Almost 6 years we went on a cross-country trip from our then home in Montana to my mother-in-law’s hometown in Connecticut. Weeks before the trip we started our planning; figuring out the fastest routes with the fewest toll roads, picking hotels to spend each night at, and making arrangements with family on the East Coast to visit. We knew before we even packed our bags and rolled out of the driveway exactly where we were going and how long it was going to take to get there. Our goals were to get to Connecticut (we did!) and see some of the historic sites along the way (we did!).
Goals are like road trips. You need to know where you’re currently at (your starting point), your goal (where you’re going), and the steps to get there (routes and stops). Sure, you can just hop in the car and go somewhere, but it’ll be a lot quicker if you have a destination in mind and know which way to drive to get there. Feel free to download my worksheet to help you figure out what you want to do and how to make it happen!
You Need to Set Goals
I bet you have a dream that you really wish would happen. Maybe it’s a home on acreage, a vacation to another country, becoming fluent in a foreign language, or some other awesome thing. So, how are you going to make that dream happen? By creating an action plan for yourself with multiple goal points (long, medium, and short term) you can breakdown the steps you need to take to make that dream a reality.
Goals should be specific, measurable, and have a time to achieve them by. For example, the goal “read more books” is vague, not measurable, and doesn’t have a timeframe. In comparison, the goal “read 2 non-fiction books every month until September” is specific (non-fiction), measurable (2 books per month), and has a timeframe (now until September).
Creating A Plan
Still thinking about your dream? Good. Let’s make an action plan, dearie. Also, you can totally do this with something that you want to achieve, but isn’t necessarily a “dream”.
First, choose a date when you want this dream to come to fruition. This will probably be within 1 – 5 years from now. You don’t want it to be too far off or too near. One is too stressful and the other is not urgent enough. You want a timeframe that makes you feel like you need to hustle just a tiny little bit.
Now we’re going to break it down into smaller bites to create our action plan. Sit down and think of each step that you need to do make your dream a reality. These steps should be realistic, not something like “win the lottery”.
We’re going to use the dream of a vacation to Hawaii as our example. Personally I’m not too interested in going to Hawaii, but we’re just gonna roll with it. The steps we need to do are: Save lots of money, book a hotel to stay at, book airfare, and figure out what to pack in our bags. We’re going to say that we want to go on this vacation in 18 months.
Long Term Goals
The number of long term goals you’ll set will depend on how far away from your dream you are. If you’ve set a date 5 years from now, I would recommend setting around 5 long term goals (1 for each year). If your date is 1 year from now, I would set around 2 (one for every 6 months).
So to figure out your long term goals, look at the steps that you need to achieve. The major steps are your long term goals.
In our pretend Hawaiian vacation, one of the biggest things we need to do is save the money. It’s not cheap going to Hawaii and for most people the financial aspect is the most difficult part. We’re going to assume a total savings goal of $10000. Our long term goal will be to save this amount.
Medium Length Goals
Medium length goals should be partway between your long and short term goals, typically around 3 – 6 months. These should help you complete your long term goals.
For our pretend vacation we’re going to set our medium length goals as such:
- Have $3,500 in vacation savings by April 2017.
- Have $3,250 in vacation savings by October 2017.
- Have $3,250 in vacation savings by April 2018.
Short Term Goals
Short term goals are things that you can typically achieve within 1 month or less. These help you complete the medium length goals. You should have quite a few of these! Try to figure out what you can do each day and week to move you towards your destination.
For our pretend vacation we’re going to set the following short term goals:
- Set up the bank account before the next paycheck to automatically transfer $292.50 from each biweekly paycheck into savings for the vacation. This goal will repeat every month until the $10,000 total is reached.
- Spend 1 hour in December 2017 researching the Hawaiian islands to decide which one we want to stay on.
- Write down 3 hotels we could stay at by the end of December 2017.
- Select 1 hotel from the list to stay at before January 7th, 2018.
- Book hotel by January 15th, 2018.
- Spend 1 hour in December 2017 researching flights to Hawaii.
- Book airfare by January 15th, 2018.
- Spend 1 hour in February researching weather and activities for the island you will be staying at.
- Write a packing list for your vacation by March 1st.
- Relax and enjoy my vacation.
How to Achieve Goals
Now that we’ve talked about setting them, let’s discuss achieving them. For me, I find that the key to doing the tasks needed to achieve my dreams is part motivation and part tracking. I’m not going to lie, I have a weird obsession with checking things off a to-do list. So much so that sometimes I add things I’ve already done to the to-do list just so I can check them off…
Here are my top 2 favorite ways to keep you motivated and moving towards your dreams:
- Vision Board – what does your dream look like? Make yourself a vision board and hang it in a prominent place where you can see it daily to boost your motivation. If I were really going to go on a Hawaiian vacation I would do a board with pictures of gorgeous beaches, volcanoes, pineapples (yum!), people hiking in the jungle, and hammocks swinging in a tropical breeze.
- Bullet Journal – track your goals and setup your tasks, in analog. There are probably a few thousand different apps for to-do lists and task management, but the old school pen-and-paper is, in my opinion, far superior to anything electronic. Why? Because the actual act of writing helps fix things in your brain.