In this post I will lay out the exact steps for better time management and productivity so you can crush your goals in 2020.
Are you hoping to manage your time better, be more productive, and finally kick some goal setting butt this next year?
If you’re like me, and most everyone else out there, another year goes by and we realize we just weren’t as productive as we set out to be throughout the year. But, believe it or not, you can have an amazing year. You can blow away every goal you set for yourself. And it doesn’t even require getting up at 4am every morning to do this.
Over the years I have learned some really amazing tips that help me improve my life and tackle my goals easily. I have big plans (see my 10-year goals page if you’re curious!) and in order to go after my dreams, I have to apply these very tips. I promise you, I’m not that special. I’m not superwoman, I don’t have special skills. But I have narrowed down the exact steps I need to take in order to get things done and achieve my goals.
So read on and I will list the exact steps I take, which are super easy and actionable, to be better at time management so that I can be more productive. Once you get the hang of it, it’s super easy to go after your dreams and finally start living your best life.
Steps to Improve Your Time Management and Productivity
Before I launch into all the steps, I have to tell you, time management starts with a plan. You can’t be productive and you can’t achieve your goals if you don’t have a plan in place. So keep this in mind. Every step is based off this one simple truth. You need a plan.
Step 1: Review your 2019
Think about how your last year has gone. What went well this year? Did work improve somehow? Are you earning more? Did you save more? Did you achieve any of the goals you set for yourself?
Now, think about what didn’t go so well. Did you fail to even set goals for this last year? Is there anything you wish you had focused on but didn’t? What could have been better?
Not sure where to start? It’s true, goal setting isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming and time consuming. Which is why I created a free pdf workbook to get you started…..
Step 2: Brainstorm your top goals for 2020
After thinking about this last year, and what could have been better, brainstorm what you want to accomplish this next year. This will help you develop your top goals for 2020.
As you work through this process, be as specific as possible. For instance, if you feel like you just weren’t as healthy as you wanted to be last year, and you want to change this for next year, you could say something like “I want to live a healthier life in 2020”. This is a great statement and where you need to start. But written this way, it’s just a wish.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A goal needs to be specific enough to act upon. Ask yourself how you will live a healthier life. You could expand this to include:
- I want to add exercise to my daily routine. I will walk 10,000 steps every day.
- I will track my calories every day for 90 days.
- I will eat healthier by cooking at home at least 6 days a week and packing my own lunch at least 4 days a week.
Each of these allows you to take action which can be tracked and measured.
Step 3: Set your long term goals
Look even further ahead, 5-10 years, and think about the life you dream of. What do you want to accomplish 5 years from now? Do you want to be earning an extra $50,000 a year? Do you want to buy your dream home? Or, maybe you want to quit your job and work from home? Do you dream of completing a triathlon?
If you could dream up your ideal life 5 years from now, what would it look like? How about 10 years from now? Would you dream even bigger? Do you want to retire or move overseas? Be home with the kids?
Write out some aspects of what your life should look like in the future. Then, write them in the form of measurable and specific goals.
Now, think about what you need to accomplish this year to be on track to achieve your long term goals. These are the things you need to focus on in 2020. Do they align with the goals you wrote earlier? If not, review the goals your wrote down in step 2. Do you still feel that they are important to your next year and your future? If so, keep them.
For how-to reading on setting your 10-Year goals, read 10-Year Goals: Why You Need Them Today.
Step 4: Write down your final list of goals for 2020
Using the list of goals you brainstormed in steps 2 and 3, write down the full list of goals you created. Put them in order, with goal #1 being your most important goal.
The top 5 goals that you wrote down will be the main goals that you focus on. You can include more, but to get started, go with your top 5.
Pro tip: I like to list my goals by category: Life goals, career goals, family goals, health goals, personal goals, financial goals, etc. Then, I pick my top goal from each category. This way I’m focusing on improving all aspects of my life.
Step 5: Make sure they are specific
I know I already said this, but, it bears repeating. Make sure each goal you wrote down is very specific and detailed. You need to be able to track and measure your progress and know where you are on your path to goal success. If it isn’t specific, it’s just a wish.
Step 6: Think about why these goals are important to you
Why are your goals important to you? Take some time (don’t skimp on this step!) to think about what your life will be like after you achieve this goal. What does it mean to you to succeed? How will your life be better?
This is a really important step for maintaining motivation. You may feel like you want to lose five pounds right now, simply because your favorite jeans are feeling a little tight. But, when you are tired after a long day at work and just don’t feel up to squeezing that evening workout in, do you have reason enough to do it anyway? Probably not.
However, if your reason for losing five pounds is life changing for you, you’ll be more likely to push through the difficult days. For example, perhaps you feel more comfortable in your own skin when you are at your optimal weight. Or, maybe you run faster and enjoy daily activities, keep up with the kids and participate in play time without feeling tired, and your blood pressure is lower when you are at a better weight. These are all life-changing reasons to lose those extra pounds.
