Start by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
For example, let’s say you want to lose weight. How much weight do you want to lose and by what date?
To lose 15 pounds by July 1st, 2014.
This goal is specific – 15 pounds.
To make it measurable you need to measure your weight now, and then again on July 1st.
Is the goal achievable? This part is subjective, up to each person to assess. This goal requires you to lose a little over 2 pounds per month. This seems achievable to me.
Is this goal relevant? Again this is subjective. Perhaps for medical reasons you need to lose weight that would be highly relevant.
Is the goal time-bound? Yes, by July 1st, 2014.
The key to achieving your big goals is to break them down into achievable steps that can be planned and measured daily or weekly. This goal must be broken down into smaller steps.
For instance, what are you going to do every day, every week, every month to meet this goal? How are you going to change your diet and your exercise? Again make sure these steps are S.M.A.R.T.
I like using a tool called Goal Enforcer to plan my goals. I like this tool because it is visual, working the way the mind does in images and associations.
To plan my daily and weekly activities I use Planner Pads. This is a little known system, but I like it very much because it uses a funneling approach to task planning.
At the top I label each column with topics that are relevant for the week like: Personal, Work, Health, etc. In the middle section I add the tasks that I need to accomplish that day, but are not a timed. At the bottom, I put in my all my timed appointments.
Time Management Matrix
Perhaps the most important part of achieving your goals is learning to manage your time. I suggest you get in to the habit of planning all the time: every week, every day and several times a day. If you do not have a discipline of planning you might end up wasting time on activities that are not relevant to your goals.
Stephen Covey in his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People introduced a time-management matrix.
- Quadrant 1 contains tasks that are urgent and essential like paying bills.
- Quadrant 2 contains tasks that are non-urgent and essential like budgeting.
- Quadrant 3 contains tasks that are urgent and non-essential like reading emails from strangers.
- Quadrant 4 contains tasks that are non-urgent and non-essential like watching TV, and goofing off on the internet.
Effective time management is the key to achieving your goals. When you are not disciplined in your time-management you could be spending too much time in Quadrant 3 and 4, the non-essential tasks. In this day and age, I find people bounce between quadrant 1, putting out fires all day, and quadrant 4 vegging in front of the TV or computer doing mindless activities to recover from the chaos.
The goal of this time-management system is to spend time in quadrant 2 – non-urgent and essential. This quadrant contains most of your goals.
Besides the obvious – stop spending so much time in quadrant 4 – I find people get hung up on the urgent tasks. They end up doing urgent tasks that should be or could done by someone else. Delegate these tasks to make room Quadrant 2.
My advice is to pay careful attention to the so called urgent tasks. Is it really urgent? And must it be completed by you?