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Q&A Tuesday: How do you decide your yearly goals?


I loved the way you posted your “goals” (what to read, what to make, etc.) last year instead of New Year’s Resolutions and I’ve loved reading how you have checked them off each month. I want to be able to do this for 2012 and was thinking it might be a good topic for you to post a “how to” or tutorial as to how you came up with your list of things to help others “plan” their upcoming year. -Kris

Setting realistic, achievable goals [2] on a yearly basis has been life-changing for me. Not only am I much more productive, I’m also living with much more intention. Here’s how I recommend going about goal-setting:

1. Determine Your Priorities

It’s pretty near impossible to decide what route you need to take if you don’t know what your final destination is supposed to be! Therefore, goal-setting and living an intentional life requires you to first know what your priorities are [3].

So, before you set down and make out a list of goals for 2012, first spend some time creating a list of five or six priorities in your life [3]. I’ve written more about determining your priorities and share my own current priorities in this post here [3].

2. Create a List of Focus Areas

Once you have your list of priorities written out, it’s time to get more practical. Take each area of priority and determine 4-5 specific things you want to focus on for that priority item.

For instance, if one of your priorities is improving your financial situation, maybe you decide you want to set a goal to save a specific amount of money, to set up your retirement accounts this year, to read books on improving your financial situation [4], to go through Financial Peace University [5], or to start a frugal friends group [6].

3. Break Your Goals Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

It’s great to have goals, but it’s hard to actually accomplish them unless you break them down into bite-sized pieces. A big goal can seem overwhelming and daunting as a whole, but when broken down into small pieces, it becomes much more doable.

If one of the save up a specific amount of money, break it down into monthly and then weekly savings goals. Look at your budget and decide where you’re going to come up with the extra money [7]. Will you lower your grocery bill by $10 per week [8] and then put that money toward your savings goal? Will you work an extra few hours [9] and save that money toward your goal?

When you break your goal down to a weekly bite-sized piece, you are better able to know exactly what you need to do to stay on track. If you want to read 24 books next year [10], you know you’ll need to read two books per month, or half a book each week. That boils down to around a chapter per day, give or take. That’s much more concrete and doable than a big audacious goal of reading 24 books in a year.

4. Set an End Date

I like to set yearly goals, but some goals are too big or too small for a year’s time frame. Consider how much time you realistically think it would take to accomplish your goal and then set a date to have it accomplished.

You can always change the date, if need be, but having a goal finish date gives you momentum and drive. And you just might find yourself picking up speed the closer you get to the finish line!

5. Track Your Progress

Accountability is key to be successful in following through with your goals. My husband and I review our financial goals on a monthly basis and I review my personal goals at least every few weeks. I’ve also found that the public accountability of blogging my goals and process is also amazingly motivating. :)

Plan a monthly accountability meeting with your spouse or accountability partner, write it down on your calendar, and don’t deter from it, no matter how tempted you are to slack off. I promise it will be worth it!

Tomorrow, I’ll post a downloadable goal sheet you can customize and print to create your priorities list, break your goals down, and track your progress. And later this week, I’ll be sharing more of my goals for 2012.

What process do you use for goal-setting? What helps to keep you on track and motivated? I’d love to hear!