Have you ever noticed that most of the information around goals is about goal-setting? And that there isn’t as much information about how to achieve your goals once you’ve set them?

Obviously, I believe that goal-setting is important.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent so much time talking about common goal-setting mistakes and how to ensure you’ve set the right goals for you.

But once you’ve set the foundation, it’s time to do the hard work of achieving your goals.  So, you’d think there would be more information about how to do that.

Now, in all honestly, there are articles that purport to talk about how to achieve your goals.  But most are disappointing (to say the least).  They’re filled with the obvious, such as: be specific, write them down, take the first step, don’t give up, and reward yourself when done.  I don’t see how that helps with how to achieve your goals.  Do you?

Today, I want to talk about 7 rules to follow if you want to accomplish your goals.  Rules that are specific and “how to” focused.  In fact, they’re really a system you can follow – one that will make it more likely you’ll accomplish the goals you’ve set.

Rule #1: Pick 3 Goals or Less

If you’ve set more than three goals for yourself, narrow your list (and pick only 2 or 3 to go after).  Why?  Because you’re spreading yourself too thin if you’re going after more than 3 goals at a time (a lot like multi-tasking does – which is NOT your friend, by the way).

You’ll be more likely to achieve your goals more quickly if you stick to only a few at a time.  So, do yourself a huge favor and pick no more than three.

What about your other goals (assuming you set more than 3 for yourself)?  Keep them waiting – they’re not going anywhere.  Once you achieve a goal, you get to add a new one into the mix.  This rule will require you to hone your prioritization skills – so do yourself a favor and learn to prioritize properly.

One caveat to the rule:

This doesn’t mean that you must (or should) pick more than one goal at a time.  Sometimes more than one is too many.  Whether you should go after one (or more) goals at once is dependent on what your goals are.  For example, remember my goal of increasing my revenue in my legal business by 20%?

That goal was HUGE.  It required a lot of different pieces and steps to achievement.  For this reason, it was my only business goal for that year.  So, be realistic and honest with yourself (and don’t forget that achieving it earlier than expected is a GOOD thing – and allows you to choose another goal for yourself).

Rule #2:  Work in 90 Day Increments

Start working in 90-day increments.  If you have a goal that is completely achievable in 90 days or less, then this rule is already satisfied.  The key is to be realistic about what is achievable during a 90-day period.

Now, if you’re like me, you often set goals that will take more than 90 days to achieve.   So, how do you work toward that goal with a 90-day mindset (and why bother)?

Working Within a 90-Day Time Frame Will Keep You Motivated and Out of Overwhelm

Human beings tend to get lost and overwhelmed when trying to plan too far ahead.  There’s too much to think about and plan for.  Ninety days is enough time to make progress, yet not so far out that you’ll get overwhelmed.

You’re more likely to see the opportunities on a 90-day horizon and be more aware of what can affect how you plan to proceed.  Therefore, keeping your goals within a 90-day time frame will help you plan more effectively.  And estimations will be much better when working no more than 90 days out.  This will help to keep you on course and motivated.

Plus, we humans get distracted by bright shiny objects.  The 90-day time frame will help keep you focused and make you less likely to stray.

90-Day Goals Help You to Be More Nimble and Flexible

When working towards goals, the unexpected often happens.  And those unexpected circumstances or opportunities can change how you view your goals and how you want to achieve them.

When working from a 90-day plan, you’re better able to reassess your opportunities and re-prioritize your goals.  So, as new opportunities pop up, you’ll be more willing (and able) to revise and change your plans and goals as needed.

90-Day Goal Planning: Split Big Goals into Bite-Sized Chunks

So, how do you work in 90-day increments when it comes to goals that aren’t achievable within a 90-day period?  First, split out the steps and/or pieces involved to achieving the goal.  It will be difficult to identify everything, especially those items or steps that come later (outside of the next 90 days).  But that’s okay because this doesn’t require perfection.

Second, identify the steps that should be taken first.  Sometimes, because there’s an order to what needs to be done, this will be obvious.  Otherwise, pick something that makes sense and that can be done within the next 90 days.  If none of the steps or pieces that have been identified are do-able within a 90-day period, further break them down until you come up with a mini-goal that is achievable within that time frame.

Note that you may not be able to pick everything you’ve identified (because, again, you don’t want to start multi-tasking).  Ensure that everything you’ve identified for yourself during your 90-day time frame is achievable when working on it together.  This means that, even if you picked 3 goals when applying Rule #1, you may only end up picking mini-goals relating to one or two of your big 3 goals for any given 90-day period.

At the end of each 90-day period, review where you are, what you achieved, and what wasn’t achieved.  And then reassess for your next 90 days and go through this process all over again.

Real Life Example

As an example of what I’m talking about, remember my goal of increasing revenue in my legal practice for the year?  Obviously, this wasn’t a 90-day goal.  It was a HUGE goal that had to be measured over the course of a calendar year.  Plus, there were several big pieces that were required to achieve this goal (pieces that could have been separate goals on their own).

So, I broke them into smaller pieces.  The first 90 days I focused on building the proper team so that my current clients would feel comfortable sending me more work.  And I also had a mini-goal of meeting a certain number of new prospects (that could be met through referrals and going to networking events).

Once I built those foundations, I was able to move onto marketing, selling, and relationship-building activities.  And I reassessed what was needed to get me to my overall goal every 90 days and set new mini-goals that helped me achieve it.

