One of the reasons so many people fail to achieve their goals is they do not plan out their goals properly. To plan out your goals you need to be very clear about what it is you want to achieve, why you want to achieve those goals and how you are going to achieve those goals. The basic “what, why and how” system. To decide these goals is not difficult, but it does take time to really plan them out so you are left with a clear vision of what you want, why you want it and how you are going to do something every day that will take you closer to achieving those goals.
The cornerstone of achieving goals is the daily action you take that will bring you closer to a successfully achieved goal. Too often, people know what they want to achieve, but do not really know why they want to achieve it or how they are going to turn that desire into daily action. If you want to lose weight, the question you should ask is “why?” Is it because you are tired of carrying around excess weight? Or is it something more emotional such as you are embarrassed about being fat? Honesty about why you are doing something is very important.
Being very clear about what want to achieve is vital. Just saying “My goal is to lose weight” is not going to work. Firstly, you are not being specific enough about how much weight you want to lose. Not eating lunch for a day would likely result in some weight loss. But that is probably not what you mean. So writing out your goal as “I will lose 5KG by the end of June this year” is much more specific and has an finish line (end of June).
You also need to be very clear about why you want to achieve this. If you do not know why you want to lose weight then when you come up against the first obstacle, you are going to fail. So, a goal that says something like: “I want to lose 5kg by the end of June because I want to look fantastic at my brother’s wedding” now has a specific goal and a specific purpose. It is very clear what you want to do and why you want to do it.
The final part of making strong, achievable goals is to list out the things you will need to do every day to make it happen. The lose weight goal may start off with a task like “research best diets for weight loss for busy professional office workers” A daily task written out like this means it is clear what you want to find out and means you have very little thinking to do when it comes to the time you sit down to do the research.
Further down the line you may have a task such as “Walk 5km today” or “do not put any sugar in my coffee today”. The great thing about these kind of goals is you can play around with different tasks so you do not get bored and you can experiment which activities get the best results.
The “what, why, how” method is basically the same method Tony Robbins uses for his RPM (Results, Purpose, Map) method and David Allen uses for the Natural Planning Method. Both systems essentially follow the “what, why, how” questions. The following will give you are run down of what you need to do for each question:
What end result do you want? You really need to very clear about this and it needs to be something you can close your eyes and visualise achieving. Writing out in a clear sentence or two what it is, and what it will be like once you have achieved it really helps you to visualise it. For example: I will start my own business selling purple inflatable frogs to children stores all over the country and it will earn me $1 million over the next three years. This will allow me to expand the business to other countries so I create a company that gives children pleasure and fun in as many countries as possible.
This goal is very specific, very clear and has a time line to follow.
Why are doing this? Try as much as possible to attach this to an emotion. With the example above you may want to do this so you can see the happiness in the children’s eyes when they play with the purple inflatable frogs you create. It could also be something like I want to provide a safe and secure future for my family and myself. Or it could be “to prove to myself I can build a successful company from an idea I created”
These whys need to be truthful. Writing out your whys untruthfully means you are lying to yourself. You won’t achieve anything that way and you will fail at the first difficulty you experience.
How are you going to achieve this goal? What action steps do you need to take to make it happen? This list could take some time to develop, and you may end up with a lot of tasks written out. That’s perfectly okay. You can organise these tasks and actions into related categories at a later date. The important thing is you brainstorm all the steps, actions and tasks you need to do to make the goal happen. Something like “sketch out design for purple inflatable frog” is a task, an important task. It might take a lot of sketches to finally come up with a design you are happy with. You may need to ask a designer to sketch out your ideas more professionally later, that would be another task.
Once you have all these actions and tasks written down, take a look at the list and see what things you can be doing every week, or even better, every day to take you closer towards that goal. For example you may have a task that needs you to save $5,000 to employ a designer to prepare all your drawings. In that case you could set aside $100.00 per week into a separate bank account. After fifty weeks you will have your $5,000. That is less than one year!
The final step is to take these actions and populate your todo list manager so they are on your daily todo list and this means you are actively doing something about the goal every day.
To do this takes time, it involves a lot of thinking, but it is important if you truly want to achieve your goals year after year.
Here’s a sample worksheet you can use to help you work through your goals. You can set up your own in a spreadsheet or just simply copy the blank sheet I have attached.
Good luck and be productive!
Carl Pullein is the author of Working With Todoist: The Book, as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl also works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.