How To Set Goals – 6 Effective Strategies

Learn how to set goals and achieve business and personal objectives faster

Image How to set goals that will help reach your dreams

Have you ever experienced the frustration of wanting things to change in your life, but felt unsure of how to make that change happen? Often we allow perceived obstacles to prevent us from getting where we want to go – or even struggle to identify ‘what’ exactly we want.

Setting goals is a powerful tool to help gain direction with what you want and start achieving those outcomes. Applying techniques to set smart goals can beneficially alter the way your brain responds to tasks and ideas. This guide will teach you how to set goals that are effective, consequential and specific. You can start creating the life you desire today.

Setting Goals – Overview 

What exactly are Goals? – Goals are clearly defined results or manifestations set to be achieved in the future. Setting or saying a goal doesn’t mean you’re automatically more likely to achieve the outcome you want, but intentionally using goals can be a powerful tool.

Benefits of setting goals – Goals can be applied to deliberately grow in different aspects of your life – including personally, professionally, mentally and physically. Furthermore, they help improve productivity or facilitate the implementation of deep work strategies.

How to Set Goals – One main tip for setting goals is to make sure they are specific and measurable. For example, you might think “this year I want to do well at work.” That’s a great idea, but it is not a goal. A more meaningful goal would be “by the end of the second quarter on June 30th, I will have gained three new clients and doubled my commission.”

Add actions – Practice adding actions to your goal. “By the end of the 2nd quarter on June 30th, I’ll have gained three new clients and doubled my commission by advertising daily on social media.” Hence, take your ideas and turn them into measurable and achievable goals.

Inspiration – If you are looking for inspiration on what to learn next, why not try to set goals to learn a new language, learn to read faster, improve your photography skills, or use typing programs to learn touch typing techniques and increase your work efficiency.

This tutorial’s goal – This guide will elaborate on the importance and potential of goal setting and provide you with the skills needed to unleash the power of goals throughout your own life. Tip: Don’t miss out on strategy 6 – the Impossible Goal List.

How To Set Goals – 6 Strategies

1. Take the Wheel

Image Goal Setting - First Steps

The first step to set better goals is getting in the correct headspace.

To start setting goals, narrow in on an area of your life that you want to take control of and change. Assess your current situation and identify the areas you feel both positively and negatively about. Take measure of the key factors around these areas – what is your role? What is the role of others? The role of circumstance?

Remember that you’re the protagonist of your own life. You are in control of more than you may initially realize. Believe in yourself and your ability to employ goals for success. Practice positive thinking1 to become clear about your goals and grow your confidence. Allow yourself to let go of self-limiting habits and thoughts and bravely set new goals.

Still not convinced?

There is scientific evidence to support goal setting. Research has shown that our minds can take ownership of an idea2, or goal, and incorporate that into our sense of worth and self. Through reaching that goal, we affirm our identity3 and self-actualization. And if we don’t, our brain is triggered negatively. Embrace goal setting and the process will embrace you.

2. Practical and Doable

Image Goal Setting Steps - SMART Goals

One of the first steps you can take to ensure achieving your goal is to set an achievable goal. Seems pretty obvious, right? However, it warrants a bit more consideration.

Motivation is fueled by achieving – The most motivating goals are ones that are realistic but still challenging. You have to be able to truly envision yourself getting there.

For example, maybe you want to take up running. Setting your sights on completing a 26-mile marathon may be too daunting – it’s pretty easy to give up before you even begin. A better goal may be training and completing a 5k race. Even if your ultimate goal is to run a marathon, starting with a shorter distance is a valuable step to build confidence and skill.

Tip: Ask yourself what is your Number 1 Goal for a given project/time. By focusing on one single goal you will make sure that this goal is special and challenging enough to achieve extraordinary results. This way you can also separate the main goals from sub- or less important goals. It is hard to set the No1 goal though as you really need to set priorities.

3. Be Specific

Image Goal Setting Steps - Mistakes

Not all goals are created equal. Research suggests4 that goals that were specific and challenging, but still realistic, drove higher outcomes 90% of the time when compared with undemanding or nonspecific goals.

The Five Ws – When setting strong, specific goals, remember: who, what, when, where and why? Consider and write down answers to the following questions:

Who – Who do I want to become? Who can I look to as a mentor or role model? Who can help me achieve my goal?

