Takeaways:

  • A simple process for eliminating goals you don't care about so you can focus on what's most important to you
  • A step-by-step guide on how to break down your goals into bite-sized chunks so you don't feel overwhelmed
  • Learn how to create a solid action plan to accomplish your goals
This is the second part of a three-part series on setting and achieving goals. If you’re coming across this article for the first time, I suggest starting here.

Got your big list of goals put together?

How are you feeling? Excited? Overwhelmed?

I get pretty pumped up when I see a big list of lofty goals. But after the excitement wears off (usually in a few hours), I get really anxious.

“HOLY SHIT! WHERE THE FUCK DO I EVEN GET STARTED?!”

 

In this post, I’m going to help you create a system for breaking down your goals and maintaining consistent action towards achieving them.

Prioritize Your Focus

Warren Buffett and his airplane pilot had a conversation one day about goals. In their conversation, Buffett shared that in order to achieve massive success in your life, you must limit your focuses [2].

The more you can narrow down your focuses, the more likely you are to do really well in those few areas.

You need to get your list of 30+ goals down to a list of 3-5 goals.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Immediate benefits are a stronger predictor of persistence than delayed benefits.” [3] Fewer goals allow us to accomplish our goals more often, increasing the likelihood of consistent action towards achieving our goals.

Are you going to have to say “no” to a few things? Absolutely.

You shouldn’t just completely forget about everything else in your life. Just limit the focus you put in areas outside of your goals.

For example, I’m very focused on building GenY Success, my consulting work and a networking group I’m building. I was doing stand up comedy for close to a year and, although I enjoy it, I’m putting it on the back burner for a few months.

I’m willing to say “no” to some things so that I can do really well in the three areas I’ve decided to focus on.

Notice I didn’t mention anything about health or relationship goals.

Does that mean they’re not important? Absolutely not. I’m happy letting my habits maintain the momentum I have in those areas.

Categorize Your Goals

Categorizing your goals is the first step. For example, let’s say you listed these goals:

  1. Save $10,000 in an emergency fund
  2. Lower body fat percentage from 20% to 15%
  3. Start doing yoga
  4. Exercise 4x / week
  5. Donate $1,000 to a charity
  6. Take a stand up comedy class
  7. Build tighter group of like-minded friends
  8. Increase gross earnings by $10,000
  9. Promotion at work
  10. Earn $5k from side hustle
  11. Meet 52 new people
  12. Find a mentor
  13. Volunteer 52 times
  14. Donate or sell belongings I don’t use anymore

That’s 14 goals. Quite a bit to work on all at once.

I like to group together goals that will help each other.

For example, there are several goals related to money. We can group those together. From this list of goals, it looks like saving $10,000 is the most important goal. There are several other goals that will also help accomplish that goal.

Earning $5k from your side hustle will contribute to that goal. Increasing gross earnings by $10,000 will contribute to that goal.

There are also other opportunities in other categories as well. Here’s how I categorized these goals together:

  1. Save $10,000
    • Increase gross earnings by $10,000
    • Promotion at work
    • Earn $5k from side hustle
    • Donate or sell belongings I don’t use anymore
  2. Build tighter group of like-minded friends
    • Find a mentor in my area of work
    • Meet 52 new people
  3. Lower body fat percentage from 20% to 15%
    • Start doing yoga
    • Exercise 4x / week
  4. Donate $1,000 to a charity
  5. Take a stand up comedy class
  6. Volunteer 52 times

14 goals just turned into 6! Easy enough, right?

Now comes the hard part.

Those 6 goals need to be prioritized to 3 or less push goals. Chalene Johnson coined the term “push goal” as the one goal on your list that if achieved would make all (or most) of the others possible [1].

Ideally, your one big goal helps you accomplish all of your other goals, creating a “domino effect.”

How To Shorten Down Your List of Goals

Here are a few questions I ask myself when prioritizing:

  • Is this goal a “FUCK YEAH!”? Does it get me excited?
  • Does this goal embody my values? Refer back to the values you wrote down from the first post.
  • Would this year be a huge win if I only accomplished these 3-5 goals?
  • Does accomplishing this goal help me accomplish any of my other goals? If not, get rid of it. For example, surrounding yourself with higher quality friends will help you make better decisions in your career and personal life.

Now take your list of categories and get it down to no more than three.

Deconstruct Your Goals

The Next 90 Days

Breaking down your goals will help develop the habit of “chipping away” at large, complex goals.

