It’s that time of year! We’re setting New Year resolutions and planning out goals. You’re asking questions like “What goal do I pick? What steps should I take? Am I thinking too big? Am I thinking to small? How will I ever make this happen?”
All of these questions can leave your head spinning. They can prevent you from taking action and steps towards where you know you want to go.
In this post, I’m going to break down exactly how I’m setting my goals for 2019, along with a special invitation for you to join the community to do this with other like-minded women!
Here’s the thing. You’re ambitious. You also have a lot of other people in your life that need you for a lot of things. Maybe you’ve gotten stuck in weeks past and you’ve had to put your dreams on pause.
You’re also probably thinking, “Alyssa, how do you ALWAYS ACHIEVE your goals?”
Let’s get that out of the way first.
You decide to change your goal when its no longer in alignment with the life you’re trying to create.
You follow a disciplined process when you’re choosing to change a goal (because, don’t want you just backing out of course).
The 3 phase cycle of goal setting
Goal setting is a repeatable three part cycle. Dream. Decide. Do.
First, you dream up what you’re chasing. Second, you decide that you’re making your dreams a reality. Third, you’re doing it.
You can do this at the start of the year, or you can do it anytime where you’re feeling a need to pivot or hone in around one specific goal.
Let’s talk about how to do this in terms of annual goals.
The one habit to start or improve this year to implement all your goals
Guess what? Things change! Even as you start out this year, you may learn that you don’t want to pursue that goal anymore.
Create a weekly review process to check in with your goals, celebrate your small wins, and make small changes. No two weeks will be the same, but you really can’t see with absolute certainty more than three weeks ahead.
You can even make this a productivity goal!
If you want more details on how to do this, jump on down to step 5.
How do you thrive when you’re stuck in the middle of where you are and where you want to be?
You’re aware of this. Even when you get to where you want to go, you’re going to be on to the next place you want to be.
You say you’re in this for the long-game, but are you still chasing instant gratification?
You chase progress but not perfection, but do you live it?
Gratitude in the moment is the ticket. With that, let’s dive in!
1. What you focus on grows, so thrive exactly where you are
“You can’t change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” – Jim Rohn
Looking back gives us the opportunity to celebrate the large and small wins. It gives us a moment to pause and reflect. You spend so much time “doing” life. You can learn so much about yourself — including your goals and what you really want out of life if you take a moment to pause.
You are a completely different person right now than you were 5 years ago. If you could, would you go back to who you were then? I bet you can think of several experiences that at the time were painful, but there were several lessons you learned in the process. Lessons that have made you exactly who you are — someone that you’re still proud of.
On the journey of personal growth, it is so darn easy to get caught up in all of the ways we don’t measure up and all of the things we haven’t achieved yet.
Focusing on your lack — rather than everything you have — is a recipe for burnout, overwhelm, and an exhausting journey. This negative energy WILL slow you down.
Choose to celebrate exactly where you are.
While you’re trying to be (and become) the best person you can possibly be – remember there is more to you than your accomplishments and productivity. (Yes, says the productivity gal.) Your life has a bigger purpose and touches the lives of those around you.
You are enough, regardless of what you did or did not do in this past year. You’ve gotten through some HARD things in your life. You’ve been through tougher.
If you want to go deeper on questions to celebrate the past year and all of the small wins (and reasons you’re awesome), I invite you to join me for the Imperfectly Implemented challenge.
2. Brainstorm you-centered goals.
Now, I don’t mean this in a selfish way. I mean this in a way that you are deciding goals based on who you are as a person and who you want to become, rather than the things you think you should be doing because of whatever other pressures.
Create a life role map
First, write out the different areas of your life and second, what activities you are currently doing (or wish you were doing) to be doing everything you want in that particular role.
For example, your life areas might be: individual (personal health, learning, spiritual), family (marriage, kids, finances, household, extended family), career.
Try to keep this to between 3-5 areas so it’s simple enough to fit on ONE sheet of paper. There is power in simplicity 🙂
Then, after you write down a description for each area, you will likely be thinking of ways in wish you could do just a little better than you are right now. Write these down as well.
