Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.Pablo Picasso
Big goals are tough to achieve. It’s hard to stay motivated and make the daily, weekly and monthly changes and habits necessary to make progress. So if you feel like you just can’t stick with a goal long enough to make headway, you aren’t alone.
If you believe the goal setting statistics published by the University of Scranton, only 8% of American’s actually set and achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. While I don’t really trust the validity of this, it does suggest that the great majority of people fail to set goals, let alone achieve them.
According to Locke & Latham, the Godfathers of Goal Setting Theory, people that set goals the right way are 90% more likely to achieve them. And one of the best tools for doing this is to use a goal setting planner.
This post will outline why using a goal planner can help you achieve your goals, key components of a great goal planner, how to create your own, and, for those that don’t want to DIY their own planner, some resources to find the right goal planner for your needs.
Contents and Quick Links
- 1 The importance of using a goal setting planner
- 2 What is the best goal planner?
- 3 What are the steps to goal setting and achieving?
- 4 How to set a long-term, challenging goal
- 5 How to write a goal plan
- 6 How do you create a goal setting planner?
- 7 How to organize a goal setting planner
- 8 Additional tips to use your goal setting planner to achieve your goals
The importance of using a goal setting planner
As mentioned above, people that set goals the right way are 90% more likely to achieve them. But what is the right way?
Goal Setting Theory states that a goal should be both challenging and specific. That covers defining your goal. But then what? How do you stay on track?
Locke & Latham further outline 5 key principles for goal setting success. They are:
- Goal commitment
- Goal importance
- Task complexity
Using a goal planner to clarify goal commitment and importance
Each of these principles is outlined in The Science of Goal Setting: How to Set Achievable Goals. They contribute to your ability to achieve a goal. And they are all made easier by utilizing a goal planner.
A goal planner requires you to very clearly state what your goal is and why it is important to you. This establishes goal importance.
Furthermore, as you review your goal every day and outline the tasks necessary to make progress, you solidify that goal’s importance.
Using a planner to build self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is your belief and confidence that you have the ability to achieve your goal. Again, by using a planner, you clearly map out the steps you will take and how you will make progress, outlining exactly what you will do to achieve your goal. Once you know what it will take, you increase your confidence that success is possible.
Using a planner to track progress
Feedback is the natural consequence of using a planner, so long as you continue to make entries and check off tasks, you are able to track your progress and understand what is working, and what isn’t.
Using a goal planner to break down large goals into subgoals
Finally, task complexity and difficulty is an important component of successful goal setting. A planner is the ideal way to break a large goal or task down into smaller sub-goal components and outline what is necessary to achieve each one. For example, if you don’t currently have the necessary skills to achieve a larger task, you can map out the smaller steps necessary to learn the skills you need. Your planner will help you break down each larger step into the smaller steps you can tackle each day.
A goal planner to combine it all together
A goal planner will allow you to utilize each of these 5 principles of successful goal setting. Without it, you are less likely to remain organized, achieve clarity, track progress and receive feedback, or maintain motivation to continue making progress on difficult tasks.
What is the best goal planner?
The single best goal planner is the one you use.
Honestly, this could be as simple as a task sheet that you place on your refrigerator every week. It could be a blank notebook utilized for evening journaling. It could be an app on your phone.
However, there are a lot of steps involved and the best goal planner will make each one easy for you to review and track.
To outline each of these steps, it helps to first review the steps necessary to successful goal setting.
What are the steps to goal setting and achieving?
According to Goal Theory, the steps of setting and achieving goals are:
(Use image of goal workflow or create new)
- Set a specific and challenging goal
- Break your goal down into smaller sub-goals and tasks
- Take action
- Action leads to motivation to continue making progress
- Track progress
- As you make progress, motivation and self-efficacy (the belief and confidence that you can achieve your goals) improves
- Which leads to the motivation to set new and more challenging goals
- Which further develops confidence, motivation and progress
Read more about these steps in The Science of Goal Setting: How to Set Achievable Goals.
How to set a long-term, challenging goal
Sometimes the process of setting a challenging goal is confusing or overwhelming. You may wonder where to even start or just how challenging your goal should be. If you aren’t sure where to start, try looking ahead 10 years and brainstorming what you wish your life to be down the road. This is your Big Vision, which leads to your 10-Year Goals.
The process of setting long-term, challenging goals will be:
- Brainstorm your Big Vision, or where you want to be 10 years from now. Review what you want to have accomplished 10 years down the road.
- Using your Big Vision, define goals you need to achieve in the next 10 years to make your Big Vision a reality.
- Break down your 10-Year Goals into the goals you need to achieve in the next 5 years such that you are on track to achieve the Big Vision.
- Break these goals down again into goals you need to achieve in the next year.