These are the reasons you will make the time to work on your goal.
Step 7: Break your yearly goals down into smaller steps
What are the steps necessary to actually accomplish your 1-year goal?
For example: Your goal is to save $2,000 for a trip to Europe next year.
What are the steps to achieve this? I like to call these the “mini-goals” which make up the larger goal.
- Track your finances so that you understand where your money is going
- Evaluate your spending by category and determine how you will cut back on spending to save more money
- Create a budget so that you can stay on track
- Set up a savings account so you can keep your travel fund separate from other accounts
- Sell some things around the house so you can save even more money
Now that you have an idea of what steps you need to take in order to reach your goal, think about what action you can take this month to get started.
For example: To get started on your goal to save $2,000 for a trip to Europe next year, you can set the smaller, actionable, mini-goal to track your finances over the next month.
Step 8: Break down those monthly goals into weekly goals
Now that you know what you need to do over the next month to make progress on your goal, start breaking it down even further. What do you need to accomplish this week to meet your monthly mini-goal?
For example: To begin tracking your finances over the next month, you will need to decide what method you will use to track your finances. Will you use an excel spreadsheet? If so, you need to create one. Or, will you use a phone app so that you can access it anytime? You’ll need to research your options and subscribe to the app service before you can get started.
Step 9: Break them down into daily goals
I like to call this step “goal setting to the now”. Because, it just so happens that we live in the now. We may reflect on yesterday and plan for tomorrow, but we are living right now. So what can you be doing right now that will help you on your way to reaching your yearly goals?
Make a list of individual actions you can take every day to work towards reaching your goal.
Step 10: Make a task list of what you need to focus on
From the list you just created, establish a “master task list” of action steps you need to focus on.
For example: Using the same goal above to save $2,000, here is a list of individual steps you need to take over the next week:
- Research methods of tracking your finances
- Determine which method best suits your preferences
- Set up your method of income and expense tracking, ie, create or download your spreadsheet, establish your online banking tracking features or sign up for an app like Mint to use on your phone
- Research how to track your finances
- Determine income and expense categories that you most commonly use
- Set everything up to start recording individual expenses
If saving more money is one of you goals, check out the FREE Resource Library to download expense tracking, budgeting, debt payoff and goal setting printables and worksheets. Learn how to gain access to the library below.
Step 11: Schedule time every day to work on your goals
Now that you know what you need to do, you need to schedule in the time to actually do it. Every day! Even if it only takes 2 minutes to quickly check off your daily mini-goal action steps, determine ahead of time when you will do it, put it down on your calendar, and then actually do it when it’s time.
This may seem silly in some cases. But this is how you will ensure that you have the time, every day, to do what is most important to you and that puts you on the path to success.
If you break every 1-year goal that you have down into small and actionable mini-goals, each of which can be accomplished in your daily schedule, you absolutely will achieve your goal. There’s no way you couldn’t! Think about that for a moment. All you need to do is plan out each step, schedule it in, and then do that step. One at a time, you will work your way through all of them. Until, at some point during the year, you will have accomplished your goal.
Step 12: Use a Goal Setting Planner
Just how are you going to keep track of all your goals and what you need to do each month, week and day to check off your mini-goals? Use a dedicated planner just for this. Some call it a success planner because it is a daily planner that you can use to achieve actual success.
There are plenty of other names that a goal or success planner goes by. I’ve seen names such as a goal setting journal, productivity calendar, intention journal, yearly day planner, etc.
Regardless of what you use or what you call it, when you have a goal planner that you can carry around with you, you will be reminded, every single day, what you need to focus on. You will remember how important it is to you that you systematically check off each little daily mini-goal and you will have a record of your progress. You also have a written plan to get where you want to go.
Learn exactly why a goal setting planner is so important and how you can create one at How to Use a Goal Setting Planner to Unlock Success.
Because I truly believe that there is a right and a wrong way to go about goal setting (don’t believe me? See this post on the real science behind goal setting!), I’ve created a planner that hones in on all the things you can do to set and achieve your long and short-term goals. So if you finished off 2019 right where you left off at the end of 2018 and you’re ready to finally start making some progress in your life, check it out here.
Step 13: Use it every day
Our life is built upon our daily habits. About half of everything we do throughout the day is done out of habit. So, if you want a better life this year, you want to better manage your time and embrace success, you need to form new habits.
The above steps are setting you up to do just this. Make one of your goals the commitment to write down your monthly, weekly and daily goals, then use your goal setting planner every single day so that you ensure your own success.
Once you start seeing how much more productive you are and how much easier it is to accomplish the goals you set for yourself, you won’t want to put your goal planner down!
