lbs or to run a 5k under 20 minutes.

Achievements are measurable, S.M.A.R.T., objective, binary, tactical-based, goals.

Step 3: Do

Finally, think about the activities that you’ll need to be doing to reach your goals.

List out the day-to-date activities that’ll put you on track to reach each of your goals from step 2. If your goal was to run a 5k under 21 minutes this year, then training 3-4 times a week is a good way to get there.

These include operational tasks, execution steps and habits and are typically time-based (e.g. Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual).

Putting It All Together

After you’re done you should be able to answer these three questions:

  1. What are my aspirations?
  2. What are some leading indicators that I can track to see if I’ve met my aspirations?
  3. And what are the things that I can do on a regular basis to set myself up for success?

Aspire Achieve Do Goals

When you’re done you’ll have a hierarchical list of items that look like this:

Topic: Personal Goals

Vision Statement: Continually grow and learn while keeping a balanced lifestyle that is both fun and challenging.

Aspire: Stay active and healthy

Achieve: Run a 5k under 21 minutes

Do: Train at least 3 times each week

Follow a Consistent Schedule to Track Your Goal Status

Remember, the theme here is to actually achieve our goals. Most goal and objective frameworks are great at helping you set your goals but leave you hanging when it comes to meeting those goals.

Start reviewing the list of time-based tasks, or your “Dos”, on a weekly basis. Keep track of the tasks that you’re doing (and not doing!). If you find that you’re consistently not doing one of your “Do” steps you’ll see that you’re putting its goal at risk. Instead of waiting until the end of the year to see that you didn’t reach your goal, you can correct things now.

You can do the same for your goals. Don’t wait until the end of the year to see if you met your goals. Periodically check up to see if you’re on track. Find yourself falling behind? Maybe you need to reevaluate the “Dos” you chose for your goal…or maybe you just need to see yourself slacking to get that extra kick in the butt.

What about you? How do you make sure you achieve your goals?

images via Juan Pablo Bravo and Hrag Chanchanian