Plus, consistent progress and achievement are necessary for staying motivated.

I prefer working in 90-day increments so you can get quick wins. 90 days is also a long enough period of time to make a substantial amount of progress.

Let’s use weight loss as an example. Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds of fat in the next year.

Most people would set a goal to lose 5 pounds in the first 90 days and then 5 pounds every 90 days after that. This method has never worked well for me.

Building the initial skills and achieving quick results can be challenging. To account for your learning curve, I suggest a results curve that looks something like this:

Goal Results Curve - GenY Success

Here’s the breakdown (using the example goal of losing 20 pounds of fat):

  • 10% of goal accomplished (2 pounds of fat) – First 90 days
  • 20% of goal accomplished, 30% total (4 pounds of fat, 6 pounds total) – Second 90 days
  • 30% of goal accomplished, 60% total (6 pounds of fat, 12 pounds total) – Third 90 days
  • 40% of goal accomplished, 100% total (8 pounds of fat, 20 pounds total) – Final 90 days

Between days 270 and 360, you accomplish 40% of your goal in the same 90-day length of time you accomplished 10% of your goal in the first 90 days.

This curve accounts for the time it takes to develop the skills and habits of accomplishing your goal.

Shooting for just 10% of your goal in the first 90 days creates a quick win. This is critical for staying motivated!

In this example, 2 pounds of fat doesn’t sound too bad in the first 90 days does it? It’s pretty manageable.

As you continue to develop the skills and discipline of exercising consistently and eating a healthy diet, the weight will become easier and easier to lose.

Now take your goals and break them down into your 90-day goals. In the exercise above, I used a 12-month goal. Adjust the curve accordingly if you plan to accomplish your goals in a shorter or longer period of time.

Identifying Habits

Habits are the consistent actions that helps us accomplish our goals more effectively.

Let’s keep with the goal from the example above: lose 20 pounds of fat in 12 months.

Habits are broken down into two areas: cutting and adding.

Cutting Habits

Oftentimes, it’s our current habits that hold us back most from achieving our goals.

In the weight loss example, bad habits could include any of the following:

  • Eating out too much
  • Eating too much junk food
  • Drinking too much alcohol

What current habits are keeping you from accomplishing your goals? Once you’ve identified those, proceed to the next step.

Add Habits

In my interview with James Norris, we discuss habit formation and getting rid of bad habits. The science shows that stopping a habit is much harder, and less effective, than replacing a habit [4].

Replace bad habits with good habits. Start by identifying triggers for the habit, and replace them if possible.

Let’s use the examples from above:

  • Eating out too much
    • Trigger: being really hungry at dinner time
    • New habit: meal prep a few times each week so that healthy food is readily available for breakfast and lunch
  • Eating too much junk food
    • Trigger: having junk food too readily available in the pantry
    • New habit: replace junk food with other snack foods so that unhealthy foods don’t ever make their way into your kitchen
  • Drinking too much alcohol
    • Trigger: being too stressed from work
    • New habit: try meditation, or replace one drink every week with a non-alcoholic beverage

If you don’t have very many bad habits, focus on adding good habits.

Find habits that, again, drive the results you want (in this case, fat loss):

  • Exercise more regularly
  • Cook more
  • Eat more protein
  • etc.

Make sense?

If you’re stuck here, don’t worry. First, identify the result you are driving. If you want to lose weight, it’s fat loss. If you want to gain weight, it’s building muscle. If you want to get a new job, it’s finding the right job opportunities.

Google will be your best friend in this area. Start with searches like…

  • “best habits for fat loss”
  • “ways to find great job opportunities”
  • “ways to make more money”
  • etc.

Habit Tracking

Way of Life is a great way to track your habits.

Way of Life App

It’s extremely important to track the daily habits that will help you accomplish your goals. 

Way of Life let’s you do just that in a matter of seconds.

Planning and Tracking

Use A Tracker

Daily tracking is key to accomplishing your goals. Dozens of different systems exist, so find the one that you’re most likely to stick with.

