How to Set Goals (And Actually Achieve Them!)

Hi friends! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how far I’ve fallen in love with goal setting. A few years ago, I was inspired by this post from Dani at Dani Dearest on the importance of working towards goals, and started using her method to set goals for myself. I’ve since adapted and customized to make my own routine for both setting and achieving my goals, which is the one I’ll be sharing with you today.

I cannot rave on enough about how instrumental goal-setting has been in helping me grow as a person in all areas of my life. I am so much more balanced and reflective than I was four years ago, and I credit defining goals and actively pursuing them to much of that change.

With that in mind, here’s my personal method! As always, adapt to fit your liking 🙂

All about that balance

If there’s one tip that I recommend above all others, it’s this. Diversify your goals. Identify categories of your life where you’d like to grow; mine generally include academics, clubs/volunteering, physical and mental health, relationships with friends and family, blogging, and other hobbies.

I’m a big believer in work-life (or school-life) balance, and setting goals in all areas helps me focus on all the important areas of my life at once. I highly, highly recommend striving for at least a few different categories to facilitate growth as a person all-around.

I generally set about 10 goals per semester, because that’s what works for me. Play around with numbers to find what works for you, but keep in mind that the less goals you aim for, the slower you might achieve overall progress, but the more goals you set, the harder it will be to achieve all of them.

Be SMART about it

SMART goals are probably one of the biggest buzzwords of the past year or two, and for good reason. SMART goals are defined as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

That basically means: know exactly what you want, why you want it, and how you’ll know when you get there. A good example of a SMART goal might be “run 5k in under 30min by September 1st”. This goal makes sense if you’re a beginner runner (or a non-runner!) trying to step up your endurance. You’ll know that you’ve made progress when you can run for half an hour continuously. Maybe your ultimate dream is to one day run a marathon, so getting from nothing to being able to do a 5k is definitely relevant to getting to that marathon goal eventually. It’s measurable because you know exactly what separates success and not success: did you have to stop to walk or could you run for the whole time? And there’s a time limit on it too, which gives you that deadline motivator. Be sure, here, to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to reach your goal. You can’t go from not running at all to running a 5K in a week. But you can do that in two months, or three, or even four. On the other hand, don’t give yourself too much time, because if you’re like me, you’ll procrastinate. 🙂

Make a plan

Wanting to run a marathon is all well and good, but you’ll never do the training if you don’t have some sort of plan. Same goes for any goal; without a plan, your goal is just a bullet point on a piece of paper. Do your research, consult anyone you need to, and map out your progress. Check off days or checkpoints or mini goals as you go. Adjust timelines and plans as required. Be flexible, but dedicated in achieving your goals in a fairly short amount of time.

Remind yourself daily

Make a handwritten list of your goals as defined above, and put it in a highly visible place so you’ll be forced to see the list every day. This is a great reminder to actually get your shit done. I like posting a list on the wall above my desk so I see it in the morning and night when I’m doing homework.

I also really like making a tiny list on a post-it note and using that as my bookmark for my planner. This serves as a constant reminder to check your week’s schedule and see if you’re missing any opportunity to pursue those goals. For example, if my goal is to run that 5K but I haven’t pencilled myself in a run this week, you can bet your booties that I’m going to notice that when I run my schedule against my post-it goals list bookmark. Then I can plan to run on one or three days of the week. I’ve recently started using an app called Today to track some habits as well (it’s free!).

Shout it from the rooftops

Goals are more often attained when we tell other people about them. I like telling a friend about one or two of my goals for the semester (notice I said one or two—this fits into a casual conversation a little better than all ten goals, for me) as a bit of an accountability measure. If you tell enough friends two different goals each, you’re bound to have someone ask you about your progress at some point.

Grab a friend

Everything is so much more fun with friends. Buddying up with a friend is super easy to do for certain goals. My roommate and I often go to our favourite gym class together, which makes it so much more likely that I’ll actually go. For one, I feel worse skipping out when I know she’s expecting me to be there. Second, starting a new gym class is significantly easier when you have someone else who’s just as clueless as you are.

For some things (*cough* studying), friends are more distracting than helpful. But that doesn’t mean you have to do the activity itself with friends. It’s easy enough just to commit to meeting up with a friend to head to the library on Saturday mornings together, then going your separate ways to study alone (read: more productively). Or, you could even just ask each other about readings, assignments, or tests to keep each other on track.

Be creative, and don’t hesitate to throw out past/common rules in favour of making new/your own ones. These are just a few of the tips that have worked for me, but you should adapt them to your own life!

What goals are you going to rock this semester/year? Join the discussion in the comments below!