If you’re anything like me, the prospect of goal-setting can be pretty overwhelming. One day, you’re marking up a beautiful new notebook with all sorts of goals: having $100,000 in an investment account by the time you’re 28, learning to actually like salad, landing a raise at your annual review. The next day, your notebook is pushed to the side of your desk while you gobble down Thai takeout and re-watch Nathan and Haley’s wedding on Hulu, telling yourself your goals can wait until Sunday… or until next year. I may be self-projecting here (hello, on my 1,000th One Tree Hill rewatch), but I have a feeling a lot of us can relate.
Goal-setting is a constant buzzword that gets passed around any circle of entrepreneurs and career-focused women, but it’s especially big around the new year. Whether you’re looking to transition to working for yourself or you want to start your own YouTube channel, goal-setting is a necessary piece of the puzzle. While goal-setting can be tricky, it can also be massively rewarding. Here’s how to actually do it:
Step 1: Categorize your goals
You may have three goals, or you may have a list of 100. Regardless, they probably don’t fit in one category: some goals may be finance-based, while others might relate solely to your health. Some goals may involve your own personal relationships, while others may revolve around your co-workers. By categorizing your goals, you’re helping yourself to see a different list of priorities. Instead of working down a laundry list of goals that cover everything from “I want to pay off one of my student loans” to “I want to organize my pantry,” you’ll be able to see your goals in a more organized, bite-sized fashion. Whether you list your goals in an Excel document or stick them in a journal, organize them in categories that make sense to you.
Looking for some category inspiration? Try these:
- Time-based goals: Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, short-term, long-term goals
- Financial goals: Savings goals, debt goals, investment goals
- Relationship goals: Friendship goals, partner goals, family-dynamic goals
- Personal goals: Health goals, career goals, self-care goals
Step 2: Get specific
We’ve all dealt with the struggle of a date who can’t commit — but why do that to ourselves? Get deep with the goals you want to set for yourself, instead of writing down vague, unreachable ones. By being really, really specific, you’re giving your brain the roadmap to get things done. The good ole’ SMART acronym that we all learned in freshman orientation is a great way to go about this — by setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals, your ideas tend to move forward much more quickly.
Every time you create a new goal, answer these questions:
- What is the time frame in which I want to achieve this goal?
- What are ways that I can keep myself on track?
- Does this goal need to be broken up into steps to be achieved?
Step 3: Find your “why”
The truth is, no goal works without the right heart behind it. If you’re setting goals to make others happy, to prove yourself to others, or to impress someone else, you’re not doing it right. Whether you’re saving up for a down payment, trying to get in shape, or working to get a new business off of the ground, check in and make sure that your why screams itself out loud. You owe it to yourself to set goals that help you set your life on fire, and that starts by setting goals that truly mean everything to you. Leave the people-pleasing and the comparison game behind, and do a personal audit on your list of goals.
Take a look at your list, and honestly answer each of these questions:
- Why exactly is this goal important to me?
- Does this goal specifically improve or add to my life in some way? (This one can be tricky — remember that you’re setting these goals for yourself, not for anyone else)
- Do I feel the need to run these by someone, or do I trust my own judgment?
Step 4: Use your hands
When the dreams are thought out and the goals are written down, it’s time to get them to stick. Instead of scribbling your list of goals in a journal and tucking them away in a drawer, get fancy with it. Whether you want to create a full-scale, 13 Going On 30-esque vision board or write your goals on pretty paper and hang them on your mirror, taking the time to express your intentions with a glue stick and some glitter (or just a fountain pen) can work wonders.
Here are some ideas for bringing your goals to life:
- Grab some magazines, a jar of glue, and some scissors to make a good, old-fashioned vision board
- Add your goals to your planner or to a visible wall calendar (extra credit for stickers)
- Make a graphic (or just write your goals down on a pretty piece of paper and take a picture of them). Set those goals as your phone and computer background so you’ll see them every day
The truth is, setting great goals for yourself is an essential part of building a life that you’re proud of. Whether you set goals that challenge your courage, crush your debt, or create business benchmarks, your goals are the framework for your future. Set them with intention and watch some magic happen.