In the past, I always used to fall off-track with my goals. For the first few weeks, I’d be highly motivated and focused on my goal. But shortly after, I would lose focus, make hardly any progress, and be forced to drop my goal and start all over again.
After years of being inconsistent with my goals, I had enough. That’s when I started to develop a system that would help me make consistent progress so that I’d stay on track with my long-term goals.
Nowadays, this 7-step goal-system is my holy-grail, which is why I’d love to share it with you.
But before I share it, I want to make clear that you need systems in your life for consistent peak performance. Systems keep us going at times where we would normally slack.
Furthermore, this system works very well for me, but that’s not to say that it’s the perfect system for everyone. As we would say in the Netherlands ‘there’s more than one road that leads to Rome’.
Step 1: Set A One-Year Goal
Step one in this 7-step process is to set a one-year goal. In the past, I used to set goals much further into the future, but I experienced that to be useless.
Life tends to change rapidly, so the further away you plan in the future, the less likely it is to be useful. Things change. You change. Your perspective on life changes. As Brian P. Morgan, author of The 12-Week Year said: “The farther you plan into the future, the less predictability you have.”
For me, it’s hard to predict what I want 3–5 years from now, but I can predict what I want within one year.
Besides, a one-year period is long enough to achieve something worthwhile, but also short enough to be highly actionable.
When it comes to setting long-term goals, I limit myself to set just one goal per year. In the past, I used to set multiple one-year goals. However, I experienced this to be a sure way to get overwhelmed as my time, energy, and focus was spread way too much.
Besides, I’d only achieve the easiest goals — which are most likely the least valuable — and fail to achieve my biggest goals. Often, lesser important goals are merely distractions that keep you from achieving the most important goal.
Instead, by limiting myself to just one goal, I force myself to pick the most important goal — the one that has the biggest impact on my entire life.
Personally, my one-year goal is often a business or financial goal. I know that, although money or achievement definitely isn’t the most important thing in the world, it will have the biggest effect on my entire life. This might change in the future, who knows.
Step 2: Set A Goal For The Upcoming 3-Month Period
Here comes the important part that most people skip when it comes to goal-setting: split your long-term goal into systematic checkpoints.
The first step in creating these systematic checkpoints is to look at the upcoming three months and set a quarterly goal.
If achieved, this quarterly goal should help you get significantly closer to achieving your one-year goal. Therefore, base your quarterly goal on your one-year goal.
For example, if your one-year goal is to earn $200,000 in revenue with your own business, your first quarterly goal might be to earn $40,000 in revenue.
And if your one-year goal is to publish a book, your first quarterly goal might be to finish your first rough draft.
Setting a quarterly goal will make your one-year goal much less intimidating and much more actionable. By setting checkpoints along the way, you make a large goal ‘snackable.’
All your efforts can be focused on achieving your quarterly goal, knowing that you’ll automatically make significant progress towards your long-term goal.
I highly recommend that you only set a goal for the upcoming 3-month period and avoid setting goals for all the four quarters in advance.
It’s almost impossible to predict exactly how things will work out. Chances are, if you set goals for all the quarters in advance, you’ll have to re-adjust them.
As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” On the road towards achieving ambitious goals, you’ll undoubtedly get ‘punched in the mouth.’ Unforeseen obstacles & challenges will arise, messing up your plan.
Therefore, my personal approach is to focus only on the upcoming quarter. Only when this quarter is finished do I set a goal for the next quarter. This way, I’m able to make effective plans based on my experiences and progress of the previous quarter.
Step 3: Set A Monthly Goal
A quarterly goal still offers enough time and space to procrastinate and postpone taking action. A monthly goal, however, is much more time-sensitive — which pushes us towards taking action. Therefore, setting a monthly goal is the next checkpoint in your goal-setting process.
Your monthly goal should be completely in alignment with your quarterly goal. This way, you create a system that splits your one-year goal into many different checkpoints. Every checkpoint that you reach leads to significant progress towards your one-year goal.
For example, if your quarterly goal is to earn $40,000 in revenue with your own business, your monthly goal might be to make 50 sales, launch a new product or find five new coaching clients.
And if your first quarterly goal is to write a rough draft for your book, your first monthly goal might be to have a detailed outline ready.
The idea is that each month, you make significant progress towards your quarterly goal so that after three months, you’ve successfully achieved it. This, in turn, equals significant progress towards your one-year goal.
To effectively set a monthly goal, ask yourself, ‘What one thing, if achieved, would lead me to consider this month to be a total success?’
