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How to hit your goals

There's a simple process you can use to hit your big goals, reliably.

Perhaps you've tried and failed in the past. Maybe you can hit smaller goals, but have trouble maintaining focus on bigger goals, or connecting them to your day-to-day life.

I used to struggle with this, too, until I figured out the right process. Then, I hit every single big goal I had for the next several years—and all of them ahead of schedule!

And, the process is pretty simple.

Setup

We're going to start thinking in a specific set of periods of time: month, quarter, and year. Every goal you make fits into one of those periods. Think something will take about a month, maybe a little bit longer? Call it a month goal. Got a goal that you think would take two quarters? Round that up to a year goal.

We'll start with year goals, but you'll see how everything applies to smaller goals.

Start by making a document titled Year Goals and writing down your year goal. This big goal needs to be connected to the small actions and decisions you make every day, so we'll break it down into smaller goals.

Visualizing the year goal, pick a smaller goal that leads toward it and fits into about a quarter (3 months). You don't need to pick any goals that might come later; just focus on the first step. Write whatever smaller goal you come up with in separate document titled Quarter Goals.

Repeat the process: visualizing this quarter goal, pick a smaller goal leading toward it that fits into about a month. Write this goal in a new document titled Month Goals. Again, don't worry about what goals for the second or third months might be; focus just on the first month and its goal.

That's the goal-setting process. You're now ready for the review process.

Weekly review

Pick one day of the week that you'll do your review—for example, Monday. Then, every Monday, rain or shine, you'll do a weekly review. A weekly review consists of two main activities:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Planning

Evaluation

You start a weekly review by evaluating how well you've done on your goals. You always evaluate yourself against your month goals. If this is the first review of a month, you also evaluate against your quarter goals, and so on going up.

In this review Evaluate these goals
Every weekly review Month goals
First review of the month Month goals, then quarter goals
First review of the quarter Month, quarter, then year goals
First review of the year Month, quarter, year, then multi-year goals

As you evaluate each specific goal, write a short note below it for any progress you've made toward it. If you haven't made any progress, write that down, but don't write down what the obstacles were.

Planning

You finish a weekly review by (maybe) setting new goals. You only set new goals if you're starting a new month, quarter, or year, so most of your weekly reviews won't have any planning. Planning works in the opposite direction of evaluation—from long periods to short:

In this review Plan these goals
Every weekly review none
First review of the month New month goals
First review of the quarter New quarter then month goals
First review of the year New (multi-)year, quarter, then month goals

If, while setting new goals for a period (month goals, for example), you realize that your higher-level goals need to be adjusted, go ahead and do it. You'll probably do this several times when you first start out, and it should become more infrequent after a few months, as you get better at setting long-term goals.

I replan any multi-year goals I have at the same time I plan new year goals. Replanning multi-years goals any less frequently won't save any noticeable effort, and you'll probably want to make adjustments to them at that time, anyway.

Summary

  • Break down long-term goals into year, quarter, and month goals.
  • Every week, evaluate your progress from short-term goals up to long-term, as appropriate.
  • Make brief notes about your progress; don't worry about obstacles.
  • Every new period, set new goals from long-term down to short-term.

Since I started using this process, I have hit every year goal that I've set for myself. I'm usually a bit late on my month goals, but I've been early on every single year goal—six months early, in one case!

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