Are You Creating and Prioritizing the Right Goals?￼
We talk quite a bit about setting goals as a means to be successful. However, you can’t just set any goals and expect it all to work. Creating and prioritizing the right goals for you at the right time is vital to truly find success.
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In order to know if you are creating and prioritizing the right goals, ask yourself the following questions:
Are your goals specific and realistic?
I’ve mentioned SMART goals before. Although you might be tired of hearing about them, they’re still around because they work. When you set a goal for yourself, you need to make sure it is achievable for you. This might require some research. If you’re not sure if it’s achievable, then do some more research. Is it something that you can truly control? Sometimes we set goals for things we want, but there are too many factors outside of our control. That’s where being specific comes in. How do you define success in achieving that goal? This will allow you to set a timeline so you can work backward and create the smaller steps needed to help you reach your goal.
Have you chosen multi-faceted goals?
When setting your goals, you can’t just focus on one area of your life. You are comprised of many parts and to find success in your life, you need to set goals for all the areas. If you only focus on money, but it requires you to hold a job that sucks the life from you, you’ll never be happy and you won’t feel really successful. You will feel like something is missing in your life, even though you have plenty of money.
Make sure you are setting goals for all areas of your life, even if you can’t focus on all of them at once. If you have a plan, then you can stick with the soul-sucking job as you work on finding balance and success in the other facets of your life.
Does your schedule suit your needs?
Once you have a goal set, you need a plan to achieve it. As I said above, being specific helps. If you want to lower your blood sugar to reduce your risk of diabetes and you know you go back to see your doctor in four months, what are you doing daily to achieve that goal? Maybe you decide that instead of grabbing a breakfast sandwich on your way to work in the mornings, you’re going to eat breakfast at home. Great plan.
But how are you going to make it work? Do you need to get up early to make and eat the food? Do you have a plan for the type of food you want to have for breakfast? If you don’t know what you want to make, you might not have it in your house. Without thinking through all of these steps, you will revert to your old, more convenient ways.
Routines make all the difference in trying to achieve goals. Breaking the goal down into steps will help you prioritize how to go about reaching that goal.
How do you react to setbacks?
If you live with executive dysfunction, you know failure. It’s a part of your life. As you create new goals and schedules to reach those goals, there will be days of disappointments and sometimes outright failure. The question becomes what do you do when that happens? Do you just give up? Or do you learn from it?
Ask yourself why you failed. Was your schedule unrealistic? Did you forget to include something in that schedule? Learn from it and make adjustments instead of assuming you’ll never reach your goal.
And don’t be afraid if it turns out you need to rewrite all of your goals. When you first start out with goal-setting, you might be overly ambitious. Or if writing SMART goals is new to you, it takes practice to really get it right.
It’s okay to continuously re-evaluate the goals you have chosen and tweak them. A failure doesn’t have to be a negative thing if you learn from it. If you learn something it’s more of a setback.
Remember what I’ve said before: there is no learning without struggle. This was one of the first things I learned while studying to be a teacher (a long, long, LONG time ago). If you never fail, you’re not really learning; therefore, you need to push yourself a little more and step out of your comfort zone.
Do your goals meet your needs?
Setting goals is a personal experience; however, often my clients are people pleasers. They know that they are difficult to live with because they are disorganized and forgetful, so they choose goals they feel will make the people around them happier.
The problem is, this will rarely work. If it’s not something that’s important to you, it won’t become a priority. It will be easier to blow off or forget about.
So when you set goals, think about if you’re choosing them because it’s something you want for yourself. Sure, we often say that having a clean, organized desk will make you more productive, but if having a clear desk doesn’t matter to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I say this as someone who always has clutter on my desk—but I know where and what everything is. My desk is organized chaos. There’s a good possibility that if you have ADHD keeping a clear desk will not help because for you if something is out of sight, it’s definitely out of mind and forgotten.
Don’t be pressured into setting goals that don’t resonate with you.
Are you tracking your progress?
Once you set a goal and a deadline, you want a way to track your progress. This is how you know you’re on the right track and will meet your deadline. If I’m writing a novel and I have to get it to my editor in 4 months, just marking the due date on the calendar isn’t enough. That deadline will sneak up on you and bite you in the ass. You need a plan to execute it. If I have to have 80,000 words for the novel to be complete and 4 months to do it, that’s 20,000 words per month, 5,000 per week, 1,000 per day if I take weekends off. Now I can track my progress.
I didn’t write today? I have to write 2,000 words tomorrow. I get sick for a week? Gotta make up the 5,000 words. Of course, there are other things to consider, like having time to revise before I send it to my editor or having beta readers look over the book before I send it. Those are things that take time, so now, I don’t really have 4 months. I need to adjust my weekly expectations.
Look at your planner every day—morning and night if that works for you and make adjustments. If you need more motivation to see your progress at a glance, try using a habit tracker or goal tracker. If you check your progress daily, you might notice patterns you weren’t aware of and can change things to address those issues.
Have you chosen positive words?
This might seem like a small thing, but when you name your goal, you should really take a positive spin on it. Positive words can be motivating. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose 10 pounds by the summer,” try something more like, “I will add ten minutes of exercise to my daily routine,” or “I will eat ten healthy meals each week.”
Taking the positive spin also might make things easier to track. Thinking about losing weight feels negative (even though the goal is not) because it sounds like you will have to deprive yourself of something.
Instead of saying, “I won’t miss any appointments this month,” try, “I will be on time or early for all of my appointments.”
Being positive will help keep you motivated.
Are you trying to do too much?
Although I mentioned earlier that you want to choose goals for all areas of your life because your life is multi-faceted, you don’t want to overtax yourself. If you set too many goals at once, you will likely feel overwhelmed.
This is where prioritization comes in.
You can choose a goal for each area of your life (career, personal, financial, health, relationship, etc.), but then choose one or two to work on first.
If you have created SMART goals, you might be able to choose a part of the goal to stop at once you reach that level of success and add in a new goal. For example, let’s say you set a health goal to cut back on drinking coffee until you give it up completely. Right now, you’re a four-cup-a-day drinker. Maybe over the course of the next two months, your goal is to get down to one cup a day.
Once you achieve that level of success, you can add a new goal to your schedule because you’re just working on the last step of the coffee/health goal.
The important thing is that you don’t take on too much at once. It will stress you out and overwhelm you and you will most likely walk away from your new schedule because you will feel like a failure.
Another thing to consider is that you don’t try to figure out all of your goals at once. You can reflect and take time to figure out what is most important to you. Setting goals and evaluating their priority is an ongoing thing.
Prioritizing Your Goals
Before prioritizing your goals, you need to know what your goals are for the different areas of your life. There are typically six areas in which most people make goals:
1. Family/relationship — Spending more time with family, friends, or loved ones
2. Financial — Saving emergency cash, getting out of debt, or starting a business
3. Health/Wellness — Physical, mental, and emotional well-being
4. Personal — Getting more education, or devoting more time to spiritual pursuits
5. Career — Moving toward the next level
6. Home — Organizing or project planning for things in your living space
Any one of these areas can be broken down into multiple sections. You may or may not have a goal for all 6. You might have multiple goals for one area and none for another.
Start by making a list of your goals. Then, in order to prioritize those goals, you need to ask yourself some questions to help you figure out what is most important or pressing. This will help you figure out where to focus.
Which goals are on your mind most often?
What worries or nags at you? Are you constantly worried about how to pay your bills or how to get out of debt? Then financial goals might be a top priority. Do you often feel guilty about not spending enough time with your family because you work so many hours? That might mean you should focus on your family and career goals.
Which goals can be most easily achieved?
I always tell my clients to go for the easy win. There’s no shame in taking on a shorter, easier goal to get it over with. That bit of success will motivate you to tackle bigger goals and stick with them. It’s more than okay to start small.
Which goals will make you feel good?
When you look over your goals, which ones will make you feel good about yourself? There is no right or wrong answer here—it really goes back to making sure your goals are the right ones for you. If you will feel better if you make more money because having that money will relieve worry and stress and in turn, you’ll enjoy your family time more, focus on finances. This might be counterintuitive if you have a goal to spend more quality time with family. But ask yourself—how good is that time if you’re always worried about money?
Choose the goals that will make you happiest.
Which goals will have the longest-lasting results?
While it’s fine to go for the quick win, you also want to consider what will have more permanent results or benefits in your life. The easy goal will give you immediate success to motivate you, but the permanent success of a goal is something that you can fall back on, even when other things get hard.
Which goals are completely within your control?
When we talked about setting goals, I mentioned making sure your goal is achievable. For instance, getting a promotion at work is achievable, but it’s not 100% within your control. You can’t make the boss give you the promotion, even if you deserve it. So, you can set a goal to be the best employee you can (with the hope of getting the promotion) but you can’t control other people.
Which goals are just for you?
We all need some “just because” goals. These are things you just want to do (or be able to do). It doesn’t matter if they will have a huge impact on your life or make your job or relationships better. Often, these fall under the category of personal goals. Sometimes they have to do with hobbies. This can be a form of self-care, so don't feel bad about it.
These are all worthwhile and achieving one of these goals can propel us farther than many other things because they are wants. They bring joy and happiness, which is very motivating.
What are you afraid of?
Sometimes what you fear is what you need to do the most. It scares you for a reason. Maybe it’s hard. Maybe it forces you from your comfort zone. Maybe it challenges your beliefs.
Understanding why it scares you will help you decide when or if to take on that challenge.
What excites you?
Just like the “just because” goals I mentioned earlier, anything that excites you will motivate you. Often, these goals will have the biggest impact on your life, and achieving them will set you up for more success.
However, as with the things you’re afraid of, you should ask yourself why. Why does this excite you? The answer will help you decide on the priority.
Which goals are most realistic for right now?
This is a timing question. Getting a new job might be an awesome, totally achievable goal for you. But if you have other big transitions in your life, is now the best time to make that move too? You have to consider what you have room for in your life and how you will manage working on that goal.
Once you answer these questions, your goals will start to prioritize themselves. You should be able to look for the goals that excite you and will help you get an easy win. That’s the best place to start. Don’t worry that the goals might not seem lofty enough or important enough. This is about what’s going to work for you.
What goal do you plan to start with to make changes in your life?