Intentional imbalance for maximum growth
You can move along at a ho-hum pace for a little bit of growth, or you can choose to really grow a specific area at the expense of others (as you’ll move them to maintenance mode while your focus moves to the area you want to grow in).
An even better way to go about doing this is to select goals that affect multiple areas. Think about those personal health goals through the lens that they will give you more energy, thus increasing your focus and effectiveness in the time you have.
The difference between action-based goals and results-based goals, and why you need both
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck between setting these big scary goals that have no clear path and setting goals that are completely realistic and safe, I’m here to tell you that you need both.
It’s all in the mix of the types, and formulating them through the right time-frame. Setting a big scary goal to accomplish overnight will do nothing but burst your super excited bubble.
Setting a big scary goal over the course of a year — is way more possible!
Why you shouldn’t break down your big scary goals
Big scary goals are the MOST FUN to chase. They’re the most fulfilling and rewarding to achieve. Other cool thing is they’re fun along the way if your focus is on the action that you’re taking right now and not worried about all of the future steps you need to take.
There are a million ways you can go about hitting a big scary goal. Two different people can hit the same goal, but their journey will always look completely different.
You have to take action. You can learn and plot and plan, but once you take action, you’re going to learn so much more.
So create those stops for yourself along the way. Know that you’re going to evaluate your action along the way.
If you’re going to evaluate and course-correct along the way, why is there so much pressure to chart the FULL path? It sure sounds like a total waste of time to me.
You just need to identify your next best step.
We’ll dive deeper into what this looks like on a quarterly basis in just a bit. But for now, do not worry about how you’re going to hit it.
In the Imperfectly Implemented challenge, I’m spilling my checklist for picking the best goal for now and moving along. Everything from how to write your goal to picking the right “numbers” for your goals. You don’t want to miss this. Sign up below!
3. Clarify your identity to make behavior change simpler.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford
I’m sure you’ve heard (and likely experienced) the difference your mindset can make on your ability to get things done.
Knowing that true change is possible.
Fully believing that you can hit your goals.
Here’s the thing — viewing the change you want to make in your life as a goal is probably holding you back.
The same way resolutions do. Resolutions are made to be broken a few weeks later.
When you think of a goal, depending on your experience with goal setting, you may view it as a negative thing that you can never reach.
The purpose of setting goals is to live more intentionally. To do things that we want to do rather than falling back to old ways of doing things.
Who do you need to become to make your goal a way of life?
Rather than viewing your goal as a one-and-done project, view it as a way of life.
For example, don’t just run a marathon, become a runner.
Don’t just publish a book, become a writer.
See how differently you view the actions you need to take being that person?
Your beliefs drive your behavior. Your behavior drives your results.
Want to explore some more prompts to help you further this level of thinking? You don’t want to miss the Imperfectly Implemented challenge!
4. Rely less on discipline and more on just doing better than you did yesterday
Think about this time last year — how excited were you to start fresh? Think again to just a few weeks ago — were you ready for the year to be over so you could start new?
Or were you just as excited at the end of the year as you were at the beginning of the year on the same goals.
These drastic differences are exhausting, and quite frankly not productive.
Get 1% better every single day
You know a magic bullet won’t help. Why do you continue to look for one? You are exactly where you are, and you wouldn’t be where you are if it wasn’t for all of the experiences you’ve had up until this point.
Want to make consistent progress stick? Focus on building momentum. Get in motion. Do just a little better than you did yesterday.
Repeatable habits and routines make this so much easier. Which leads me to the best practice you can implement or improve next year to keep making progress.
In assignment for in Imperfectly Implemented, I’m sharing my favorite strategy for getting motivated on a day to day basis by your big, scary goals. Join us!
5. Implement a rock solid weekly planning routine
If you take away nothing else from the post, let it be this.
Why is this step 5 if its so darn important? Because this is where we stop thinking about taking action and start putting systems in place to take action.
