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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 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.

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. I’ve written more about determining your priorities and share my own current priorities in this post here.

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, to go through Financial Peace University, or to start a frugal friends group.

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. Will you lower your grocery bill by $10 per week and then put that money toward your savings goal? Will you work an extra few hours 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, 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!

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  • I think you hit the nail on the head when you said right at the beginning “realistic, achievable goals.” This really is a great post Crystal! Thank you for laying it out so nicely:)

  • Alysha says:

    I have found that making something routine is the only way I can accomplish a goal. As far as setting them… I find an area of weakness first. Then I find the opposite of my weakness as my goal. For example, my husband and I would tend to have blow out fights every two months, and we quickly realized that the fight was driven by lack of attention to each other and our needs. With small children, it was just feeling impossible to take time for each other . We established a date night, and because we always go, it is steady income for the babysitter. So, there isnt the whole i cantfind a sitter problem. It is now routine, and the blow outs have stopped. We just communicate about small things before they are big. DAte night was a great goal!

    • Karin says:

      Thank for sharing – I just had an “Aahhh” moment.
      To Do list:
      Set-up monthly date nights with hubby
      Call parents to watch kids

      Thanks 🙂

  • Ac says:

    Yay!!! My favorite part of the year – setting goals for the upcoming year!

    I try to think through my long-term goals and then set mid- and short-term goals from there. A Franklin Covey course I once attended had an activity that had you “introduce” yourself to a fellow student 15/20 years from now and then 5 years from now. It was such a powerful exercise and I still think back to that. If I want to be an accomplished boater in 15 years, I need to start now by taking lessons, saving for a sailboat, etc., etc. I highly recommend it!

    Last year was full of big change for our family. This year I’m hoping to reap the fruit from a lot of planting and also building on what we accomplished.

  • Linda says:

    I am very excited to see these printouts. I am currently working on my list for the new year and have about 5 large goals that I am going to work towards over a two year period. I definitely have to break those down to a few smaller goals.
    Thanks for all your hard work.

  • Stephanie says:

    So excited for the printables 🙂 You have spoiled us with those goodies!

  • Courtney says:

    I actually sat down last night and planned my goals for this year. I set them in 4 different areas: Personal; Financial; Family; Kid. I then stuck to just 4 per area, so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.

    After, I broke each goal down into a manageable sequence with a goal date. One of my Personal goals is to build up to 45 min of exercise/day. Based on my sequence, the goal changes in May to maintain 45 min/day.

  • Stephanie says:

    I think setting goals instead of making resolutions is the way to go. Goals have a purpose and an action put in place to achieve them. I look forward to reading more about your 2012 goals and seeing you reach them in the upcoming year!

  • Ash says:

    I think it is also very important to set a single goal at a time. Very few of us can set multiple goals and make a lasting change in those areas.

  • Meg says:

    Ha, as I was going along reading this, I was thinking, “This is really great info, but it would be even better with some sort of downloadable goal sheet…” You’re good, Crystal! 😀

  • Chris says:

    Thanks Crystal!! I have had goals/plans floating around in my head. Some seem so big…I don’t quite know how I will get them all done. Looking forward to your planning sheet. I need to break everything down into bite size pieces.

  • Tricia says:

    This is great!
    I too often seem to have goals/plans floating around my head. There is a lot I would like to do in 2012 by the grace of God. I am excited about writing them down, reviewing them regularly, and Trusting in God to help me reach my goals. Can’t wait to download the forms 🙂

  • Kate says:

    *sigh* Any suggestions on breaking down my huge goal of “Have an Unexpected Baby Without Losing My Sanity”??? Last week was the most surprising week of our lives!

    • Kate says:

      Also our first and I know NOTHING about babies…yep, that’s gonna be my 2012! 😉

      • Kate,

        Sounds like you’re going to have an exciting year! Having no children of our own after 11 years of marriage, I can only imagine that “surprise” – praying that all goes smoothly for you and that you adjust to the idea. My mom (who had 5 kids) always said that’s why God gives you 9 months to get ready! 😉 Blessings and Congratulations!


      • julie says:

        I’ve definitely been there (twice!). I think youre on the right path by reading this post….it is so important to have some kind of a plan/goal for the basic things you will need. I’m sure everyone will overwhelm you with that if you arent overwhelmed already 😉 The best advice I can give you is to ENJOY every moment of your pregnancy! Even when my husband and I were stressed and pretty much poor, we didn’t forget to enjoy the 9 months of preparing for our son. We knew we would never have those months back…so we savored even the smallest accomplishments (like being able to buy a new outfit or diapers for the baby). Keep thinking positive! Congratulations 🙂

  • Amy f;) says:

    prayers for you Kate:) Sounds like you are on the right track:)

  • jack foley says:

    The best tip you gave there is bit sized goals. Taking baby steps.

