For 10 years as a freelance graphic designer, I struggled to achieve many goals in my business. Not because I did not work hard enough, but it was because either I wanted something way out of reach, or I did not make proper planning and steps to strategise my way to that desired destination.
You might have experienced a similar situation as I have in your business and life, maybe you wanted to lose weight for the longest time, maybe you’ve worked like a mad dog to earn a better income yet you never seen the light of day.
At the same time, there are so many versions of how to set goals that you’re confused on whether to shoot for the moon and take bold actions or to be realistic and stay closer to Earth.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” — Tony Robbins
Here are the top 8 tips for you to set goals and accomplish them:
1. Write them down
I cannot stress enough for you to keep a journal and just write. Take at least 5 minutes a day, sit down in stillness to just look within yourself first, don’t get distracted by what your friends are sharing on Facebook, no phones, no TV.
If you don’t want to be rude to anybody by not responding to anyone’s call, block off that time by telling your family that it’s your quiet time now before you get into your writing.
Then you might ask, “What do I write? My mind’s all blank and I don’t want to waste my time sitting there staring into space.” Look, you are not wasting your time. Of course, you are not going to stare into space for hours.
Get started first by writing where do you want to become after this day is over, or after a big project, or even after today’s meetings, or whatever you are working so hard on right now. You need to envision and identify what your life would be like after your hard work is done.
There are many different ways you can write down your goals in your journal. Some people use post-it notes to put down every goal in every post-it note and use the elimination process to pick the top goal to work on.
For me, I love creating mind maps so that I can connect my thoughts and expand my possibilities as much as possible on paper.
By writing down your goals you are showing personal commitment and declaring your intention to succeed, as well as helping to clarify your thoughts.
2. Be specific with a challenge
You really have to be super detailed when it comes to getting your goals down. Not only you have to resonate with what you want to achieve, but you also need to have all the arbitrary numbers and measurements that say you have arrived at your goal.
It’s to put down in detail what are the exact feelings you have, the exact metrics you produce and the experience you will get when you fast forward your life to the future.
You need to write down goals that are specific, measurable and positive.
Many people talk about setting attainable and reachable goals. My opinion is if you are just starting out something that you’ve never done before, start off by setting baby steps with mini goals first.
Give yourself the allowance to stretch a bit more than your limit, but make it possible. If it’s too easy, you may get bored and it doesn’t challenge you enough. If it’s too far-fetched, you’ll end up giving up earlier.
For example, if I asked you what is your dream job, you may say “I just want to sit at the beach whole day long for my entire life.”
But imagine yourself sitting on the beach for some time, you may feel good for a while, but in reality, you may end up feeling bored and start to look for something more challenging to do.
It’s natural for human beings to do something useful, challenging or something that needs a bit more effort to deal with.
Whether you are running a marathon, trying to stick to a healthy diet or working to achieve any personal goal, if it comes with little or no effort, it means nothing. It’s okay to do something harder than what you think you can do.
If you are still afraid of making a big transition to your life, start with something within reach first. Once you get the momentum of making it a habit to do that thing every day for 21 days, then I would suggest you to start taking bolder actions than before.
3. Set a time limit
Set a date by which you will have achieved each of your goals. Otherwise, it’s like starting a football match without having agreed when the game is to end!
A lot of times, many entrepreneurs say they want to master a certain skill, be better at marketing, sales, or learn a language or be proficient in coding.
If you are like them, it’s great, because it’s fantastic that you have aspirations to strive to be better than you currently are now. There’s no issue of you desiring to be as successful as Elon Musk.
My question to you is, by when are you going to master these skills? It’s not about the level of difficulty, because the difficulty depends on the possibility you believe you have in you. The issue is your date due.
All of us, even Michael Jordan, we all have a time limit in this world, our time here is limited. I don’t mean to be dismal, but all of us will leave sooner or later yet we may not know when.
So before our time is up, set that date, give yourself a number, for example by 1 January 2020, you are earning $100,000 in monthly revenue.
Based on my experience, those entrepreneurs who merely wished to be better at a skill and although they really work hard for it conscientiously, barely made it and quit altogether even before they see the light of day.
You are not like them, get down to setting a time limit for yourself. Don’t be afraid of not meeting that date. Set that date and trust yourself to accomplish it.
4. Think of the benefits
Come up with the reasons why you want to achieve these goals in the first place. Think through all the benefits of achieving your goals, and write them all down.
This helps you clarify why they are important to you, visualise and feel what it will be like to achieve them, check how committed you are to working on them — and all this will help energise and motivate you if the going gets tough.