- Use your yearly goals to define 90-Day Goals that will move your forward to make progress on your long-term goals.
These steps to defining your Stepping Stone Goals, which outline the path you can take to achieve your Big Vision. The steps to define your goals are outlined in the following posts:
How to write a goal plan
In order to tackle a challenging goal, you need a plan. The basics steps to write a goal plan are:
- Clearly define a challenging goal. It should take the form of an xyz goal, meaning you will go from point x to point y by time z.
- Break the goal down into sub-goals which can be achieved within 90 days
- Define no more than three 90-Day Goals to focus on
- Use a goal setting planner to define each 90-Day Goal and the habits necessary to develop and track over the next 90 days in order to make progress
- Break each 90-Day Goal into monthly sub-goals
- Break monthly goals down into weekly tasks
- Schedule daily tasks based on weekly tasks that need to be accomplished
- Revisit your goals and why they are important every single day
- Track your progress
How do you create a goal setting planner?
The ideal goal setting planner will include the bare minimum components:
- A place to define up to three 90-Day Goals
- Space to rewrite and revisit these goals every day
- A breakdown of the habits you will need to develop and track
- Monthly, weekly and daily task planning
- A method of tracking progress
In addition, it’s nice to include the following options:
- A place to journal and develop both long and short-term goals
- An outline of long-term goals and how to break them down into sub-goals
- A list of 1-years goals to work towards
- Habit consistency and tracking
- A goalcard to increase motivation and track progress
- Gratitude journaling which leads to a goal-setting mindset and motivation
- Frequent reminders of why your goals are important
How to organize a goal setting planner
So far we’ve covered why it is important to use a goal setting planner, how to define achievable goals and what components a good goal planner will include. Now it’s time to get practical. How do you organize and effectively use your planner?
Tips to use a goal setting planner effectively
Remember, the best goal planner is the one that you actually use. Here are some tips to build the habit of tracking your goals and your progress using a goal planner:
Set the goal to use your planner
Define your first goal as “I will use a goal planner to successfully define and track my goals for the next 90 days.” Notice that this is an xyz goal; you will go from not using a planner to using one every day and you will accomplish this in 90 days.
Create a track the right habits
Create habits which can be tracked every day. An example is the habit of reviewing your 90-Day goal and the tasks you have scheduled for the day every morning right before breakfast. Then create the habit of reviewing your day, including what went well and what didn’t, every evening before bedtime. Track your consistency with these new habits.
Make your planner easily accessible
The ideal planner will be appealing to you and easily transported or accessible for when you need it. Planners come in many sizes and colors or you can create the version that is perfect for your needs.
I do find that while there are online productivity apps available, old-fashioned pen and paper still work the best. There is something about handwriting goals which solidifies them and keeps them focused and important. I also find it easiest to track progress and reflect back on what I have done already to determine what is working well and what isn’t.
Review your why
To be successful and go to the trouble of setting new habits, your goal has to be important to you. While this should be included in your goal planner, if you have trouble remembering to use it, take some time to review your goals and exactly what they mean to you.
What will be different and how will your life improve once you achieve your goals? Are they important enough to you to make time in your busy day to use your planner and complete your scheduled daily tasks?
If the answer is no, you will need to review and adjust your goals to be more meaningful.
How to organize your life and your time for goal success
In the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, the authors describe daily life as the “whirlwind”. If you want to achieve your goals, they have to be so important that you create the time to work on them. Our lives are already full to capacity. The whirlwind already takes up our entire day. Therefore, a goal has to be so meaningful that you disrupt the whirlwind in order to make the extra time.
The first step to goal success is to ensure that your goal is so important that you are willing to make the time to achieve it.
A goal setting planner is the tool you use to organize your life and make the time for goal success. By breaking down your large goals into weekly and daily tasks, then scheduling them into your day, you set yourself up for goal success.
Action Step: If you like to geek out on goal setting as much as I do, I highly recommend the 4DX book on achieving your wildly important goals. Especially fitting for managers, the tools and techniques covered are applicable to personal goals as well.
Additional tips to use your goal setting planner to achieve your goals
If you still need some additional motivation to use your planner and achieve your goals, here are some additional tips to make it easier:
- Focus on what you are grateful for every day. This leads to increased happiness, energy and motivation to take action on your goals
- Make it a game. Not just any game, a game that you can win and that you know at anytime whether you are winning or losing
- Be active – make a point to get some form of physical activity every day and treat yourself well with healthy food, water and sleep.
- Find an accountability partner to help you stay on track. If you are the only one overseeing your progress, it’s easy to make excuses. It’s much harder however to tell someone else that you were so busy watching Netflix that you didn’t complete that 5 minute task you had scheduled.