Contents and Quick Links
- 1 What is a goal tree?
- 2 The steps to set and achieve your goals
- 3 How to break down goals into manageable sizes
- 4 Using a goal tree to visualize your goals
- 5 What does a goal tree look like?
- 6 How to create a goal tree on the computer
- 7 Get creative with your goal tree
- 8 How to create a goal tree for your long-term goals
- 9 How to create a 10-Year Goals goal tree
- 10 Long-term, 10-Year Goal Tree template
- 11 How to create a goal tree for your short-term goals
- 12 Short-term, 90-Day Goal Tree template
- 13 Personal goal tree example
- 14 Long-term financial goal tree example
- 15 Short-term financial goal tree example
- 16 Goal tree template download
- 17 Recap
What is a goal tree?
A goal tree is a form of mind mapping that helps to visually break down a large goal into smaller sub-goals that must be achieved first.
A large goal is sequentially broken down into smaller and smaller sub-goals, until the weekly and daily tasks are revealed. In this way, a very large and challenging goal can be clearly visualized and motivation can be maintained as you work your way closer and closer to the main goal.
Want to jump right in and create your new goal tree right away? Just download the Big Vision Goal Tree and 90-Day Goal Tree templates seen below to get started now.
The steps to set and achieve your goals
According to goal theory, there are two main components to successful goal setting. First, a goal needs to be clearly defined. Secondly, it should be challenging to achieve.
A clearly defined goal takes on the form of an “xyz goal”. You will go from point x, to point y, within time z. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, a clearly defined weight loss goal might be:
“I will lose 5 pounds within the next month.”
Or more specifically, “I will go from a weight of 180 pounds to 175 pounds within 30 days.
However, the second component is that this goal needs to be challenging. A weight loss of 5 pounds isn’t likely to take a lot of effort. In fact, it’s probably something that has already been accomplished a few times over, only to be regained again.
The goal needs to be more challenging.
A rewritten goal, more likely to be achieved, would be:
“I will lose 25 pounds within 4 months.”
This is more difficult to achieve, requires new habits and daily routines, and must be broken down into smaller, easily achievable sub-goals. Instead of just losing 5 pounds, you need to achieve the sub-goal of losing 5 pounds, then continue on to achieve your next sub-goal of another 5 pounds.
In this way, you goal is more likely to be achieved because it takes continued effort and attention over time.
Visit How to Achieve Your Dreams by Setting Stepping Stone Goals to learn more about the process of setting and achieving your goals.
For more on Goal Setting Theory, visit The Science of Goal Setting : How to Set Achievable Goals
How to break down goals into manageable sizes
A bigger, challenging goal can’t be achieved right away. Which is why it is helpful to break it down into smaller chunks. As you achieve these smaller sub-goals, you can celebrate each small success and know that you are making progress to achieve the larger goal.
This is the key to staying motivated to keep working on your goals, even when they feel like a stretch and will take a long time to achieve.
Goals can be broken down into smaller steps in a number of ways. You can write them down, you can use a goal setting planner, or, if you are a visual person, you can clearly define each of your sub-goals by creating a goal tree.
Using a goal tree to visualize your goals
In How to Define Your 10-Year Goals and Live Your Best Life, I review the process of setting a really big, seemingly unachievable, dream goal, then breaking it down into what you need to accomplish over the next 1 year, 5 years and 10 years, in order to achieve success.
The process of breaking down a large goal into the smaller sub-goals necessary for success can be quite intimidating and overwhelming. It’s hard to know what the right goal is, let alone what short-term goals you need to achieve along the way.
This is why using a goal tree can be very insightful and helpful.
Just like mind mapping, creating a goal tree can be a creative process to hone in on what you want to achieve and what small steps you can take to get there. This visual representation can be posted on the wall over your desk or kept in some other prominent place and act as an easy reminder of what you want to achieve and what tasks you can focus on now, in order to get there.
What does a goal tree look like?
A goal tree is a specific type of mind mapping for goal setting. It is a linear hirearchy mind map that takes a large goal and breaks it down into sequentially smaller sub-goals. What this looks like is up to the creator.