What – What specifically is my goal? What do I define as success5? What challenges do I need to overcome or avoid? What actions do I need to take today and onward?

When – When do I want to have achieved my goal? When will I check/record my progress?

Where – Where6 will I work on my goal? Where am I headed with this goal?

Why – Why am I motivated for this goal? Why do I desire this outcome? 

And consider the “H” – How will this goal be achieved? This is addressed in the next section.

4. Develop a Roadmap

Image Goal Setting - Develop A Roadmap

Now that you have your specific goals established, it’s time to get going. This requires a strategy and plan. One approach is to take your end goal and work backward to create a step-by-step guide for how to get there.

Break boulders into pebbles

Goals can seem overwhelming. Breaking goals into more manageable blocks allows you to position wide-view vision as a motivator to complete more immediate tasks.

For example, maybe your goal is to be accepted into law school. Break this down. Consider all the different individual tasks you will need to complete to accomplish this goal, starting with the application. Make a list of all the items and actions needed to apply.

Write things down

Then, order that list by importance and by urgency with deadline. Remember to be as specific as possible, writing down exact dates. Under each item on the list, write down and order the tasks you’ll need to accomplish each one.

You’ll end up with a very long list, but don’t let that discourage you. Approach goals piece by piece and allow yourself to enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing each item as you go.

Identify Potential Roadblocks

You’ve put yourself in the driver’s seat and have the map in hand, but that doesn’t mean the journey to your goal will be without obstacles. The best way to deal with potential complications is to be proactive.

Focus on yourself first, as this is the area you have the most control. Ask yourself questions such as, which of my habits or decisions could get in the way of completing each task? What circumstantial problems may arise? How can I prevent or mitigate these?

With the law school application example, maybe your first-choice professor will decline to write you a letter of recommendation. Designate a backup professor. Walk through each potential roadblock and write down strategies so that you’re as prepared as possible.

5. Measure Your Progress

Image Goal Setting - Measure Your Progress

Align each goal you set with a unit of measurement. Some goals may be more easily measured than others. For example, the goal to run a mile in less than 10 minutes is much more easily measured than the goal to spend more quality time with your significant other.

This harkens back to what was covered in the previous sections about setting specific goals. “More quality time” could be measured by dedicating two date nights each week to spend with your partner, during which cell phone use is banned or at least restricted.

Once you have a way to measure each goal, make sure you check in and monitor progress. Think of how frequently you want to gather information on your metrics: make a plan and stick to it. Small accomplishments are huge motivators.

Daily 

To maintain momentum towards your goal, count your progress. And do it every day. There are several tools to help with this, including daily planners and checklists. Writing down daily tasks helps our brains achieve more focused action and encourages daily progress.

Explore some of the many planners available to help with organization and goals. But you don’t need anything fancy. A plain piece of paper works just fine. Alternatively, I recommend reading Atomic Habits if you want to know how to best implement new tasks on a daily level.

Another option is to incorporate your daily goal monitoring with the practice of daily journaling. There are many benefits to journaling, including helping you to manifest your goals and track patterns. Habit trackers such as Habitify, on the other hand, are great tools to monitor and visualize whether a task or habit has been done, e.g. 20 push-ups.

Consider checking out some of the diverse apps available to help you collect data on your goal metrics. These offer tools including charts to view your progress, features to build a vision board, notifications and reminders and help you celebrate milestones.

Weekly and Monthly 

Schedule a weekly and monthly evaluation. For example, make a date with yourself for every Sunday at 7 pm. Acknowledge this date with the regard you would have for an important business meeting – treat it with the same attention and respect.

Use this time to reflect on what you achieved in the previous week (month) and take note of what did not get completed. Roll outstanding tasks over and place them at the top of your new list. Then, prioritize what else needs to be completed. This provides a plan for how to move forward and allows contemplation on both where you are and where you are headed.

Reevaluate 

Now that you have a system in place to evaluate your goals and progress, it’s important to allow space to reevaluate. There are several benefits to reevaluating your goals7, including ensuring you are on the right track, or if you need to re-strategize and implement changes.

