Now that the holidays are coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and what you could have done better and what you hope to achieve in the new year.
It doesn’t matter how 2017 has gone for you, 2018 holds tons of new possibilities. All you have to do is think of what you want to do or have in your life and then choose to make it happen.
I know it’s easy to muse about making more money, getting in better shape, or having the relationship of your dreams. But actually figuring out how to make those dreams a reality is a lot more challenging.
That’s why I came up with a goal-setting framework that teaches you how to create a plan for achieving almost anything you want in life.
My process includes six basic steps, along with a few different ways to proceed so you can pick the option that feels the best to you. You’ll find everything you need to know in this post, but I did also write a book, which goes into a lot more detail about the system.
(Take Control of Your Life: A 2-hour plan to help you set and reach your goals)
But, again, everything you need to know is right here.
That said, let’s get started!
My 6-Step, Goal-Setting Process
1. Figure out what you really want.
Time spent: 30-60 minutes
I encourage you to take your time with this first step so you can be completely clear about your goals and why they matter to you. I’ve found that the following two options are good ways to go about defining your goals:
- Figure out how you want to feel and then define your goals accordingly (this is the option I prefer).
- Choose your goals and then decide how you want to feel while working to achieve them.
Step 1a – Using the #1 from above, figure out how you want to feel.
We create goals because we’re chasing feelings. For example, maybe you want to earn more money because you want to feel secure. Or maybe you want to write a book so you can feel respected and smart. Whatever the case may be, figuring out how you want to feel helps set the tone for how you can achieve your goals.
Here are three ways to help identify which feelings feel the best to you:
Option 1 – Think about how you feel when you’re at your peak. What feelings do you associate with feeling your best (e.g. clear-headed, energetic, accomplished, connected)?
Option 2 – Think about what your ideal day looks like. What feelings do you experience while having your perfect day?
Option 3 – Think about your happiest memories. What feelings do you associate with these memories?
After using one or more of these prompts, narrow down your list of desired feelings to your top 1-5.
Step 1b – Create your “rough draft” goals.
After establishing how you want to feel, the next step is to create goals around these feelings.
Based on your top 1-5 desired feelings, think about activities or accomplishments that would cause you to experience these feelings. For example, say you want to feel healthier. Here are some activities that could lead to you feeling that way:
- Running a marathon.
- Losing 10 pounds.
- Incorporating more protein and fiber into every meal.
Once you create your lists, circle the activities or accomplishments that resonate most strongly. Then, narrow down your list to your top 1-3 goals. Choose the goals you’d feel the proudest to achieve and those that are most doable (but still fall a little outside your comfort zone).
Step 1c: Make your goals measurable and include a timeline.
Now it’s time to tightly define your goals and give them specific timelines. There are two ways you can do this, depending on the type of goal you’re working towards:
- Create a super-specific outcome goal (e.g. to be earning $5K in passive income every month by next year)
- Or make a “take the right action” goal (e.g. to go for a run three times a week)
You also want your goals to be measurable.
The first example is easy: this goal is measured by the amount of money you’re earning. And you can measure the second goal in terms of the distance you run or how fast you can run a mile.
2. Brainstorm how to get there.
Time spent: 10 minutes
Start by listing all the ways you can achieve your goals. Let’s stick to the example above and say your goal is to earn $5K a month in passive income by next year.
Well, there are a ton of ways to make this happen.
For instance, you could create a membership site that has at least 250 members who pay you $20 a month. You could look for a sales job that pays commission or you could make jewelry or artwork to sell on Etsy.
Let your brain expand and think outside the box. Write down as many options as you can.
3. Break it down so it all happens on your terms.
Time spent: 10 minutes
In this step, you’re going to take that big list you just created in step #2 and cross off any suggestions you are definitely NOT interested in pursuing.
As you eliminate options, keep in mind the feelings you want to experience as you’re both working towards and achieving your goals. Eliminate any suggestions that contradict those desired feelings.
Once you finish going through your list, review it one more time, weeding out even more options, taking into consideration your skill set and what excites you most.
4. Start mapping it out.
Time spent: 30-45 minutes
After narrowing down your list to a few exciting ways that you can achieve your goal, you need to start breaking things down into actionable pieces. Ask yourself what exactly needs to happen in order for you to accomplish your goal?
For example, if you’re going to create a membership site that has at least 250 members who pay you $20 a month, what steps do you need to take to make that happen?
Basically, you want to reverse-engineer your goal. Start with the big picture and then work your way backward to figure out what the moving parts are.
A helpful strategy is to break your goal down into milestones. For instance, if your goal has a deadline of one year from now, figure out where you want to be in 6 months, then where you want to be in 3 months, and in 1 month (you’ll learn more about creating a schedule in step #5).
If this process feels overwhelming, don’t worry; that’s totally normal, and you should honor that feeling.
Here are some tips that can help you if you start to feel stressed:
- Break your goal down in a way that you only need to complete 1-3 tasks a day.
- Plan to outsource any tasks you aren’t comfortable with.
- Hire a coach to help guide you.
- Take frequent breaks and practice deep-breathing to stay calm.
5. Schedule your sub-themes.
Time spent: 10 minutes
After determining the steps involved in achieving your goal, you need to create a monthly schedule and set deadlines.
If your goal takes a year to accomplish, that means you have twelve monthly milestones (or mini-goals) to hit.
Month 1: Figure out the niche you want to be in and set up a website.
Month 2: Create a month’s worth of content for the membership site.
Month 3: Get all the technical pieces up and running. Find twenty initial members.
Month 4: Come up with a plan to continually provide high-quality, unique content that warrants a membership fee.
Month 5: Find 20 more members…
Month 6: Find another 20.
Month 7: Pick up the pace and find 30 more members…
Month 8: And another 30…
Month 9: And another…
Month 10: And another…
Month 11: Find 30 more members and queue up 3 months’ worth of content.
Month 12: Find 40 new members.
Your progress obviously depends on your skill level and the amount of time you have to devote to your goal. But setting milestones is a great strategy to help make overwhelming tasks feel more manageable.
If your goal is still stressing you out, though, don’t worry; you can break things down even further in step #6.
6. Create your daily to-do lists.
Time spent: 10-20 minutes
With your monthly milestones set, it’s time to drill down into your mini-goals and come up with daily to-do lists. I recommend doing this step each time a new month rolls around.
Working with the monthly milestone example from step #5, let’s imagine that your first month’s mini-goal is to figure out which niche you want to be in.
Okay, so here’s one way you might break down this mini-goal:
- Brainstorm a list of niches that appeal to you.
- Check which niche is the most profitable.
- Join five forums or Facebook groups in that niche.
- Find twenty people willing to converse with you.
- Ask them what their frustrations in the market are.
- Come up with potential ideas to solve their problems.
- Ask them for feedback.
From here, you can set milestones the same way you did in step #5. But instead of twelve monthly milestones, you can set four weekly milestones. That way, it’s easier to come up with an action plan for each day of the week.
Alternatively, you can create a calendar and write down the tasks you want to complete each day.
For example, your first week might look like…
Day 1: Brainstorm a list of 20 potential niches.
Day 2: Review Clickbank.com to see which niches perform the best. Then, whittle your list down to the top 3-5 options.
Day 3: Join five forums or Facebook groups and make two posts in each.
Day 4: Contact ten people to see if they’d be interested in talking to you.
Day 5: Reach out to ten more people.
Day 6: Reach out to another ten (in case some say no).
Day 7: Come up with a rough-draft list of questions you want to ask the people you interview.
When you create a detailed plan of action, it becomes a lot easier to make progress towards your goal because you know exactly what you need to do each day.
- Your daily to-do lists shouldn’t include any more than 1-5 items. Your plan should be realistic; plus, you want to prevent burnout.
- Start working on your most difficult or time-consuming tasks first when you’re at your freshest and most alert.
- Remember to continue taking small, consistent actions.
- Stay positive when challenges occur and hold onto the certainty that you WILL accomplish your goal. Don’t let your focus get derailed.
- Have measurable checkpoints, aka milestones or markers, along the way to help ensure you’re still headed in the right direction.
- Ask/look for help when you need it (e.g. apps, how-to courses, mentors/coaches, outsourcing).
- Make choices based on your goals.
- Hold yourself accountable (e.g. work with a friend, announce your goals on social media, use stickK.com).
Any goal you have can be reverse-engineered — whether it’s to earn $5K a month, lose twenty pounds, or improve your relationship. All you have to do is ask yourself the right questions upfront and create an optimized plan and timeline.
As previously mentioned, you can find more detailed information about my six-step process in my book Take Control of Your Life: A 2-hour plan to help you set and reach your goals, which is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audio versions.
I really hope you find my goal-setting system useful! Leave a comment below and let me know what your top goals are for 2018!