Ever notice how some weeks just fly by and you feel like you didn’t make any progress?
Even if you have actually checked a bunch of things off your list.
This happens when there is no clear separation from goal tasks and “all the other stuff” of life.
It happens because no two weeks end exactly the same.
You’re setting yourself up for disappointment from the start if you think that you are going to perfectly execute 100% of your plans at all times and no interruptions will ever come up. (Do I sound bitter about my kids waking up early sometimes? I’m not trying to, really.)
Why weekly planning?
Weekly planning provides a checkpoint to poke our head up from above the trees and ensure that we’re chugging along to best next milestone (or fork in the road).
It allows us to pause, reflect and celebrate the tiny wins.
Weekly planning helps you stay in touch with where you are right now along the way — a moment to be grateful for the good and bad along the journey.
How to stop drowning in tasks and actually make progress on your goals
This is the minimum viable weekly review. Pick 3 tasks (special emphasis — tasks — not projects) to complete between between now and the end of the week. Then when you check in the following week, measure your progress. Explore what you did well, and what you could have done better.
First, focus on building the habit
Pick a consistent time. Piggy back off of something else you already do. Choose a dedicated environment that you use only when doing your weekly planning. Reward yourself at the end of each weekly review session.
You can easily bake this into bullet journaling, or grab a post-it note and jot your three things down and stick them in a planner you’re already using.
If you’re just getting started with weekly planning, it doesn’t matter as much about these sessions being as effective as possible as much as it matters that you’re doing it. You’re creating an environment for yourself to make it easy to make this a practice.
As with anything new, it will feel awkward at first and then it will be easier as you go.
Use someone else’s system.
You have two choices – you can keep doing exactly what you’re doing, or you can change something.
I suspect that you are here because you want to do something just a little bit better than you did yesterday.
If you want to do it better — would you take the time and energy to create a process out of thin air for yourself, or would you rather plug and play someone else’s system? What if that someone had been trying, testing and tweaking this exact thing for years on end?
I would be jumping all over the latter.
You can swipe my exact weekly planning process in the Imperfectly Implemented challenge. I want to help you optimize this process!
It doesn’t matter what planner you use, it only matters that you’re processing your action and evaluating your next best step.
How to level up your weekly planning routine
Okay, so you’re already in a really good habit of weekly planning. (Go you, seriously!)
Here are 7 ways you can enhance your existing process.
- Celebrate your wins from the previous week (regardless of size).
- Answer these questions every week.
- What went well last week?
- What didn’t go so well last week?
- How can I improve?
- Write down what you are grateful for right now.
- Write down your essential 3 for the week.
- Do a written brain dump before planning so you can think clearer about your priorities.
- Pencil in which day of the week you’d like to do a particular task.
- Write down how you prioritized rest in the previous week.
Use the DARES system to make small tweaks
Students of my DARES to Done program use the DARES acronym to guide small changes week to week.
You can use these questions to start.
- Can I create a deadline?
- Do I need to create clearer action steps?
- Do I need to prioritize rest?
- What change can I make to my environment?
- How can I improve my system to make implementation easier?
Not every week is the same
You will have weeks where you are highly productive, and you will have weeks where you are doing good to make sure the kids eat breakfast before heading off to school. Life HAPPENS, but there is absolutely no need to put expectations on yourself that every week is going to be exactly the same.
Embrace this. Roll with it. Always focus on learning to love the process.
6. What is the difference between annual goals and quarterly goals and how do I keep this simple?
Before you dive into this section, I want you to know that having *any* goal for focus and clarity is better than not having a goal in the first place.
That said, if you’re just getting started, I’d encourage you to focus on setting quarterly goals consistently before adding annual ones to the mix.
Why quarterly when everyone else sets annual? Because you’re a rebel 😉
I joke. Annual goals fall apart as there can be too much time to get something done. It’s too easy to put something off as you can get to it later this year, AKA tomorrow, AKA never. It’s too easy to put off figuring out what that next best step is.
