Setting goals can be both fun and overwhelming. Where do you start? How long should you give yourself to complete your goals? How many goals should you make at once? What if you don’t achieve your goals in time?
These are all questions that are swirling around our heads as we think about all the things we want to achieve, both in our lifetime and in the foreseeable future.
This is why it’s best to use time based goal setting methods when setting up your goals. This is, in fact, the last piece of the SMART goal setting system: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Based.
The rest of the goal setting puzzle will be for another post, for now let’s focus on the 5 ways to set up time-based goals.
Setting Lifetime Goals
This first one is obviously the largest. It’s most likely going to take a long time to reach these goals but it’s still good to set them so you can work towards something huge. You will then break these giant goals down into more reasonable chunks.
Some examples of lifetime goals can be getting married and having a family, moving to and living in another country, getting your dream job, traveling to a certain amount of countries in the world, winning a large award in your career field, etc. The possibilities are endless but it’s going to take some time.
If you could achieve 1 huge thing in your lifetime, that you see could be a possibility, what would it be? Make sure you have a strong reason for your dream because a lack of purpose is one of the big barriers preventing people from achieving their goals. Don’t let this be you.
The next way to set up time-based goals is to either break down your lifetime goal or to choose other goals that will take you some time to complete. The timeframe for long term goals can vary depending on the goal.
Having a 1 year goal is a good starting point. I wouldn’t go over 5 years or else it starts feeling like a lifetime goal.
I also wouldn’t create a long term goal under 6 months or else it should be classified as a short term goal because it’s something you can achieve in the foreseeable future.
Try to make your long term goal(s) between 1-5 years in length.
What do you think you can and want to accomplish in that time?
In addition to wanting to accomplish a goal, you need to be able to believe in yourself. Self confidence can go a long way in your goal setting, especially for long term goals so you never give up.
When you’re working towards long term goals, you may not always have the quick wins of shorter time-based goals. If you need some tips on raising your self esteem and confidence, here are 7 ways to do so which will help you with your goals.
Creating Short Term Goals
While you don’t need to have your lifetime and long term goals set to create short term goals, it would be helpful so you could meet your longer time-based goals more easily.
Short term goals are goals that range from roughly 3 months to 6 months, though some people may have them as short as 1 month and as long as a year, depending on the size of their goals.
If, for instance, you’re building a business (your lifetime goal), having a six-figure income could be your 5 year long term goal, while hitting $2k/month could be your short term 6 month goal.
Another example could be a weight loss goal. There may not be a lifetime goal here or even a long-term goal if you don’t have that much to lose. You could have a short term goal of losing 12 pounds in 1-3 months.
This would further break down into 4 pounds per month (if doing the 3 month goal) which I will explain in the milestone section below.
Breaking Down Time-Based Goals into Milestones
Next, you’re going to want to break down your goals into milestones. Milestones are points in your journey that you’re going to want to celebrate and also shows you that you’re on the right path towards hitting your goals.
If you’re working with long term goals, your short term goals may end up being your milestones. You could also have your long term goal, your short term goal, and then break that short term goal into milestones.
I’m going to use the weight loss example again. If you want to lose 12 pounds in 3 months, one of your milestones could be your first 3-4 pounds. Another could be the 6 pound half way point, and then the 9-10 pounds to be close to your goal.
One of my long term goals is to be able to do the splits because I hate how inflexible I am. My short term goal is to be able to touch my toes (yes, that’s sad). My milestone was to be able to get to my ankle. Right now I’m able to swipe at my toes but I can’t hold the position. My next milestone is to be able to touch my toes for at least 15 seconds, then to have my palms on the floor, then to have a front split, and finally a middle split.
Break your long or short term goals down into smaller pieces that have meaning to you.
Time and Action Based Stepping Stones
The final piece to this puzzle are the stepping stones. These are both time sensitize and actionable items that you need to do to reach your milestones, long term, short term, and lifetime goals, though it won’t happen all at once.
Stepping stones are things that you can do daily or weekly to help you in your journey towards achieving your goals. I would stay that stepping stones are no longer than 1 month at a time.
Daily and weekly stepping stones will help you reach your milestones and short term goals.
Stepping stones can be as easy as a daily workout, increasing how much you do towards a goal on a daily/weekly basis (like cleaning your house for an hour vs 15 minutes), shutting off the TV to prioritize your goals, etc.
What are some small actionable items that you can do to help you towards your larger goals? You can also list them out into “must do”, “should do”, and “if I have time” tasks. You should prioritize actionable items that help you reach your goal over things you want to do “just because”.
For the weight loss example, some of your stepping stones could be drinking 8 glasses of water daily, switching out chips for carrots, and prioritizing your strength or cardio training over a light yoga exercise. This isn’t to say that yoga exercise shouldn’t be in your weekly routine, but it should be more of a bonus instead of the main stepping stone.
However, if yoga helps you get your workouts in more than another form of exercise, then you should prioritize it. Whatever helps YOU get to YOUR goal is what you should prioritize.
In this example, some prefer cardio, others strength training, others maybe a sport or other form of activity. Do what’s best for you and your goals.
3 Full Time Based Examples
Lifetime: Get your PhD
Long term: Get your Master Degree
Short term: Take and pass 9 credits this semester
Milestones: Your midterm and final exams
Stepping stones: Your weekly assignments, studying sessions, and class attendance
Lifetime: Compete in a triathlon
Long term: Run a marathon
Short term: Run a 10K
Milestone: Walk a 5K, run a 5K
Stepping stones: Start and finish a couch to 5K program
Lifetime: Start an online business
Long term: To make enough to quit your day job
Short term: Create a product line or have coaching services
Milestones: Build traffic and create your first product or service
Stepping stones: Write a business plan, outline ideas for products/services, network, build your self confidence, etc.
You can break down all of your large goals into smaller and more manageable pieces that you will hope to achieve over a certain period of time. There is no right or wrong answer. Only you know what you are capable of achieving. However, I would suggest that whatever you think you can reach, aim a little higher. This will give you a bigger push and drive to succeed.
Good luck in all your goals!