Here’s my system:

  • Yearly planning. I plan out the entire year using this document I created. I can see all of my goals in one place, which I love. I look at this document briefly every day to remind me of what I’m working towards.
  • Quarterly and monthly breakdown. The tracker helps me break down my yearly goals into more bite-sized chunks. I force myself to my goals each quarter. Then I break my goals down by month.
  • Weekly and daily journaling. At the end of each day, I take five minutes to plan the next day. I write down the top 3-5 focuses for that day. When I wake up the next morning, I revisit what I wrote down and ask myself, “Is what I’m about to do today going to help me accomplish my goals for this week? Month? Quarter? Year?” If so, I’ll get on with my day. If not, I take a few minutes to re-prioritize (this happens a few times each week). At the end of the week, I quickly reflect on what went well and what didn’t. What do I want to do more of? What do I want to do less of? This way I’m making consistent, tiny course corrections each week to get closer and closer to accomplishing my goals for the year.

Here’s the document I use. Now let’s get into a few other strategies for planning.

Calendar Time

If you’re not using a calendar, YOU NEED TO START. It’s time to start adulting and put your big boy or your big girl pants on.

All great achievements through history were accomplished by mere mortals with 24 hours each day. Time is your most valuable asset. Money comes and goes, but you’ll never get your time back.

Our ability to manage our time effectively is one of the most important skills we can learn.

I have one simple rule with my calendar: if it’s on the calendar, it gets done. No matter what.

The opposite is also true. If it doesn’t make my calendar, it probably won’t get done.

Best Calendar Apps

I’m not a huge fan of the Apple calendar for iPhone and Mac. It doesn’t integrate well with Outlook or Google Calendar, which is what most people use for business.

I’ve spent close to $100 trying different calendar apps, and these two work the best with Google Calendar if you use Apple devices. Here are my recommendations:

  • CalendarPro for Google (cost: $1.99). My favorite calendar app for the Mac. The app is an exact replica of Google Calendar, but an app version so you use it from your desktop instead of a browser window.
  • Calendars 5 (cost: $6.99, expensive for an app but worth every penny). My favorite calendar app for the iPhone. I love this app because it not only integrates well with Google Calendar, but it allows you to drag and drop events…a feature most calendar apps don’t have.

Time Blocking

Let’s use the weight loss example again. You’ve identified the key drivers for this goal: weekly meal prep and exercising 3x each week. Block off time in your calendar to do each of those things.

If meal prep takes two hours, block it off on your calendar. If needed, you can take it a step further and block off time for grocery shopping each week. This may sound ridiculous, but the only way to build these habits is to do them on a consistent basis.

For exercise, maybe you don’t have a gym membership yet. Block off time to sign up for a membership. Then block off time each week to exercise.

Use reoccurring events in your calendar so you only have to schedule them once.

Block off time right now now for each of your goals.

Schedule The Toughest Things First

Scheduling the hardest things earliest in the day is an extremely effective tactic for getting shit done.

The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain [5]. This is known as decision fatigue.

How does this apply to your calendar?

Make sure the toughest activities are scheduled first thing in your day when your will power is the highest. Procrastinating the first task of the day is less likely than the last task of the day.

Waking up earlier is my number one hack for building new habits.

If your goal is to exercise three times each week, wake up 30-60 minutes earlier every day. Exercise first thing in the morning.

If your goal is to read or write more, I suggest the same. Wake up an hour earlier when you’re least likely to get distracted.

If you’re running a business and your goal is to make more money, schedule the first few hours of your day on revenue generating activities.

This is a simple, but very effective practice.

Block Off Time For Planning

I recommend you block off the following blocks on your calendar:

  • 5 minutes at the end of each day to plan the next day
  • 15 minutes at the end of each week to reflect on the week and plan the next week
  • 30 minutes at the end of each month to reflect on the month and plan the next month
  • 1 hour at the end of each quarter to reflect on the quarter and plan the next quarter

Block them off in your calendar now.

 

Next Steps

Trim your goal list to just 3-5 of the most important goals you want to focus on.

Download the tracker I mentioned earlier and break down your goals into quarterly, monthly and weekly chunks. Then calendar time to start chipping away at them.

Please comment below if you’re having any challenges so I can help you out! If you have any tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about those in the comments as well.

The next post will cover accountability and staying on track.

 


 

Sources:
  1. http://www.chalenejohnson.com/goals/what-is-a-push-goal/
  2. http://liveyourlegend.net/warren-buffetts-5-step-process-for-prioritizing-true-success-and-why-most-people-never-do-it/
  3. https://hbr.org/2017/04/what-separates-goals-we-achieve-from-goals-we-dont
  4. http://www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/now/question/216479-how-long-does-it-really-take-to-break-a-habit
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html