Rule #3: Be Clear and Detailed About the Work Required

Once you’ve set your goals (or mini-goals) for the next 90 days, its time to think about what it takes to achieve them.  Identify the steps and write them down – be precise about each step and what’s involved in doing them.  Then think about how long each step will take.  When going through this process, be sure to analyze whether someone other than you can do the work involved.

Warning: you’re not always going to be right when making estimations about how long your actions items will take.  Sometimes you may be off by a lot.  But you’ll get better at it as you continue to do it. And remember, that your off estimates won’t always hurt you (from time to time, you’ll think something will take longer than it ends up taking).

Please note that you don’t have to be 100% right about the timing.  The point of estimating how long something will take is so that you can start planning and doing.  It’s not about perfection.  And the next rule will help you stay on task and keep tabs on how long certain actions items are taking.

Rule #4:  Use Your Calendar to Keep You on Task

You won’t achieve your goal if you don’t set aside time to do the work necessary to accomplish it.  This is obvious, but not put into practice by most of us.  Before you say to yourself “I set aside time for my goals”, let me ask you something.  Is that really true?

Do you set aside time in your calendar to do the work necessary to accomplish your goals?  Time that is set for specific tasks that are planned in advance, based on how long you believe it will take? And do you follow your schedule or put your goal-achievement work off (allowing a new “emergency” to get in the way)?

If you want to accomplish your goals (and more quickly), then you must:

  • look at the detailed plan and decide how long they will take, and then calendar time for them; and
  • do the work at the time that was scheduled

So, what do you do when something takes longer than anticipated?  Reschedule it.  Do what you can in the time allotted, review what’s left (and determine how long it will take), and schedule that into your calendar.  Don’t make this complicated.

Rule #5: Review Often (and Work in 2 Week Increments)

Although you’re working within a 90-day time frame, it’s difficult to calendar everything out that long.  Looking forward 90 days on a big-picture basis is do-able (and not too taxing).  But not so much when it comes to your schedule.  There’s no way you’ll know exactly what your time and schedule will look like for the entire 90-day period (and especially when you get more than 2-3 weeks out).

Therefore, when calendaring your tasks, work in 2-week increments.  And set aside some time at the end of each 2-week period to review your progress, reassess, tweak your action steps (as needed), and schedule the next 2-week period.

A note on using your calendar and going through your 2-week review process: don’t let this process stress you out.  It’s meant to HELP you achieve your goals more quickly and stay on task.

A lot of this is about your mindset (more on that below).  View this process as something that will inform you and help you better estimate and plan as you continue (so you can get more done and keep track of your progress).

And never forget: so long as you’re working and moving forward, you WILL get there (even if it takes a little longer than you originally anticipated).

Rule #6:  Delegate Everything You Can

Your ability to delegate depends somewhat on your goal.  Business goals often have more delegable tasks than personal goals.  However, there are things that can be delegated even when it comes to personal goals.  For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds and you don’t have time to cook fresh meals during the week, there are plenty of healthy and fresh food delivery options.

A rule about delegation: delegate everything that can be delegated.  And be certain that you’re being honest with yourself about what can be delegated.  If someone else can do a task as good as you (or even good enough), don’t use perfection as an excuse.  Things need to be done good enough – NOT to perfection.

And let go of trying to “control” everything.  I talk a lot about control – but only when it comes to YOU (your mindset, how you respond to circumstances, etc.).  You can’t control the world and it’s impossible to do everything.  In fact, you’re NOT in control when you try to do it all – because that leads to overwhelm and total burnout.

Rule #7: Keep Your Head in the Game

Simply put, this is all about your mindset.  You MUST pay attention to your mindset when trying to accomplish goals.  Why?  Because it’s the ONE THING that will help keep you going when it gets hard.  And it’s the biggest reason for failing to reach your goals.

What am I talking about?

Requiring perfectionism, refusing to delegate, comparing yourself to others (and allowing it to dissuade you, stop you, or make you feel like you’re a failure), getting down when circumstances change your original plans, refusing to learn from mistakes and missteps (and refusing to admit that you’ve even made a mistake or that mistakes are beneficial to you and your ultimate success).  All of these are negative mindsets that hold you back and keep you from achieving your goals.

To keep your head in the game, you MUST adopt mindset practices that are oriented toward growth and mental resilience.  I like to call this growth-oriented and mentally resilient mindset a success mindset.

Please remember that success ONLY comes after “failure” (often, LOTS of “failures”).    And notice my quotation marks around failure.  We need to rethink what “failure” really means.  Because it’s not the opposite of success.  So long as you learn something and incorporate that into your plans going forward, there is no failure.  Failure is only when you refuse to learn anything and give up.

You may be wondering how to adopt and cultivate a success mindset.  Well, we’ll be getting into that in future articles (I have a series and a challenge built around that coming soon).  Until then, you can read a bit about what I mean by mental resilience here (this is something I wrote for another site, but it’s still good reading).

Goal-Setting is Worthless if You Don’t Find a Method to Achieve Your Goals

At the end of the day, you want to achieve your goals.  Right?

So, after spending your time and precious mental energy on ensuring that you’ve set the right goals for yourself, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to adopt a methodology that will help to ensure you’re successful?

The rules above are really steps within a system.  A system that will help you streamline your goals, not multi-task (a huge goal achievement killer), plan properly, keep you on task and focused, stay motivated, and reassess properly as circumstances or new information change your original plans.

In short, this system will help you successfully achieve your goals.

So, what about you? Do you already have a system in place? If so, is it similar to this one?  In the comments below, I’d like to hear what your system is (if you have one) and whether you’re thinking of changing it or adopting the one outlined above.

Until next time…


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