by Adrienne Erin
The importance of goal setting for a happy, productive life cannot be understated. The pleasure of working towards and attaining a goal brings happiness, satisfaction and pride. Too often, however, people think goal setting only applies to “big ticket” desires such as finishing school, saving for a vacation or finding true love.
We tend to forget how helpful goal setting is on a daily basis. Plus, the more we use goal setting for small, daily tasks, the more skilled we become at planning, working towards and attaining goals of any size.
Daily Goal Setting
Every evening before I go to bed, I write down five small goals for the next day. They could relate to anything: work, volunteering experiences, enriching my relationships with loved ones, what I’ll cook for dinner or anything else. I organize these five goals in order of importance and when I’ll have time to do them.
When I get up, I glance at the first item of my to-do list, and work towards its completion. I go down the list, completing each item and ticking it off as I go. At the end of the day, I brainstorm five new goals for the next day.
More Than a To-Do List
If you think this sounds like a daily to-do list, you’re right – up to a point. More importantly than a daily list of accomplishments, my daily to-do list is also a training tool. I practice the essentials of goal setting every day: brainstorming goals, prioritizing goals and working towards their completion. My daily to-do list is the foundation for attaining larger goals.
In addition to my daily list, I make a weekly goal list at the start of every week, listing one or two goals I want to attain that week. I do the same for each month, every six months, each year, and five years. My goal schedule may look something like this:
- Daily goals: Clean the bathroom, drop off son at karate practice, write four blog entries, surprise husband with supper, and weed front flower bed.
- Week-long Goals: spend a day with parents, collect items for local food drive, clean out garage.
- Monthly Goals: Paint living room, try five new recipes, use coupons more frequently to save money, find time to help at the local library.
- Six-Month Goal: Save $150 a month for Christmas and $50 a month to donate to a charity.
- Year-long Goal: Pay off car loan early by adding $50 a month to payments, spend more time for self-development and inspirational reading
- Five-year Goal: Plan, save and prepare for Costa Rica hiking vacation with my family, learn Spanish.
Your goal list will probably look quite different. What are the small tasks that just never seem to get done? It can help to start tackling those. If you’ve been dreaming for months now to repaint the living room, break the goal down into smaller tasks and incorporate them into your to-do list, like so:
- Today: Stop by hardware store and pick up paint chips, choose a color.
- This week: Return to store and purchase paint and dropcloths.
- This month: Set aside several hours to move furniture away from walls, put down dropcloths, tape borders, and paint the walls.
If you’re raising money for a local charity drive, your to-do list might look more like this:
- Today: Post on Facebook about the charity, email coworkers about the charity.
- This week: Raise $100 from friends, family, and other contacts
- This month: Reach my $400 fundraising goal.
The task was probably overwhelming until you actually took the time to plan out all of the steps you would need to take and when they need to get done.
Start Small, Dream Big
Goal setting can overwhelm people if they start with large, long-term goals. This is especially true if you’re coming out of a significant life change, such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or a long-term hospital stay.
Start small, with daily goals. As you become more confident in your ability to set and attain goals, move on to weekly goals, then monthly and so on. While at first it may seem intimidating, coming up with six-month, year-long, and five-year goals, over time it will become more freeing. These will probably change little from week to week, but if you get a new idea for a long-term goal, add it to your list! A long-term goal can be almost anything, from “learn Russian” to “quit drinking.”
Before you know it, you’ll be setting goals for five years down the road. With those in mind, what can you do to prepare for, save for, or start accomplishing those goals today? Mapping out your life with short- and long-term goals is immensely satisfying, and helps you identify how you really want to live.
Image Credit: Mark Sebastian – http://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/3028568109