What more people do is map out these big plans to take them through the year, and then when life happens and something throws them off course, it allllll breaks down.
Quarterly goals are manageable. You can taste and see the next 3 months. Quarterly goals create that time scarcity that force you to hone in on what is truly most important.
They’re also just long enough of a commitment that if you decide a certain way of going about things isn’t for you, you have the confidence in knowing that you really gave it your all for a whole 90 days.
You can still only do one thing at a time
Annual goals enable you paint a picture of what you want your entire life to look like without fear of what you can or can’t make happen.
Quarterly goals enable you to take that next best step forward.
Treat each quarter as a playful experiment
12 weeks is long enough to commit to something. You can do ANYTHING for just 3 months. Afterall, you can decide at the end of the 3 months if you want to stick with that thing, or move on to something else.
What I like to do is choose to grow in 3 different areas of life, create a system and be able to move that growth into maintenance mode to then shift focus areas each quarter.
Treat annual goals more like a big scary goal where you intentionally don’t plot out all your steps
When picking your goals, your annual goals should be bigger than what feels possible. You shouldn’t know all the steps or know exactly how to break them all down.
If you can break down each and every step, you’re not thinking big enough.
Now, there are also habit goals, which should be used to break down and support those big scary ones. There’s no need to set habit goals on an annual basis.
In Imperfectly Implemented, we break this down and is full of lots of examples. You’ve joined by now, right? I mean, you can also get feedback from the amazing community over in the Goal Getter Mamas group, too.
Join the Imperfectly Implemented challenge right here
7. Outsource personal willpower to your environment to make change stick
I know you waaaant to be more disciplined. Me too, but the thought of “being more disciplined” just sounds like a terrible goal. Doesn’t excite me at all!
Instead of focusing on being disciplined, or having the willpower at any time during the day or week, focus on making small changes to your environment to enable you to set yourself up for success.
There’s a huge reason why environment is included in the DARES framework I teach my students.
Get a buddy on board with your weekly planning! At the start of the week, let them know what your essential 3 are for the week. At the end of the week check in and see how you did.
I’m also running a giveaway as part of the Imperfectly Implemented challenge. There’s a bunch of entries awarded if you share with me your accountability partner over in the group. Seriously, what do you have to lose?
Ever sit down to work and wonder “oh, what am I supposed to do here?” It can happen even when you’re working from a to do list.
Create a system for anything you are going to do over and over again. Systems don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be somewhere in writing or as a checklist that is easy to access so you use it.
It’ll be a little awkward at first, but it’ll get easier the more that you repeat that action.
Did you know routines and rituals are nothing more than a personal system?
You have one whether you know it or not, just make it a little better than it is today. The next best step is often simply writing it down so that it’s out of your head!
Make it fun by using rewards along the way.
When you get in the flow of doing, doing, doing, it can be easy to focus on the goal of the moment and jump right into the next one.
You do this over and over enough, you’ll lose sight of the fun of the process.
This is an area that I always struggle with, but when I reward myself for the progress I’m making, it makes it sooo much more enjoyable.
You basically give your life the same reward system that makes a video game so addicting!
Maximize your energy through habit stacking
Another way to rely less on discipline is to rely on your subconscious mind to get things done. Make success second-nature by focusing on building habits. More than 40% of what we do every single day is habitual in nature.
One strategy for adding a new habit to your life is to leverage another habit that’s really well ingrained. Think about your morning routine – what is the first thing you do every morning?
Use the final step of some part of your morning routine as a trigger to start doing something else.
Just keep in mind, it does take longer than 21 days to build a habit (despite common wisdom). So no beating yourself up when it does seem harder than it is.
Start with the smallest piece possible, and expand it every couple of days.
You want it to be so simple that your brain doesn’t register that pain of change that can be oh so so paralyzing.
Want to put this blog post (more importantly, your goals) into action this year?
Sign up for the Imperfectly Implemented challenge. We’re digging deeper into each of these 7 concepts over 14 days.