Goal setting: A practical guide for effective goal setting

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I started with goal setting a couple of years ago already. However, I never had a real good understanding of them until I started writing them down in my journal.

The difference between a vague idea and knowing what you want in life is massive. I don’t know if anyone will ever know the exact life they want to live, where, at which point in time and how.

“The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Goal setting techniques, however, provide you with a long-term vision and motivation over the short-term. Whereas in business clearly measuring your goals helps you to achieve what you truly want, aligning my goals has helped me to keep my focus and overcome difficult times.

Today I simply want to share with you what has worked for me.

Goal Setting for 2019

Three rules for effective goal setting

1) Write your goals down

Everyone knows it, very few people do it. Research has show that writing down your goals increases the likelihood of achieving them by 45%. The techniques I use for goal settings are no rocket science but require you to write down your goals.

2) Identify the right time span

To find the appropriate goal setting techniques focus on three time intervals: Short-term, mid-term and long-term. You might have a goal to cook this weekend for your kids and spouse but that shouldn´t go on your long-term goal list. Having a lovingly family thought might fit in better tough.

3) Block time for reflection

There is nothing more important than a Jour fixe for your goal setting. I have an hour slot blocked every last Friday of the month to reflect. Fix a day and do it now. Most of the time you will only need 3-5 Minutes, but creating a system and blocking time is half the work. Alternatively, you can review your goals before you starting writing in your personal journal.

Goal setting techniques

1. Short-term goal setting | Frequency: 1 day – 1 week

To keep it short, I use to-do list apps like “Wunderlist” and “Remember the Milk” or my personal diary to keep track of daily and weekly goals. I write them down and check them of when they are done. What I can recommend is focusing on ONE thing to boost your productivity.

The Chrome plugin Momentum helps you focus on the one task that really needs to be done and provides you with nice backgrounds for your boring empty chrome tabs. So what is the most important thing that has to get done today?

If you prefer to write down your goals, use your journal. It´s nice to go back in time and see what was on your mind and what you had planned for your life. Finally, did everything turn out how you thought it would?

2. Mid-term goal setting | Frequency: 1 month – 1 year

Now it gets interesting. Think about what categories you want to measure and how you define success or a successful life. So, what is most important to you? I defined three categories for myself that I frequently review:

  • me
  • relationship
  • career

This is the minimum. My personal development is the most important factor for myself, so its up first. In this category I write down what and how I want to develop myself – be it physically, emotionally or mentally.

Second, I focus and reflect on the relationships I have with my friends and family. With whom haven’t I been in touch lately? Is there someone I should call or meet? How can I improve my current relationship with them? Last, I focus on my career. What are practical ways to improve my career or turn towards my long-term goals?

Overall, the most important factor is that your mid-term goals are still actionable. Therefore, I write down the goal I have and the first actionable step. This is how it could look like for a typical month.

Me: Learn some Portuguese, write 2 pages for next blog post, go to the gym on Tuesday

Relationship: Be more in touch with grandparents, call Sven, Connect with an old friend,

Career: Connect with 2 people in my industry via E-mail, give a random call next weekend to someone in my network

3) Long-term goal setting | Frequency: 1 year – 10 year

For long-term goal setting I use the same strategy as with mid-term goal setting, but in a different way. Instead of focusing on the next actionable things, I focus on what I wish to accomplish or as Tim Ferriss defines the concept: “Dreamlining”. Therefore, I use three different categories: having, doing, being. Having defines the things you what to posses, doing the thing you wish to experience and being the skills you want to acquire:

• Great apartment
• Nice sound system
• …
• Compete in a dancing competition
• Travel 3 month through Asia
• …
• Become a great entrepreneur
• Become a strong athlete
• …

Edit: Lately, I have also adapted a similar framework for personal development. It´s a combination of my mid-term goal setting technique and a to-do-list. I use it now as monthly planning tool. The core idea is to focus on 9 categories, which are 6 more categories than I was used to. This pushed me to be more precise about me goals and develop in myself into a more “diverse person”.

My latest goal-setting framework:

  • Family: Which activities do you want to do with your family? Vacation, visit, talks, etc.
  • Personal development: How do you want to develop yourself. Journaling, Reading 6 books a year, finding a new flat, …
  • Spirituality: Setting goals for meditation, new cultural or societal views. Make them traceable. I found out I can connect my Oura Ring to my meditation app. That is a nice twist to keep me meditating.
  • Finances: What are your financial goals for the year? How much do I want to save and how do I want to invest it?
  • Career: What could be my next steps? What is good/bad right now?
  • Relationships: Are you happy in your relationships? Are there friends you haven’t talk to for to long?
  • Fun & recreation: What are you planning for vacation? Anything on your bucket list you can do this month, this year
  • Physics/Fitness: How often do I want to go to the gym? When do I want to fast? Am I eating healthy enough or letting myself go?
  • Giving contribution: Finally, to try to find small things to contribute to society. I am not big on donating money to the church, any NGO or health organisation. I believe small things have a lot of impact. Go work for a day in a hospital, homeless shelter or give some food to someone living on the street. You get the idea.

Fear thinking
One of the last methods I want to stress is called fear thinking. Tim Ferriss explains the technique better in this video than I could describe. Have fun watching the video.

The 3 top mistakes of goal setting

Finally, I want to ask you not to commit these 3 errors, otherwise all my good advice is for nothing and everything will be a mess.

Goal Setting Mistakes

1) Try not to do to much

Start small with your goal setting. If you have never set yourself any goals start with daily task and to-do-list. See if you like it. Than, switch over to long-term planning. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t like goal-setting in general; maybe you prefer to-do-list to longer planning or the other way around. Anyhow, it will help you to achieve your goals.

2) Writing down other peoples goals

Don’t write down what other people expect of you nor what their idea of a good life is. Take your time and find your own goals. You can achieve inspiration from others, but should not rely on them.

3) No review and reflection time

You need time to reflect and revisit your goals. This will make you understand yourself better and sharpen your personal goals. We learn by experience, but grow by reflection.

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