6. The Impossible Goal List

Image Goal Setting - The Impossible Goals List

Well, we have been talking a lot about strategies and techniques on how to set goals effectively and how to use them in everyday life. The following strategy is not a new or separate technique but puts all the above into a fun and demanding challenge. The Impossible Goal List. Such a list is independent of the techniques discussed above.

I came across this tool recently when I watched a productivity class by Thomas Frank on Skillshare. While giving credit to Joel Runyon for inventing the idea, he explains the list as an ever-growing list of experiences that right now at the moment might seem impossible but will become doable once you start focusing on them and trying to achieve them.

Certainly, some goals may take years to achieve. However, the value is to list and group all of your goals in such a list and choose 4 to 5 ones you wish to focus on in the next 3, 6 or 12 months. Once achieved you mark them as achieved or further expand the goals, e.g. 10 Pull-ups become 15 pull-ups. 500 website visitors a day become 1,000 visitors a day and so on.

To organize your list you can use a simple spreadsheet. While it is ok to simply list them one after another, I recommend organizing them in groups, e.g. career or professional goals, lifestyle goals, health and nutrition, or personal and financial goals. As you tick things off, you will be amazed to see that what once seemed to be impossible is now within your reach.

How To Better Set Goals – Additional Tips

Image Goal Setting Tips and Hacks

While those are five (six) fundamentals on how to set goals, there are many other tips, tools and strategies for setting goals across your life. Consider the following:

Be aware of distractions – Setting an ambitious goal is one thing, investing the effort to achieve it another. Distractions can hold you back from achieving your goals, so consider our tutorial on how to stop procrastination if you tend to postpone tasks and duties.

Tell Someone – Get an accountability buddy. Share your goal with another person (they can share theirs back if they’d like). Then, schedule meetings to make sure that you adhere to deadlines. Another option is to have a bit of fun and “gamify” your goal by creating a bet or offering a mutual reward. No one gets to enjoy the reward if the goal is not met.

Set Motivating Goals – Even with all the outward support and strategies to help you with setting goals, it’s critical that the drive starts within. Set your own goals. For example, if your company sets the goal to increase profits, take this assigned goal and ensure that it aligns with a personal goal with your values. Goals need to energize you. That way, the energy can be directed towards action.

Reward yourself – Setting goals and sticking to the plan takes a lot of work and self-discipline, make sure you take the time to celebrate your efforts! Propel yourself with the promise of a large reward once your final goal is achieved but toast the small steps also. For example, after you check something off your money to-do list, allow yourself to take a break for a cup of coffee or a walk around the block.

Use Goals Across Your Life – Learning how to set goals is not a skill confined to one area of your life. This is a powerful tool that can be used to help you grow professionally, personally and with your physical and mental wellbeing. If you are interested in entrepreneurship you might want to read our guide on how to grow your online business with more tips.

Use Your Strengths – While goals are great for learning new skills and improving areas of weakness, it’s powerful to lean into your strengths. When creating your action plan, incorporate elements and activities that excite you and feel instinctive. Applying your natural abilities allows you to have more direction and engagement.

Be Kind to Yourself – Even with great attempts, sometimes things just don’t work out as we intend. And that is okay. Grant yourself grace and continue.

How To Set Goals – Summary and Conclusion

Image How to set goals for your business

Wrapping up our guide on how to set goals. In conclusion, there are several benefits to goal setting that can be incorporated across your life. Shift your mindset to take control of your life and remove limiting self-barriers. Make sure you set meaningful goals that are ambitious but still realistic.

A strong goal is not general, it is specific and assigned a deadline. Once you know where you want to go, develop a map to get there. Measure your progress along the way and enjoy both the journey and the destination.

How To Set Goals – 6 Strategies

  1. Take the Wheel – Take control of your life and set your own goals.
  2. Practical and Doable – Break down big goals into doable sections.
  3. Be Specific – Set specific, challenging, but still realistic goals.
  4. Develop a Roadmap – Set up a strategy and plan.
  5. Measure Your Progress – Align each goal you set with a unit of measurement.
  6. Create an Impossible Goal List – Add impossible goals you dream of achieving.

What goal will you set today? What is your number one goal?

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

I hope you enjoyed our guide on how to set goals and that you will give the suggested tips and strategies a try. Please share this article on your Pinterest boards or preferred social media platform to help spread the word.