Why and how I set weekly goals

Goal setting isn’t only for slick business guys and polished salesmen, it’s for everyone. Why? Here are some answers to that questions.

When students get out in the world, they have to organize their own time, have goals, and realize what they’re behind on. — Bill Gates (source) Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. — Tony Robbins What keeps me going is goals. — Muhammad Ali People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. — Earl Nightingale

These enormously successful people believe that goal setting is the key to success.

I thought about why and here are some reasons that crossed my mind.

Control

When you sit down to define what you’re going to do in the near future, you’re the one who’s deciding. You have the control. There are no people chiming in, telling you what your goals should be, there is just you.

Clarity

Here is another quote that I love:

“You see, ten years from now you will surely arrive. The question is: Where? Who will you have become? How will you live? What will you contribute? Now is the time to design the next ten years — not once they’re over. We must seize the moment.” — Tony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within

Writing down what you’ll do in the next week is seizing the moment. It also forces you to think through what you’re going to do. It doesn’t have to be ten years, though. A week from now, we’ll arrive, but where?

Initiative

Today, it’s very easy to live in reactive mode. You open messaging apps and respond. You see posts and statuses and you re-act or re-ply. The thing is, you can’t re-live past moments. The decision is: will I only react or will I be active and create? Will I play defense or offense? Will I watch my life play in front of my eyes like a movie I didn’t write or will I be the one who writes the script. Goal setting is writing the script.

Now, I want to focus on one type of goals — weekly goals. How does one set them?

Goal Setting Guide

The Wikihow page has an awful lot of paragraphs about it and makes it look complicated, but basic goals setting is simple. I’ll tell you what my process looks like.

I sit down and open Evernote, which I use for note-taking. A piece of paper and a pencil can do just as well.

I ask myself the following: What do I need to do to make progress with __(a project)? What do I need to do in general? What do I want to do? What could I do for fun? What is something I could try?

I write down the answers and put checkbox next to them. [ ] Learn Spanish (2 hours)

Then I look at the goals and refine them. How? There is a framework for it called S.M.A.R.T. It’s really simple.

SMART

S = Specific M = Measurable A = Assignable R = Reasonable T = Time-constrained

Let’s take it one by one.

Specific

[ ] Write something (= bad, unclear) This is too vague and our brains don’t like vague because that means uncertainty. If the goal is too general, there is less chance that you’re going to check it off.

[ ] Write a fantasy short story (= better) To make it better still, see the next step.

Measurable

How do you know that you’ve written the short story you wanted? When do you stop writing or editing? There has to be something to measure, so that you know when you’re done. I usually use time.

[ ] Write a fantasy short story (2 hour) I can write longer, but I know that I’ve completed my goal if I’ve written for 2 hours.

For writing, words can be a good metric too. [ ] Write a fantasy short story (5000+ words)

Whatever goal you have, find a metric. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for an internal monologue like:

“Have I done this? Maybe? I don’t know. Kind of.”

That is not very satisfactory. Saying “Yep, done that” is much better and clearer.

Assignable

Assignable plays a greater role with team setting, where you assign goals to different people. You do this, I do this, she does this. However, to me it also means that it’s me who can do the goal and it’s not dependent on others. For example:

[ ] Get accepted into _____(college, program) (= bad, depends on others) You can’t make someone do something, it’s out of your control. (Unless your are a gangster or a gazillionaire who can just make things happen, of course.)

[ ] Apply to _____(college,…) or Send 5 job applications (= good) You control whether you apply and send things, it is within your control. One more example: [ ] Get an A on a test (= bad) [ ] Learn 3 days, 20 min each before a test (= good)

Reasonable

[ ] Finish writing a book by Tuesday (= bad, unrealistic) Unless you already have the book almost finished, it’s improbable that you are able to bang out a book in a matter of a couple days. It took even Eddie Morra on NZT48 4 days (see movie *Limitless* if you haven’t already).

[ ] Write 5000 words (= good) Of course, good doesn’t mean easy, but it is achievable.

Time-constrained

If you set goals without a deadline, they will expand indefinitely according to Parkinson’s Law. That leads to a place called unhappiness. For me, it works like this. Monday morning I set goals and Sunday midnight is a deadline. I usually come up with about 20 goals for the week on Monday, and since things happen during the week, I add goals to it, so I end up with about 25–30 on average.

To summarize the SMART framework: Specific Measurable Assignable Reasonable Time-constrained

Now that you are SMARTer. Here is a sample of what my goals can look like: [ ] Email about [ ] Write (x hours) [ ] Draft a (marketing plan, blog post, email) [ ] Read 50 pages of [ ] Workout x times [ ] Upload (photos to Instagram or website, blog posts, …) [ ] Work on (x hours) [ ] Get feedback on (draft, email) from (friend, colleague,…) [ ] Find 5 ____ (apartments to rent, meetups in )

Congratulations! That’s the end of my guide for setting goals. But before you take off, for the goals to work, you need to have them in front of you, to look at them every day and decide what you’re going to do that day. So, put them somewhere you go all the time: next to the computer, in a note taking app,…

You can go ahead and try it out, it’s worth it.

One more thing.

Before you take off to set goals, I’ve been using this for months now and learned 4 quick lessons that I want to share.

Lesson #1: It’s okay to fail.

How does a child learn to walk? By trying and failing. That is how we learn anything, including goal setting. It’s more than okay to fail. In fact, a friend of mine told me that if I’m not failing at least 10% of my goals, I’m probably doing something wrong. Why? Because goals should also push our limits. If we don’t push our limits, who else will? Goals are an awesome tool to try something new and exciting.

[ ] Find a course about _ (2 hours) (finance, playing a guitar,…) [ ] Ask a friend for (a favor, feedback,…) [ ] Climb Mt. Everest

I usually complete about 75% — 95% of my goals. I aim for at least 75% as a threshold. That being said, if you go camping for 3 days, you just won’t get as much work done, so you should plan accordingly.

Lesson #2: Have someone hold you accountable.

Find someone you trust to send your goals to. It could be a like-minded friend, or a mentor. Shoot them a message or an email with a link to the goals. Just tell them about it first.

Lesson #3: Start with a verb to make it actionable.

Write, read, send, learn, make,… those imply action and clarity. Recently I discover the words draft and outline, which prove to be useful. Draft means it doesn’t have to be perfect. If I know that I can make multiple drafts, it becomes easier for me to start. And after I have the 1st draft, I can refine and improve.

Lesson #4: It’s a habit.

Set goals regularly, make it a habit. It’s absolutely useful.

So, what do you want to do this week?

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