My husband looked at me like I had grown a second head when I asked him if he wanted some paper to document his goals.
“No way,” he said. “If I write them down, I’ll be expected to actually accomplish them.”
My point exactly! My husband was surprised to see my typed list of priorities, long-term goals and short-term tasks. He was unaware that I went to such lengths to stay on track, pointing to his head and saying his priorities were “all up here.”
Remembering priorities and goals may work for some, but most agree that a key to success is thinking on paper. I subscribe to this method. I need to see my goals written down and be reminded to keep my priorities straight. It’s also rewarding to cross a goal off of the list.
Here’s how my process works:
1. List your life priorities
This means being really honest with yourself. What are the things most important to you?
I list my life priorities as a Roman numeral outline in order of importance. I revise them annually if necessary, although my major priorities don’t really change. Mine are:
I. Faith/Life (God and my physical/mental health)
II. My “Little” Family (husband and children)
III. My “Big” Family (family and friends)
IV. Learning (research)
V. Teaching (coursework, advising and citizenship)
2. List your overall, long-term goals
Once you have your priorities, think about what success in each of these areas looks like. For example, one of my long-term goals under my “learning” priority is to complete my Ph.D. I take steps each year toward accomplishing that goal.
3. Write objectives to meet those goals
Objectives are specific things you must do to achieve your goals. I set objectives for the year, writing the success-oriented statements in objective form, making them as specific as possible.
Remember that objectives should be:
- Written in “to verb” form,
- Be Measurable and
- Be time bound
Writing objectives in this manner helps make them attainable goals instead of lofty ideas that you won’t know if you’ve achieved.
For example, one of my learning objectives this year is: To complete and defend my dissertation by May 2012.
The No. 1 reason people are more productive, accomplished and happy is that they have clear goals and objectives and they don’t deviate from them, according to Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.
4. Create short-term goals or subtasks
Once you have written your objectives, you need to brainstorm each subtask that must occur to meet the objective.
I break these tasks down by month by asking, What can I do this month to fulfill my goal?
Once I segment the tasks by month, I break them down week-by-week, making sure to do something each week (if not each day) toward accomplishing the goal. This prioritized task list then guides my day-to-day activities.
5. Revisit/refocus your goals
It’s ok to stumble. In fact, I almost guarantee that life will result in you getting off track on your priority list. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, revisit your goals, updating your timeline if necessary to get you back on track. I find it most helpful to review my goals daily. By doing this, I stay more focused on what’s most important and spend less time making major adjustments.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
What did I forget? How do you stay on track with meeting your goals? Is there a better or simpler method?
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Here are some additional goal-related posts you may find helpful:
- Six Simple Factors for Successful Goal Setting
- 10 Ways to Make Sure You Fail to Hit Your Goals
- 7 Effective Ways to Achieve Goals
- 13 Tips for Time Management