Goal Setting Tips: 7 Simple Steps

By Guest Author, Susan Grumme Wilson and Pamela John Fitness, Athlete

A few days have passed since January 1, the traditional date to start working toward New Year’s Resolutions and their corresponding goals. But I believe it’s never too late (or too early) to establish your personal goals.

Here are seven goal setting tips to practical and effective goal setting:

  1. Set up
    1. Time: Carve out adequate time for yourself. Hint: more than you think you’ll need – It’s better to finish early and have time for something else, than to feel rushed or not finish and have to restart.
    2. Space: Identify a good environment for processing. You’ll likely need to have solitude, but consider if your brain works better with silence, white noise, motivating heavy metal music, or whatever! How much space do you need? A small closet? A cozy sofa? A table at the local coffee house? A nook in the local library (do they still have libraries?)? Think about a place that will allow your creativity to flow. A space that will inspire you to think freely.
    3. Tools: What’s your most efficient and effective way of documenting?  Do you love paper and a blank notebook? Perhaps you’re a “techie” who already has a cool app to catalog thoughts and ideas. Or maybe what works for you is a canvas, paint brush and palette. Whichever tools you use, this becomes your “System”.
  2. Brain dump
    1. Get everything out of your mind and into your System. This means everything – from the very next non-negotiable on your to do list to your biggest, most outrageous “someday/maybe” dreams. 
    2. Remember, list these things without prejudice. Don’t judge your thoughts. If it’s in your brain, it is important, and it goes into your System. Knowing it has been incorporated into your System will give you confidence that you won’t forget “the thing” and you will process it later. This frees space for more/other “things” to surface, so the process can be repeated.
    3. During your brain dump, use these categories as prompts. What do you want (or need) to change in these areas? (Note: there is no minimum or maximum for any one of these categories, and you may have more/different categories.)
      1. Mind
      2. Body
      3. Spirit
      4. Career
      5. Financial
      6. Relationships
      7. Personal growth/extracurricular time
    4. Keep repeating until everything is in your System.
  1. Identify
    1. For each item you have listed, identify whether it is a goal. By definition, a goal has a desired outcome. 
    2. If an item can be tied to a desired outcome, mark it as a goal (or move it to a new place where only goals are listed).
    3. If an item is not a goal, that’s ok. Keep it in your System to evaluate and determine action (or inaction/purging) at a later time.
  2. Validate
    1. Determine whether each goal meets the SMART criteria, as follows:
      1. Specific
      2. Measurable 
      3. Achievable
      4. Relevant
      5. Time-specific
    2. Let’s look at an example. I am currently reading something random about once a week, but never scheduled or tracked. Assume the goal is “to read more”. This doesn’t meet the SMART criteria. Here’s how we can adapt that goal to SMART:
      1. Specific – Read a non-fiction book
      2. Measurable – Read 10 pages a day
      3. Achievable – Short enough time allotment that it’s not intimidating
      4. Relevant – Something I want to achieve, not something I think I should do because others say I should
      5. Time-specific – For the next 30 days

So the goal is “read 10 pages a day from a non-fiction book for the next 30 days”.  It’s doable, and trackable, which will lead to a sense of accomplishment. 

  1. Strike through or eliminate items that don’t represent goals, moving them to another section of your System for future follow-up.
  2. Refine
    1. Restate each goal concisely, meeting the SMART criteria.
    2. For each goal, set the standards you’re willing to tolerate to achieve those goals. Stated otherwise, what are the individual actions necessary, in what increments, to achieve each goal? You should have 2-4 standards per goal.
  3. Execute
    1. If steps 1-5 have been productive, this is the hard part. Start by taking the action necessary for each standard within each goal.
    2. Use or modify your System to accommodate tracking of your goals. Do you like checklists? How about setting alarms? Do you need an accountability partner? 
  4. Evaluate
    1. Periodically, at predetermined intervals, evaluate your progress toward goals. This may look like:
      1. Did I check tasks/standards off my checklist?
      2. Am I moving forward, in a positive direction?
      3. When I failed (and you will have setbacks), what caused that and how can I prevent it in the future?
    2. Revise your goals as necessary. Goal setting is an iterative and continuous process. You will learn that some goals are too easily achievable, while some stretch goals aren’t at all achievable. Give yourself the lattitude to adjust and refine your goals as necessary.

There is no perfect methodology for goal setting, and there are hundreds of them out there. The process will look different for every person, and it is guaranteed that no two will look alike! Along the way, be sure to give yourself grace and revisit each the 7 steps as often as necessary. Your journey is specific to you. The goal (pun intended) here is to set goals that challenge you to become the best version of yourself.  

Here’s to your best YOU!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *