A goal without a plan is just a wish.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I know the feeling of wanting something to happen but not being able to make it happen.
At one point, I hated my job and felt completely stuck in a career I wanted out of. I was in massive debt I thought I’d never pay off. I was completely stuck.
And here I am a couple years, and I’ve switched careers completely and have paid off over $100k in student loan debt.
What I learned through these experiences is that I can create my dream life by setting goals and creating a plan. And what I realized the most is that how you create goals and plans matters. A lot.
So, I came up with a list of the top ten mistakes I see with setting goals. These are the big mistakes that will stop you from creating your dream life.
Okay, now let’s look at the ten goal-setting mistakes I see all the time.
1. Not writing down your goals
It’s so important that you write your goals down. This is probably the biggest mistake I see the most.
Whether it’s on a post-it note on your mirror, in a document on your computer, or in some goal-setting journal that you create or use – you need to write your goals down.
It’s widely accepted that writing down your goals is an indicator of your likelihood to achieve your goals, so if you’re not doing this, start now.
I use a lot of things…
- I use Evernote to create a formal “Goals” list.
- I use Trello to strategize.
- I use my gcalendar to plan my weeks
- I use the Productivity Planner to track my daily tasks in order of priority (here’s a free PDF of the Productivity Planner if you want to see how it works)
You don’t have to use all these things, but you need to use something. The key is to do something – anything – to write down your goals. Find what works for you and do that.
2. Not using a task manager
Not using a task manager is a huge mistake related to goal setting. Using a task manager will ensure you do something every day toward your goal. Without it, you’ll have a goal and a deadline but no plan to accomplish your goal.
I use gCalendar and the Productivity Planner as task managers for making sure I’m on track with my goals. Before I did this, I had no way of planning out my days, and without a plan, I never made consistent, daily progress toward my goals.
Now, I plan daily tasks in my gcal and Productivity Planner (in order of priority), and the results have been exponentially greater. I get so much more done, and more importantly, I’m focused on doing at least one task to move me toward my goals daily.
Whatever task manager you prefer, use it – do not try to accomplish your goals without one.
3. Not setting a deadline for your goals
If you don’t set a deadline for your goal, you haven’t really set a goal at all – it’s more like a wish, and this just isn’t helpful.
You’ll find that achieving goals requires having a plan, which includes a deadline. The more concrete you can make your deadline, the better.
Put your deadline on your calendar or wherever it is that you manage your goals.
4. Setting too many goals
It’s common to get super excited about goal setting and in the midst of it set so many goals. You only have so much time to accomplish your goals, so choose wisely.
Quality over quantity is important when you’re setting goals. I like to set a couple for any given time frame, but generally, I try to cut down my goal list to as few as possible.
If you have a lot of things you want to do and have trouble focusing (this is sooo me!), I highly recommend reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I thought I was organized, productive, and disciplined before reading this book. Then I learned that all that doesn’t matter without ruthlessly cutting things from your life and focusing on the priority (not plural). Anyways, I highly recommend this one!
5. Not making your goals specific and measurable
If you make your goals general, vague, and immeasurable, you aren’t going to be able to accomplish them.
Example of general goals are: “be better with money,” “get in shape,” and “focus on personal development.” All of these are great ideas, but you can’t know what it takes to achieve them. They’re not good goals because they’re never done.
Instead, make your goals specific and measurable. Examples of specific and measurable goals are: “get out of $10,000 of credit card debt by the end of the year,” “lose 15lbs by September 1st,” and “read one new personal development book and listen to one new podcast every month for 6 months.”
6. Not thinking long-term
If you set goals based on your daily tasks and what you need to accomplish in the immediate future without thinking about the long-term, you’re making a mistake.
It’s important that you have the end in mind when you set goals. You need to think about what you want for your whole life and work backwards, thinking about the next twenty, ten, and five years. Then, you can set the short-term goals. But if you work the opposite way, you may drift somewhere you never intended to.
For example, if you focus on work so much and set goals to achieve more work goals without thinking about the long-term effects of that, you may end up becoming some sort of workaholic who you never intended to be.
The lesson: think big-picture when setting your goals.
7. Not knowing your why
Having goals without knowing why you have them is going to leave you unfulfilled after you accomplish them.
Instead of setting random goals, learn why it’s important to you. What is your purpose in life or in the area you’re setting goals? What is your motivation for setting goals?
Once you know your why and have a purpose bigger than yourself, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals and feel good about your life.
8. Not saying “no” to other opportunities
Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else.
For example, if you say “yes” to dinner plans and “yes” to every bachelorette party you’re invited to, you are saying “no” to whatever you would do during that time that would move your closer to your goals.
To make sure you’re prioritizing your goals and not putting other people’s plans above your own, I recommend planning appointments with yourself on your calendar to accomplish your goals. This way, you can say “yes” to opportunities from other people only when it makes sense for you.
9. Not committing to your goals
It’s all fine and dandy to use your gCalendar, Productivity Journal, or Goal Setting Action Plan (or whatever the latest app is!), to create an amazing plan to achieve your goals, but if you don’t commit to these goals, you won’t follow through.
Life is going to come at you fast. You’re busy. Stuff happens all the time that makes it impossible to accomplish much of anything. You don’t need me to tell you this! So, the stronger your commitment is to yourself and to your goals, the better chance you have at succeeding.
I really like keeping my goals list in front of me. I have my gcal with me at all times, I use my Productivity Planner in the morning and before bed, and I have Evernote up with my goals list in it. This might seem like a lot, but that’s how important my goals are to me.
I’ve committed to my goals, and by keeping these tools in front of me, I have drastically increased the likelihood of my success with each of my goals.
10. Not reviewing and revising your goals
The final mistake I see people make is not reviewing and revising their goals.
It’s not enough to set a goal and work toward accomplishing it blindly. You have to take time to evaluate your progress along the way. Ask questions like, “how is it going?” and “did you set the right goal?”. These will help you get a realistic picture of your goals.
Just because you set a goal does not make it permanent. Life throws things at you that you never could’ve imagined, so you have to be flexible to adjust your goals.
The key is to have a plan in place and review and revise it periodically, as your circumstances change.
If you want to take it up a notch and ensure you’ll succeed, get an accountability partner. Someone who inspires you to achieve your goals — a friend, mentor, or partner.
If no one comes to mind for an accountability partner, pick up The Freedom Journal – The Best Daily Planner to Accomplish Your #1 Goal in 100 Days – Increase Productivity & Time Management by John Lee Dumas. This is an accountability partner in journal form. I have it and use it. It does exactly what it says, and I highly recommend it.
A Final Note!
Setting goals can help you achieve your biggest dreams.
I know this because I went from being a six-figure earning lawyer to switching careers and making half that, while paying off $100k in student loan debt and blogging part time.
Setting goals is the only way I know how to turn what you want into what you have. Avoid these 10 mistakes and you’re on your way to being a goal-setting-diva. 😊
For more on goal setting, sign up for my free course below!