‘What one thing, if achieved this month, will move the needle significantly towards my quarterly goal?’
Again, I don’t recommend setting all of your monthly goals in advance. There’s no harm in having a vision of how your year or quarter is going to look like, but it’s likely that your goals or timeline will change throughout the year. Therefore, it’s better to set and adjust your goals on-the-go.
Step 4: Set A Weekly Goal
In order to achieve your monthly goal, set a goal for the upcoming week. If achieved, you’ll make significant progress towards your monthly goal — and therefore, also towards your quarterly and one-year goal.
Ask yourself, ‘What one thing, if achieved this week, will move the needle significantly towards my monthly goal?’
For example, if your monthly goal is to make 50 sales, your weekly goal could be to make 100 sales calls or send three strong promotional emails.
Setting a weekly goal forces you to take action right away. Where the other goals still offer room for time-wasting and procrastination, a weekly goal doesn’t. You’ve got to act right now, or else you won’t achieve it.
As a side-note, watch out for the planning fallacy when it comes to setting your weekly goal. Most people struggle with their weekly goals because they tend to overestimate what they’re capable of in a week. This leads to feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Instead, set a goal that has the right balance between realism and ambition.
Step 5: Set 1–3 Daily Goals
Then, in order to make progress towards your weekly goal, set 1–3 daily goals. When it comes to goal-setting, most people focus too much on the future instead of maximizing the 24 hours in front of them. This is actually one of the most subtle forms of procrastination.
(When you think about it, the future basically consists of a series of ‘todays.’ A year consists out of 365 ‘todays,’ so when you focus on getting the most out of a ‘today’ again and again, you’ll eventually have a highly successful year. See what I’m saying?)
Most people assume that their future-self — the one who will do the work next day/week/month — will be more disciplined, productive, and consistent. This is why we love to plan ambitious things for the future and not for today.
Yet, it’s only our present-self — the one who’s in charge of today — that can do the work. Therefore, the main focus should be on today. Be productive today. Move the needle today. Stop procrastinating today.
Remember, success can only be achieved by maximizing today. Today is the only thing you can control. So, what will you do today that brings you closer to your weekly goal and, therefore, your other long-term goals?
Furthermore, setting 1–3 daily goals forces you to prioritize the important stuff over the lesser important stuff. This way, you ensure maximum productivity and avoid productive procrastination.
Step 6: Schedule Goal-Setting Moments
Now that you have a systematic process for achieving your goals (one-year goal → quarterly goal → monthly goal → weekly goal → daily goals), it’s important to stay consistent with this process throughout the entire year. Therefore, you need to schedule goal-setting sessions.
At the end of every quarter, block an hour for setting a new quarterly-goal.
At the end of every month, block time for setting a new monthly-goal.
At the end of every week, block some time for setting a new weekly goal.
And every morning, block some time in your morning routine to set your daily goals.
During these sessions, reflect on your progress and actions of the past so that you’ll be better equipped for a more productive and successful future.
Schedule these sessions in your calendar right now. If you don’t, it’s likely that you’ll forget about it and don’t do it all.
Step 7: Confront Yourself Daily
The last step of this entire process is to confront yourself with your goals every single day. This is where your morning routine comes in.
Start your day by reviewing your goals, your progress and your ‘why’ so that you have your eyes on the prize. This simple habit prepares you for a motivated, focused, and productive day. It primes your mind for success.
There’s enormous power in reviewing your goals on a daily basis. First of all, you ensure you keep the main thing, the main thing. Where other people get distracted by other opportunities — and hop from idea to idea, and from goal to goal — you stay incredibly focused on your priorities.
“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” — Robert Brault
Furthermore, after reviewing your goals for many weeks in a row, it starts to become part of your automatic thinking. After enough repetition, your mind will automatically look for the people, events, actions, and opportunities that could bring you closer to your goal.
And last but not least, through daily repetition, you strengthen your commitment to your goals. And as Vince Lombardi said, “Most people fail not because of a lack of desire but because of a lack of commitment.”
Get a journal optimized for productivity and goal-setting so that you can keep track of all your goals (yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily) every single morning. The small investment will pay for itself many times.
Now Do It
If you’re serious about creating a better future for yourself, setting goals is a must. Therefore, I encourage you to try out this 7-step system for yourself. Remember, change only comes from taking action.
Once again, I’m not claiming that this system is the best method out there — a different approach might have your preference. It’s just that I’ve experienced this method to work much better than any other method I’ve ever tried. So give it a shot!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab