6 Tips for Tracking and Achieving Your Goals
1. Learn the difference between Dreams and Goals
There is a big difference between a Goal and a Dream, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two. A Dream can often be described as Abstract: you have an idea of what you want but you don’t come up with the details. A good example might be “I really want to own my own business”, but then not coming up with anything specific. You can never accomplish this Dream because you don’t actually know what you’re trying to achieve. On the flip-side, a Goal should something concrete and acheivable within a certain amount of time (more on that next). Goals include details and specific measurements of success. Use a Dream to your Goals. Taking the example above, we could say that our Goal is to open a small coffee shop in Smallville, USA and become profitable in one year. Those form a good Macro Goal, which we’re about to talk about!
2. Set realistic goals at different levels
I’m going to define three levels of Goals: Macro, Meso, and Micro. Each level refers to a goal size and a goal timeline. After that we’ll talk about being Realistic. I’ll also give you some personal examples of goals I’ve set in the recent past at each level, because real world examples are always better than hypotheticals!
These are the big goals, like the coffee shop idea above. A good Macro goal should be a big achievement, like actually opening the doors on a business or making a huge change to your fitness. You want to set a goal that would reasonably take one year to come to fruition with work and dedication over that 12 month period.
Business Goal: In one year, open a CrossFit gym and make a Net Profit on a month-to-month basis.
Personal Goal: In one year, be able to see Six Pack abs the healthy way.
Meso Goals are the next level down, and should take about 3 months to accomplish, for a total of about 4 Meso Goals per year. They should also directly relate to and support the Macro Goal. If you cannot honestly say how a Meso Goal leads to the Macro Goal, then you need a new goal.
- Aug 2013-Oct 2013: Open doors, acquire 10 clients
- Nov 2013-Jan 2014: Run holiday special, Begin holiday WOD’s, Add more equipment, Acquire 30 more clients
- Feb 2014-Apr 2014: Add more equipment, Acquire 30 more clients, Net Profit month-to-month, Become more community involved
- May 2014-Jul 2014: Acquire 30 more clients, Increase profit month-to-month, Add more equipment, Continue community involvement
- Jan 2014-Mar 2014: Clean up diet, commit to daily strength training, build muscle
- Apr 2014-Jun 2014: Lose 6 lbs of body fat (approx. 3.5% BF), Maintain muscle mass, Add additional cardio
- Jul 2014-Sep 2014: Lose 6 lbs of body fat (approx. 3.5% BF), Maintain muscle mass
- Oct 2014-Dec 2014: Lose 6 lbs of body fat (approx. 3.5% BF), Maintain muscle mass
You’ll notice that Meso Goals don’t have to be drastically different from quarter to quarter, as long as they lead towards your Macro Goal.
Lastly we come to the Micro Goals, which should take about one month to accomplish. Again, these should logically support your Meso Goals and they will also support your Macro Goals. One month is not a lot of time, so you need to be extra careful when making these goals, as it can be easy to aim a little too high. The good news is that if your Micro Goal for a month ends up being too much, you can adjust in the next month accordingly.
- Aug 2013: Find and Lease commercial space, order equipment
- Sep 2013: Open doors, begin classes, acquire 5 clients
- Oct 2013: Refine schedule, acquire 5 clients
- Jan 2014: Audit diet, go full Paleo, Make training plan, lose 2 lbs body fat
- Feb 2014: Refine training plan and calories/day, lose 2 lbs body fat
- Apr 2014: Refine training plan and calories/day, lose 2 lbs body fat
Much like Meso Goals, Micro Goals may look similar or identical from month to month, because they are goals which can be accomplished multiple times while still seeing benefits towards the larger goals.
There is a platitude which I both love and hate: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
The implication here is that if you make a big enough Goal, even if you fail you will have accomplished something great. I’m calling shenanigans on this one.
First, while it’s wonderful to have big Dreams, if you don’t have Realistic Goals to work towards those Dreams then you won’t be landing amongst the stars. You will, however, likely crash and burn back to Earth in a fiery heap. Set Macro Goals that you can actually accomplish and you will be more likely to reach success.