A goal tree can be a hand drawn sketch or it can be more organized on the computer using a mind mapping software.
How to create a goal tree on the computer
There are a number of different programs that help you create mind maps and other hierarchy diagrams. I’ve used both Microsoft Word and a Google Document add-on called LucidCharts Diagrams.
How to create a goal tree using Microsoft Word
- Open a new blank document
- Click on Insert → SmartArt
- Choose Hierarchy
- Pick the first Organization Chart
- Begin to enter text in bullet format, with the top of your tree as first bullet point and subsequent sub-goals indented
- Add sub-goals under your main goal
- Add additional short-term goals under each sub-goal
- Continue to add sub-goals, breaking them down until you have weekly and daily tasks which will help you complete each short-term goal.
- Lastly, format your goal tree, adding color and transparency to best visualize the break down of each goal.
- Add a title, change the page format to portrait, print and keep in a prominent location so you can revisit your goal tree every day.
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How to create a goal tree using Google LucidChart Diagrams
- Open a new Google doc
- Under Add-ons, choose “Get add-ons”
- Search for Lucidchart Diagrams and install
- Refresh your Google doc if your new add-on doesn’t show up yet
- In your new Google doc, select Add-ops →Lucidchart Diagrams→Insert Diagram
- A new Lucidchart tab will appear in your browser window, this is where you will create your diagram
- The free version will allow you to save 3 diagrams and you will be limited in the number of tools you can use for each diagram. However, the free version works well enough for your basic goal trees.
- Click on the “+ New Document” button within your home screen dashboard
- You can start with a template or create your own with a blank document. I find it easiest to simply create your own.
- This program is the easiest to use and allows for the most versatility and creativity, simply pick a tool or image from the left side menu then drag and drop it to your document
- Add squares, rectangles or any other shape to your document, then build your tree
- Shapes have a text box inside, simply double click the “text” and type in what you want
- Add arrows to connect your large goals down to your sub-goals
- Add formatting to color code your tree
- Add a text box to the top of the page to add a title
- Print and keep in a prominent location so you can revisit your goal tree every day
Get creative with your goal tree
The best goal tree is the one that actually sparks some motivation and makes you want to start working on your goals.
Keep in mind that your goal tree will be unique to you. Whether it progresses down the page or across the page doesn’t matter.
It can be hand drawn and sloppy or computer generated and perfectly color coded.
Arrows can run down the page in a linear fashion or they can link up and connect different goals and tasks together. There aren’t any exact rules to follow. The following steps to create your own goal tree are here as a suggestion on how to get started.
How to create a goal tree for your long-term goals
Mapping out a goal tree is particularly useful for defining and breaking down your long-term goals. As you start the process, you may find that it’s surprisingly difficult to define the sub-goals that need to be completed before you can achieve your bigger goal.
And since setting a challenging goal is essential to goal setting success, it’s very important to define those smaller goals.
Here are some steps to follow if you have a hard time breaking down your long-term goal.
- Write your Big Vision Goal.
- Think about what this goal means to you. What will it look like to achieve this goal? What needs to happen in order to realize this goal?
- Each event that needs to happen in order to achieve your Big Vision Goal can be written as individual goals. These will likely still be long-term goals that are difficult to achieve.
- Write your Big Vision Goal at the top of the page.
- Add each of the goals that need to happen in order to achieve your Big Vision Goal underneath.
- Under each of these goals, write down 1-2 goals that need to be accomplished in order to achieve it.
- Continue this process, adding sub-goals that are broken down into shorter-term goals as you go.
- You know you have reached the end of your “branch” when you have listed a goal that can be accomplished in 90 days or less.
- Stop here and use this long-term goal tree to visualize the steps to achieve your Big Vision Goal.
- Create a new short-term goal tree to break down each of your 90-Day goals.
How to create a 10-Year Goals goal tree
In How to Define Your 10-Year Goals and Live Your Best Life and Stepping Stones to Goal Setting, I emphasize the importance of setting a Big Vision Goal, then breaking it down into 10-Year, 5-Year, 1-Year and finally, 90-Day goals. This is just another way to clearly define your long-term goals.
