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Why You Should Write Your Goals Down on Paper

The Secret to Goal-Setting Success

To get anywhere in life, you need to have goals. Not just dreams, not just lofty ambitions, but specific, realistic, achievable goals. If you don’t know where you’re aiming and you lack purpose, you’re liable to end up anywhere… and it’ll probably be the wrong side of the tracks.

Write it down

One of the best ways I have found to clarify a goal is to get out a pen and paper and actually write it down. I’m not trying to knock computer-related goal tracking. I’m sure there are some snazzy apps out there, but I’ve found that there’s just something about the physical act of writing down my goal that makes it become real to me.

When you write your goals down, they are no longer just fuzzy ideas; they are set-in-place goals that you’re committed to work toward. Not only that, but writing down your goal gives weight to the goal and it also gives you a start date.

And when you have a start date you are motivated to actually, you know, start. Plus, if you write down your goals, you are able to track your progress and be encouraged at the momentum you’re gaining in the right direction.


Free Printable Goal-Setting Worksheets

To help you out, here are two printable and customizable Goal Planning Forms you can download, type into, save, and print. Or, you can just print them and hand write your goals in. These printable forms were made to go along with the steps in this post.

Three methods to keep you on track with your goals

1. Create a list

How you write down your goals will vary from person-to-person. I prefer to type up my weekly, monthly, and yearly goal lists and then physically cross them off as I finish them. There’s something about putting a line through a goal to mark it as completed that gives me immense satisfaction.

2. Design a spreadsheet

While typing up my goals and crossing them off is very motivating to me, other people (like my husband) find much more motivation by creating a sophisticated spreadsheet with various commands programmed in to track the percentage of progress for each goal.

When we were saving to buy a house, this was especially motivating for my husband. He set up an Excel spreadsheet with our end house-savings goal and our monthly house-savings goals. Each month, he’d input how much we’d saved into the spreadsheet and it would automatically update our savings percentages. This gave him great satisfaction and motivation.

3. Use sticky notes

If you’re a very visual person and need a lot of extra reminders, you might find it helpful to put specific goals on sticky notes and place them throughout the house where they will serve as a constant reminder to stay on track.

Here is what this could look like in your home:

  • Trying to lose five pounds? Put a sticky on the fridge to remind you to choose your foods wisely.
  • Training for your first 5K race? Put a sticky on your laptop reminding you to go run before you open your computer.
  • Trying to become more organized with your meal planning? Put a sticky on your bathroom mirror reminding you to take out meat to defrost while you’re brushing your teeth before bed.

Writing down your goals will not actually accomplish them, but this simple act will give you great momentum to get going in the right direction. As you begin this new year, instead of just dreaming up big ideas or fantasizing about your mammoth ambitions, I encourage you to take the first step to success by sitting down and writing out your goals today!

Need some encouragement and step-by-step help for successful goal-setting and living your life with intention? Be sure to pre-order a copy of my new book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. In it, I walk you through my process for setting up goals that are realistic, doable, and actionable. I think you’ll find it practical, motivational, and inspirational! Order your copy here.

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  • April says:

    Slightly unrelated to this post–
    I am finally getting around to reading your Money Saving Mom’s Budget book that I got several years ago.. Job well done. The book is awesome. I left my first and second draft of my “time budget” on my bed, and my husband found it tonight while I was at Yoga. I have four little boys, and they are all young. The youngest is 6 months old, and my time budget was so depressing, but I think it finally got through to my husband what I’m doing everyday. So thank you. I got home, and he said, “April, your time budget is a joke. You didn’t schedule eating, you only gave yourself 30 minutes for email, and 30 minutes for laundry!!?? You really don’t have any time.” Obviously even that second draft didn’t work out. My time budget needs to operate more in 48 hour chunks, as I can’t do it all everyday, but THANK YOU for this book full of wonderful ideas.

  • Awesome. I completely agree. If I write my goals down, I am way more apt to do them… and I thought I was the only one that likes crossing them off! LOL

  • I am a very visual person!!! I am currently trying to shed about 10-15 pounds. I am keeping track of my progress on my bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker! For our mortgage pay-off, I made a sheet with “bricks.” Each brick represents $1000. For each $1000 we pay down, I color in a brick! 🙂

  • Victoria says:

    I agree that writing down goals a referring to them often is important, as well as breaking them down it bite size pieces on paper, so that you can see you are indeed getting one step closer every day or week or month (depending on size of goal). I also think though that you should speak your goal out loud to a few people. I can understand not speaking it out loud to every one (we all have those people in our lives that stomp on all our dreams), but speaking it to a few chosen ones who have been supportive and encouraging of us can make a HUGE difference, especially on those down days when you think you are never going to make it.

  • Anna says:

    Crystal, I am trying the idea of goal-setting for the first time this year, and I am wondering how you differentiate your weekly goals from your to-do list yet. I see the difference as being that “goals” are more long-term, yet when I sit down to do my weekly goals, it just seems like a long to-do list (although maybe my problem is that I’m still working on coming up with my larger yearly/monthly goals). Do you think you could do a post on how goal-setting differs from writing to-do lists? 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Most of my weekly goals are taken from my yearly goals list (bite-sized pieces of each goals). They are somewhat like a to-do list, but are often more than I could do in one day and are things (mostly) that are intentionally getting me closer to where I want to be at the end of the year.

      I use my weekly goal list to make my daily to-do lists… so that each day I’m getting a little closer to where I want to be at the end of each week and each week I’m getting closer to where I want to be at the end of the year.

      Does that make sense?

      • Anna says:

        Yes, thanks! So items from your goal list will make it onto your to-do list each week to help you intentionally make progress toward the yearly goals, but not everything on your to-do list is a “goal” (e.g., grocery shopping, tackling emails, chores, etc.).

  • I keep a written list at all times which is wonderful until I lose it and then I about lose my mind! The list is for 1 week out and is broken into what I need to do each day, from medicines to take to appointments to things I want to do with my boy. I couldn’t live without it. Honestly, when I write it down on the list, it frees it from my mind which way cuts down on stress 🙂

  • I went back to a paper calendar this year, so I could write out no more than five specific goals/tasks for myself each day and then cross them off at the end of the day to feel a bigger sense of accomplishment. So true that it works. I feel much more productive. You’ve inspired me to keep it up 🙂

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