Gettin’ Er Done – A Guide To Goal Setting

I have been ‘goal-oriented’ since elementary school.  Most likely, I started goal-setting because a character in The Baby-Sitter’s Club made it seem fun, but 20 years later, it is still something I do regularly.  I’ve been using the below process since high school – it’s basic, but it works for me.


1. I make 5-10 goal categories that are relevant for my life (they can be anything – health/wellness, financial, relationships, travel, career, personal development, school, skills, adventure, community service, personal leadership, etc.)

*Some categories I’ve used are:

  • Be a Grown Up
  • Go Places
  • Be a Business Lady/Career Stuff
  • Live on Purpose
  • Reach Out/Connect/Love  
  • Do Stuff that Scares Me
  • Be Healthy
  • Create Intentionally 
  • Make Meaning

2. I then think of at least 3 goals for each category. Spending time coming up with goals for each category is helpful because it makes me think about my life in a well-rounded way.  Sometimes I come up with lifelong goals, but I try to write them all using specific and measurable language.  Also, I have to remind myself that this stage is just brainstorming (not the final draft), so it’s good to go a bit wild and then scale it back later.


  • Travel to 6 continents before I turn 25
  • Run a 10km in X minutes
  • Go skydiving
  • Save X dollars by X date

3.  I then divide my goals into 2 time-based categories –> short-term (within the next year) and long-term.   

4. Next, I review my long-term goals and figure out what goals I can add to my short-term list to help me achieve them.


  • If long-term goal = go to X grad school
  • Then short-term goals = request application package, contact current student for advice, plan school visit, etc. 

5. Then it is time to finalize my list.  Here are some ‘gut check’ questions I ask myself during the pruning phase:

  • Is this goal intrinsically important to me and connected to how I want to feel?  This year I’m focused on feeling balanced, spacious, ‘delicate’ and ‘wild’ – so when deciding on my goals, I think about whether they help me get closer to embodying those words.
  • Is this something I want to have done, or is it something I want to do?  For example, is “run a marathon” on my list because I like how it sounds?  Or, is it there because I am a person who loves long-distance running and this is an accomplishment I am prepared to tackle?
  • Is this goal actually achievable?  (Ex: If I set a financial goal, do I have the means to make it happen?) I always want to be ambitious, but I also don’t want to set myself up to fail – this is a tricky thing to balance.
  • Is this a realistic number of goals to achieve in 1 year? (I tend to set between 10-25 goals per year).

6. I then get to make a good copy of my short-term goals (yay!), and post it somewhere where I will see it often (Ex: Inside my closet door).  *I keep my long-term goal list somewhere that is easily accessible (journal, computer, etc.) so I know where to find it the next time I sit down to set goals.



So, now I have my short-term goal list and I need to figure out how to get er’ done.  This can be the hardest part, but also what shifts the goal-setting process from ‘hopes’ to ‘plans.’

  • I look at my whole list of goals, and then spread them out over the calendar year (spacing them out makes the list less overwhelming).
  • I choose 1-3 goals to tackle right away.
  • I break these goals into MUCH smaller steps.
  • I figure out 1-2 small actions I can take within the next week and then put these tasks into my agenda to keep me accountable.

Example:  GOAL = Run a 10km race 


  • Research races in my area – decide a realistic time frame and choose race
  • Invite friends (see below)
  • Sign-up for race
  • Make training schedule
  • Make running music playlist
  • Get new running shoes and socks
  • Run 3 times per week leading up to race (put in agenda – set running dates with friends)


  • Research races in my area – decide a realistic time frame and choose race
  • Invite friends (see below)


  • I find it helpful to say my goals out loud to people, or to find friends who might want to share a goal and work towards it together.
  • It’s been helpful for me to establish a routine to keep me on track with my goals (ex: I typically review my goals on Sundays).
  • I repeat the above process of breaking my goals down into smaller steps, and assign myself ‘homework’ on a regular basis.
  • I tend to reassess my whole list (short-term and long-term goals) a few times a year.  January (because it’s a new year), September (because I am a teacher and there’s just something renewing about that time of year) and any time I travel (because I do a bunch of soul-searching/reflecting while away).  I consider if a) my goals are still important to me (because mine do change and sometimes get dropped all together) and b) if I can be doing more NOW to set me up so my goals will be achieved.


Through the work I do as an Organizational Coach, I’ve seen the process get tricky during Step  5 and break down during the Actionable/Maintenance phases.  If this is the case for you, receiving individual coaching may be helpful.  Feel free to contact me for more information about what this looks like and what is involved.

Lastly, below are the names and websites of two wonderful women I have become aware of in the past year.  I find their work very useful, and they both have been influential in helping me think about how I describe my goal process.

  • Danielle LaPorte (I joined a “Desire Map” book club in the summer and this is how I established my “core desired feelings” for 2015)
  • Susanna Conway (I used this guide in January to help me concretely outline my plans for 2015)

Happy goal setting!

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