Step 14: Start a new habit by giving yourself 5 minutes every morning to write in your goal setting planner
Steps 1-9 might take you some time. Luckily, they are really fun to work on. You’re dreaming about your ideal life and all the amazing things you want to accomplish in the next 1-10 years.
Once you break your long-term goals into your 1-year goals, then your 1-year goals into the more manageable and actionable mini-goals, you don’t need to invest a ton of time to work on them. You just need to schedule in your daily tasks from step 10.
Every morning you will review your monthly and weekly goals, then write out what you need to do today in order to make progress toward each of your goals. This could be a simple checklist, a journal entry, or exact time slots in your daily schedule.
Step 15: Review your planner every night
Part of making progress is reviewing what went well, and what went wrong. Every night, review the tasks you set for yourself that day and then reflect on how your day went. Did you miss anything? Did you need more time than you thought? Do you feel like you are on track to achieve your goals?
Next, think about what you need to accomplish over the next day. This will leave you feeling prepared and ready to take on the day when you wake up in the morning. The more ready you feel for the day, the more motivated you will be and therefore, the more productive you will be overall.
Step 16: By listing the top priority tasks for the day, and scheduling when you will do them, you will get more done
This isn’t so much a step as it is a reminder that there is a reason you are going through these steps. So, keep in mind why you are setting your 1-year, 5-year and even your 10-year goals. Take some time to imagine how your life with be once you achieve them. Then, trust in the process of taking daily action.
Again, if you take the necessary steps every single day to achieve your goals, you will achieve success. And if you know what it is you need to do every single day, you will experience better time management throughout your day, week and month and you will be more productive.
Remember: Make the commitment to review your list every day. If you miss a day, go back and schedule time for this. Review your goals and why they are important to you. Make the time to work on your goals and keep in mind what will change once you accomplish them.
Step 17: Reward progress
As you go through this process, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. Here are some methods I use to stay motivated to continue making progress:
- My goals are broken down into small steps. Some steps are just a few tasks, others are much larger and take up to a month to complete. I don’t break any steps down into longer timeframes than a month.
- When I complete a big milestone step, I celebrate it. This can be anything from going to a movie, scheduling in some rest and relaxation time, going for a hike or having a friend over for some wine and snacks.
- Tasks that are difficult, require focus or are time consuming go up on my white board wall. This board is easily seen from the kitchen, dining room and office space. I write down each step with a big checkbox in front. This way I can see my progress front and center and be reminded that these are my top-priority tasks for the week. The simple act of “publicly” checking off my tasks is super rewarding and motivating.
Step 18: Establish accountability
The science of goal setting has demonstrated time and time again that you are more likely to achieve your goals when you feel accountable.
Whether that is a boss that is relying on you to complete a project or a friend that calls you up once a week to check in on whether you worked out or not, having someone in your life to hold you accountable improves your chances of achieving your goals.
So don’t just tell people about your goals. Ask a friend to check in and hold you accountable. Tell them it’s okay if they express disappointment if you didn’t follow through on your commitments!
Even better, find people with similar goals and set up an accountability / mastermind group. Check in once a week and review progress made over the last week. Then, discuss plans for the upcoming week, including your action commitments. Better
This next year really can be the year that you stay on top of your goals. By better managing your time (which starts with having a plan and knowing what you need to be doing every day!) you can and will be more productive. When you are at your most productive, you can achieve your goals with ease.
This only takes one new habit, morning and evening. In the mornings, write out and schedule your top tasks that you need to accomplish for the day. Then, review how your day went in the evening and map out what you need to focus on tomorrow.
Start with writing out the specific short and long-term goals that are meaningful to you. Break them down into smaller “mini-goals”. Use those smaller goals to determine what tasks you need to work on today. Schedule those tasks into your day. Review how the day went in the evening and prepare your list of important tasks that you need to accomplish tomorrow. Each small task brings you one step closer to achieving the goals that are meaningful to you.
This is how you live your very best life by going after your dreams and making them your reality. So don’t hold back. This is your year to make it happen!
- Review 2019
- Write out all your goals for 2020
- Set your long-term goals
- Write down your final list of 2020 goals
- Re-write them to be specific
- Define why each goal is important
- Break each goal into mini-goals
- Continue to break each mini-goal into a weekly goal
- Goal set to the now – Break each weekly goal into daily tasks
- Establish your master task list
- Schedule time every day to work on your tasks
- Buy or create a goal planner
- Use it every day
- Take 5 minutes every morning to review your goals and daily tasks
- Take 5 minutes every evening to review your day and schedule tomorrow’s tasks
- Remember: if you take the necessary steps every single day to achieve your goals, you will achieve success
- Reward your progress
- Find an accountability partner
*Updated for 2020