A goal tree can be a great way to visualize this break down.
- Write your Big Vision Goal at the top of the page.
- Under your Big Vision Goal, list 5 goals that you want to achieve within 10 years which will help you realize your Big Vision Goal.
- These are your 10-Year Goals.
- Under each 10-Year goal, list one goal that you need to achieve within 5 years in order to make progress on your 10-Year goal.
- These are your 5-Year Goals.
- Under each 5-Year Goal, list one goal that you need to achieve within the next year in order to be on target to achieve your 5-Year Goal.
- These are your 1-Year Goals.
- Review your 1-Year Goals and list 1-3 goals that you need to work on over the next 90 days in order to be on target to achieve your 1-Year Goals.
- These are your 90-Day Goals that you will focus on achieving right now.
Note: I never use the term Quarterly to represent my 90-Day Goals. While your 1-Year Goals can be broken down into the quarterly goals you need to focus on throughout the year, it constrains you to follow a calendar month. As soon as you constrain yourself to the beginning of a month or week, you allow yourself to wait until the time is right. Goal setting is not confined to calendar just as New Year’s Resolutions don’t need to be put off until the start of January. The best time to start focusing on your goals in now.
Long-term, 10-Year Goal Tree template
How to create a goal tree for your short-term goals
While it’s best to start with a long-term goal and break it down into its short-term goal components, what do you do once you set your 90-Day goals?
It’s time to break them down further.
Note: This process works the same for a stand alone short-term goal. Not all goals are components of a much larger goal. However, every larger goal should be broken down into short-term goal components.
- In creating your long-term goal tree, you ended with 1-3 90-Day Goals. Each 90-Day goal will have it’s own goal tree.
- List 3-5 sub-goals that need to be achieved before you complete you 90-Day Goal. The easiest breakdown is to make each of these a 1-Month Goal.
- Under each sub-goal, list a weekly goal that will help you accomplish the sub-goal.
- For each weekly goal, list at least one daily task that you can do now, in order to achieve the weekly goal.
You now have a list of daily tasks that you can focus on now, which will help you achieve you main 90-Day Goal.
Use your 90-Day Goal tree to quickly reference what you need to accomplish each day. Your tree will be edited and added to as you progress through the month. You will need to recreate your goal tree as you accomplish your sub-goals under the 90-Day Goal umbrella.
Short-term, 90-Day Goal Tree template
Personal goal tree example
Goal tree templates are guides to help you create your own unique version. However, sometimes it’s helpful to work through an example. Here is an example of a goal tree for a short-term personal goal.
In this personal example, the main goal is to lose 30 pounds. This can be broken down into three main sub-goals.
- Improve diet
- Exercise more
- Track calories and progress
Each of these sub-goals can be broken down further into the smaller goals that need to be accomplished for the sub-goal to be achievable.
These are further broken down into actionable steps that can be taken first.
Long-term financial goal tree example
Here is a goal tree example for setting a long-term financial goal of achieving financial independence. This happens to be the goal tree I created for one of my personal Big Vision Goals.
Notice that I’ve switched the direction of the arrows so that I’m starting with my current 90-Day Goals and following the process of connecting my short-term goals to the long-term goals they help me achieve.
My 1-Year Goal of maintaining a savings rate of greater than 40% ties into my 5-Year Goals to build up a travel fund and save money to purchase a family vacation home.
My 1-Year Goal to increase my blogging income to break even ties into my 5-Year Goals to build a second business and increase my blogging income to a full-time income. Once it reaches a full-time income, I will be able to leave my W2 job and spend time on another business.
Short-term financial goal tree example
Goal tree template download
You can instantly download a free goal tree pdf template and Microsoft Word template by using the form below.
Research demonstrates that writing down your goals increases your chances of achieving them. Using a goal tree is a great way to clearly define your goals and break them down into smaller, achievable steps that will help you succeed.
Using a goal tree, you can visualize the path you need to take and every small goal that needs to be achieved along the journey.
Whether you do this on paper or create one using computer software, your goal tree will help take action today so you can achieve your most challenging goals.