Second, this phrase also assumes you should be happy missing your Goal! Why bother setting a huge, world changing Goal that you’re likely never going to accomplish, only to settle for less later on? To me, it doesn’t make sense to think so big that you lose site of what is possible. Note that I never said you shouldn’t think big! Push the limits, accomplish as much as you can, and be a Life Dominating Badass. You have it in you if you, but think it through and make yourself a Realistic Life Dominating Badass.
3. Write things down
This includes everything from To Do lists to what your goals are. The act of writing things down has a beneficial effect on your ability to remember it later, and if you remember it you’re more likely to work on it. When it comes to tracking your goals, include at least the following:
- Write a 1-2 sentence summary of the goal, or a short bullet point list
- What can you measure to determine success for this goal?
- What is a realistic time frame in which to achieve the goal?
- What are 3 sub-goals that support this goal?
You can add any other details you like to this list, as long as they’re useful to accomplishing your objective. Each goal entry should be about one paragraph describing the above, and each sub-goal you list should itself lead to another goal paragraph. This lets you build your Macro-Meso-Micro list. After a few iterations you’ll likely find that some goals are supported by similar smaller goals, so you can consolidate more easily into actual tasks you need to do.
4. Hold yourself accountable
The “To Do” list is the Micro Goal of your day to day life. If you know you need to do a lot of stuff to hit your monthly Micro Goal, and that some of those things can only be done in certain weeks that month, and some of those things can further only be done on certain days, then you now have a To Do list day to day, and week to week! Make this list your guiding star for what needs to be done each day; it will benefit you in several major ways:
- It sets the pace for the day
- It lets you win small victories every time you check something as done
- It moves you towards your larger goals
Along these same lines, you need to be holding yourself accountable for missing items on your list. Maybe you’re like me and you love to read Sci/Fi novels, but you hate talking on the phone. Force yourself not to even pick up your next novel until you’ve made all the phone calls you need to make that day. No calls? No book time!
At the same time, stop procrastinating the stuff you need to do. The fear of a thing is almost always worse than the thing itself (except clowns, which are the worst thing in the Universe). The point being that those phone calls aren’t ever going to be as bad as you think they will, and getting them done will not only provide the list-related benefits above, but will also give you the added bonus of conquering a small fear.
5. Measure everything that can be measured
This is both easy and hard. It’s easy to determine if something can be measured: if you can assign numbers and units, you can measure it. Examples would be pounds lost, revenue generated, miles run, clients called per day, and many others. It can sometimes be a little more difficult to decide what to actually measure that matters for your situation. One of the steps in making goals is to decide what to measure for each of your Macro, Meso, and Micro Goals. Body Fat lost and monthly income were pretty straight forward in my goals, but yours may be quite a bit different.
Measurements for other goals could include:
- Words Written per Day, for the aspiring novelist
- Courses completed per semester, for someone working on their degree
- Top speed, for someone learning to drive a racecar
- Length of song played without errors, for a beginning musician
Every Goal will have something that can be measured to determine if you succeed or not. Find your measurements and track them as often as makes sense.
6. Remember that slow progress is still progress
We end with this one because it’s huge: many of the best accomplishments in life are going to happen over a long period of time. We’ve only covered up to Macro Goals in this article, but be aware that even these large goals can, and often do, feed into yet bigger and ever widening achievements. You could easily set three more levels of goals:
- Half Decade: What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years? How do your yearly Macro Goals support that?
- Decade: What do you want to have accomplished 10 years from now? How do your Half-Decade Goals support that?
- Career: In 30 years, what do you want? How do your prior goals support this?
- Lifetime: What do you want to be remembered for?
One thing will always be true: there is always more to accomplish and it’s going to be a long path. Remind yourself that life isn’t about the Sprint to the Finish, it’s about Running the Marathon. I promise you that you will get frustrated. You will see others pass you in the things you want and wonder why. You will sometimes feel overwhelmed by what you want out of life.
And that’s all okay!
Slow progress is still progress, and you can never achieve, if you don’t progress. The trick is to say, “Screw it, I’m doing it anyway. This is what I want and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to get it. Let’s do this: where’s my list!”