    People try to accomplish unrealistic goals and then they say goals dont work!

    They do! buy you need to take baby steps, then when you have a level reached, raise the bar..

  • I actually wrote a post about this yesterday (and mentioned you and your book again!) and used many of the same words. I think you have to make them bite-sized or you’ll be fizzled out before February rolls around. To see what I had to say about my goals and plans (as well as how Crystal’s book helped me change the way I looked at chores), you can check it out here:

    Happy New Year!

  • Tiffanye says:

    Thank you so much for this post!!! I can’t wait until tomorrow for the downloadable sheet!

  • My process for goal-setting is to look at specific areas of my life, then to dream big and come up with what my ideal for that area is. My goals flow out of what it would take to achieve that ideal. I’m actually writing about that now on my blog.

  • Crystal J says:

    Love your goal setting process! I think tracking my goals is the most important step to keep me motivated throughout the year. Last year I kept a goals journal (just a small notebook) and it worked great. I started with a budget on page one. Just a log of monthly bills to check off as they were paid. Then a page each for Body, Mind, and Soul. I wrote a few general goals at the top of each (for example Body- try 1 new food a month, Mind- Read 12 books for pleasure, Soul- Craft projects). Throughout the year I created a dated list on these pages of the activities that fit into each category. Then in the rest of the journal I would write a dated entry of that activity. Just bought a new journal for this year.

  • Bobbie-Jo says:

    For 2012 we have dedicated some time for my husband to get away a few days alone in a quiet setting to seek God for direction (or next steps 🙂 in our life. We have done this “sabbatical” time before with such fruit! When you set a special time like this to seek God for what His will is for you and your family….He certainly seems to meet you and give you greater direction then trying to come up with some goals on your own. Though I would love to get away myself – I still find it incredibly valuable when my husband does it. Not only does God give me the grace to run the household by myself for the few days (4 little ones!) but He also seems to always give me little times to sit and rest with Him as well (like after the kids go to bed). Amazingly when my husband comes back and shares his vision – its as if God has already communicated it to me in my heart in preparation 🙂 (ps typically he goes armed with only the Bible and maybe some study tools and a journal to record all that God is giving Him).

  • Tiffany says:

    I love this! Every year I write them out on paper. I am a list person so this helps me…but I love the idea to break them down into “bite-size” pieces-that def helps to make them more attainable. I have started on my list but I am not done yet 🙂 But I did post on my blog about how to reach a new years resolution of losing weight (this is one that is found at the top of just about everyone’s list I think ;)). check it out here if you like:

  • Love this post! I’m working on my goal worksheet, that I will make a free printable on my site over the weekend. Here is my goal post for 2012:

  • The 3in30 Challenge has been a HUGE help in not only setting reasonable goals, but also in making my goals reality. The community of encouragement and accountability is AMAZING!!

  • Beth says:

    This is the basic process I use when settin physical therapy goals for my patients. Look at areas they want improved/are lacking, set a functional goal with an anticipated date for reaching it (long term goal) and then breaking it down into the parts necessary to get them there. Progress notes are those regular reviews of how things are goin with adjustments made as necessary. How is it I can do this over and over with patients but need a tutorial and downloadable page for personal life?!?! Can’t wait for the printable. 🙂 I have been looking for just this and here you are! Thanks!!

  • Kaidi says:

    Getting an accountability partner – how does it work? By nature I am a very closed person and am truly curious how this would work for people who could use or want one.

  • Kandace says:

    Last year we just loosely discussed our goals and I wrote them out and assigned priorities. We accomplished so much — having another baby, paying off a car– but still have more to do. This year, my husband and I are sitting down together (thank you grandparents for watching the kids!) and deciding our family goals for 2012. Our areas of focus– financial, house, personal. I can’t wait to set our goals and then meet monthly to see how we’re doing.
    Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Kandace says:

    My husband and I are meeting this weekend to discuss our goals for 2012. I can’t wait to get it down on paper and get moving.
    Thank you for the inspiration, and for sharing with us!

  • angel says:

    My family set our goals for 2012. I linked this post and your goal printables. I hope that’s alright. If not, no prob, I can take them down.
    Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • Meagan says:

    Thanks for the inspiration to write my goals for this year. I got married in 2011 ans we are expecting our first little one this March. I will be staying at home after baby is born so, getting myself and my life organized is a must this year!

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