Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions in January and then wondered why you hadn’t made any progress by May? Maybe you forgot all about achieving your goals until September and have no idea why you hadn’t gotten anywhere. Or if you’re like most of us, you start off with really good intentions and strong motivation. This fades over the next couple of months until you finally just call it quits in April.
If this sounds like you I have a three-step solution to your problem. It IS possible to make things you want a reality, and yes, it requires commitment. But more than that it requires a plan. Achieving goals doesn’t happen overnight. Putting a plan in place at the beginning makes your goals much less daunting, and gives you no excuse to quit.
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Here are the three steps you need to do in order to CRUSH your goals.
Step 1 – Create a SMART Goal
There are many acronyms for actionable goals, but I’m going to explain a SMART goal since it’s one of the most widely used. In order for this plan to work your goals do need to be achievable. If you tell me you want to be the next Bill Gates by 2020 I think we may need to reassess your priorities.
Here are the elements of SMART goals:
You need a very specific goal to achieve. A SMART goal isn’t “I want to make more money.” That’s much too general and doesn’t include any of the other elements. How much more money? By when? How?
It also needs to be measurable. How will you quantify whether or not this is successful? In the example above, I don’t know how much you made previously, or how much you want to make in the future. Measurability is important when creating SMART goals as it’s your metric for success.
The goal needs to be achievable. If you currently make $60k per year and your goal is to make $150k next year without a job change or new business, it’s probably not achievable to do in your current position.
SMART goals are also relevant. They should be reasonable and resourced. If you’re an accountant living in an apartment in a highly populated city but want to become a beekeeper, you can’t expect that to happen in the next 30 days. You’ll need to seek out options, space, training, etc. Your goals need to be relevant.
Finally, they need to be time-bound. If a goal isn’t tied to some type of timing or metric, how will you measure progress, or know if you achieved it? I can have a life-long goal to become a millionaire but if I don’t set a time limit how will I know if I’m going to get there? In the example above, make more money by when?
Let’s use the first example, “I want to make more money,” and turn it into a SMART goal.
A SMART goal around making more money could be: “I want to increase my income from $60k per year to $80k per year within 18 months by getting a promotion and gaining a second income source.”
This is specific because it details how much you need to increase, by nature is measurable, and isn’t so high that it’s unachievable. It’s relevant to you and your life and is something you can reasonably be expected to do, and you’ve given yourself a time limit to do it.
Now that we know what we want, let’s figure out how to make it happen.
Step 2 – Create a plan to achieve your goal
“Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most.”
Creating a plan to achieve your goal is what will make it a reality. Anyone can have a goal, but it takes discipline and planning to actually make your dreams a reality. A $20k increase is a big deal. It’s not something that’s just going to be handed to you overnight.
Write it down
People who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve them. Write down your goal and stick it somewhere you’ll see it often. Not at the bottom of your desk drawer.
Outline the steps you’ll take to hit your goal
To increase your income $20k in 18 months you’ll need to make some pretty big changes. In this phase, brainstorm all the options and things you’ll need to do to make this a reality. Hope isn’t a strategy.
Your plan could include the steps you’ll need to get a promotion at your current job, or the second jobs or side hustles you could start to generate extra income. If you want to go up $20k in less than two years you’ll probably need a combination of these two. Dive right in.
List the types of second jobs you could do and that work with your schedule. Could you get a promotion or just pick up extra shifts at your current job? If you volunteer for a holiday or overnight shifts would you get overtime or triple time pay?
Be very specific about each of the new income sources you’ll pursue, and how much they’ll get you. Once you have a path to your $20k, it’s time to make it time bound and put it into action.
Create an Implementation Timeline
If you need to pick up 100 extra shifts – figure out which days of the week it could happen and ask to be put on the schedule.
In order to generate income from side hustles or a second job, you need to actually go out and GET the job. Write down the date you’ll apply, or start freelancing, etc. You need to be really specific about how much money you need and by when in order to hit your goal, or the plan won’t work.
Step 3 – Create timebound check-ins on your progress
Now that you have your goal and your plan, you’re ahead of the game. Way farther than if you were still back in the “wishing” phase, and now it’s time to put it into action.
Once you have your mini-goals laid out, create time-bound check-ins to see how you’re doing. If you need 100 extra shifts in 18 months but haven’t gotten on the schedule three months later, you’re likely not going to hit that goal.
Same story if you need $800 for freelance or side-hustle income monthly and yet to land your first gig or second job by month three. On the other hand, you may be moving faster than you thought. You may have underestimated the take-home pay for working overtime, or your side hustle could generate more income than you thought.
It’s important to frequently check in on your goals and reassess based on progress. I’d review goals no less than quarterly if they are annual, or more frequently if you’re on a short timeline. You may even need to check in with yourself weekly if you’re not making progress, or you need something done quickly.
Reassess your deadlines based on goal progress to date.
Revise your plan based on what’s working and what needs adjusting. After six months if you realize getting a second job just isn’t going to happen, but your overtime or promotion won’t get you to your $20k goal – don’t give up!
Now is the time to reassess and head back to the drawing board. If you can’t get a part-time brick and mortar job, can you work online? You could become a virtual assistant, or start your own business providing a service like house cleaning or Uber driving.
The options are endless, and you just need to figure out what works with your life and schedule. If you hit a snag, don’t quit, it’s just time to dig back in.
Become an achiever, hit those big goals
Stick to the plan, check in on progress, and refine when you hit a speedbump. You WILL hit your goals with a detailed plan behind you. It removes some of the self-discipline you need along the way when you create a plan up front.
Once you’ve achieved your SMART goal you can be extremely proud of the big (and sometimes scary) thing you accomplished.
Celebrate and Reflect
At this point, don’t forget to reflect, and then celebrate. What worked well, what can you optimize for next time? Is there anything you could have done that would have helped you achieve the goal easier or faster?
Finally – celebrate your accomplishment and be proud of yourself. You did an awesome thing. You put your mind to something and hit a goal. Remind yourself of how good it feels so it can carry you through the struggles on your next goal or project.
Setting big goals is hard, and really daunting for many people. If you put a plan in place and follow-up with a dose of discipline, you’re much more likely to be on the other side of the SMART goal, smiling at your former self.
What’s the one thing you swear by in order to make things happen in your life?