Again, to do this well, you may wish to do what I usually do as I’ve mentioned earlier, to use mind-mapping to get clarity on all the possible benefits. Next, instead of ranking all your benefits in a list, spread them out and link them up so you will know what leads to the ultimate benefit you intend to go for.
For example, I want to grow my business and earn $100,000 in monthly revenue by 1 January 2020 because my goal is to return all debts, pay up my mortgage, stay debt free and serve millions of freedom businesses such that they can work from anywhere.
Yours may be different. Yours could be, being able to reach one goal this year could lead you to work towards a bigger goal next year. So keep linking them up, they don’t have to be in neat rows in a list format.
You can mind-map your thoughts out and organise them after you are done doing the brain dump.
5. Consider options and obstacles
As with anything you do in life, you know you can’t control everything and sometimes, many things can come between you and your goals at the wrong time. So what do you do?
Ask yourself, how many ways can you think of to achieve your goal? Looks like you can come up with this by using a mind map again here.
You can get another fresh piece of paper and label something like “possible obstacles” and just link that up with all the various challenges you can possibly think of.
Could be things such as you may fall sick, or your kid needs attention, the weather turns cold or nasty. You get the point. Put that all down. Evaluate the results and consequences of each. What could stop you or cause a problem?
What about subconscious obstacles like procrastination? Some days you may not want to write anything or send an email due to a certain feeling that overwhelmed you and so on.
Here’s what you can do:
Complete this sentence several times to understand yourself better:
“I want to achieve (blank) (name your goal) but………”
Then you carry on with your reasons. It takes time, but as Zig Ziglar says,
“Goal setting takes at least 24 hours”
It may be a bit of work, but it will solve your life’s problems.
6. Make an action plan
So now you have all the numbers, details, desired mini goals and skills to achieve. Then what would be your exact steps to accomplish them?
Are you going to reach out to potential business partners every day for 1 hour?
Are you seeking help from a coach to bring you to the next level?
What is your exact recipe for this week and the next and the week after next?
This is one of the most boring things I’ve ever done because I’m the kind of person who prefers doing things more than going into planning. Just like when clients come to me to work on a project, I tend to jump on it and start designing on the computer, only to go back to the drawing board after a day’s hard work.
Hence, to save time and energy, it’s necessary to keep your activities in check before doing anything. Before starting the work, it’s worth your while to choose your preferred way forward, identify all the actions you’ll need to take right from the start.
This helps to breaks a seemingly big and daunting task down into manageable steps, enables you to plan what to do, prepare for problems, and reduces resistance to actually getting started.
7. Identify resources
Resourceful people will know this. Start by doing a realistic review and assess the things you need when making your plan, and if need be, ask for support from your network, outsource the work or hire extra help.
Here are some questions you can get started with:
What skills, knowledge, ability and contacts do you already have?
What additional resources will you require?
What changes do you need to make?
Most of the time even if you are in an individual sport, or working alone, it doesn’t mean you will have to totally depend on your own resources throughout the whole year.
It’s important that you leverage some form of help and assistance depending on your goals to pick up the skill sets necessary to reach your goals.
In my case, I am now working on a challenge to land 10 customers in 10 days. This is a goal I’ve not accomplished before, not in 10 consecutive days. What I’m doing now is ask those people who have done this before on what they went through and what I can do to reach this goal.
So really understand your situation and what you need, then look for materials and resources to learn more. They could also found in books, videos or even audio like podcasts and audiobooks.
8. Review and reward yourself
Set some interim milestones as part of your initial strategy. This means you can check your progress regularly and see that you are moving in the right direction, and as part of this process, acknowledge your achievements along the way and reward yourself for everything you accomplish.
I used to only reward myself when I get to work with big clients. In between that, I slogged and never stopped to think about what is enough for me at that time. This makes me think that I always need to do more and there’s never an end to that.
One day I got so burned out I stopped working on client designs and told myself I was never going back to do design work. When I wasn’t getting enough income to support myself, I knew I had to get back to exchanging work for money.
That was when I realised little wins in between a big project have a place to make me feel cared for and hence rejuvenated to work on the next thing.
Celebrate every milestone and acknowledge all that you’ve achieved be it baby or bold steps. This is so important to keep you moving in the direction you know is the way to go and arrive at your eventual destination.
Take action now
After completing these 8 steps, it’s time to get up and get started. Do not just make plans and put them one side. Stick to your plan and maintain it every other day and stay on a consistent path. As days go by you will see results flourish from your actions.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” — Nelson Mandela
Get it done now.