Goal Setting and What Not To Put On Your Goals List

goal setting

Goal Setting and What Not To Put On Your Goals List

Category : Business

So Many Ways to Set Goals

It’s that time of year again. Goal setting season. Those of us who like to set goals for the upcoming year are thinking about the year ahead, the year behind and, sometimes, if setting goals is even worth the effort.

If you’re a goal-setter, maybe you have a method that works well for you.  Or maybe you’re still trying out different methods until you find the one you think you’ll stick with from now on.  The magic method.

There’s the SMART goal-setting strategy:

  • S – specific, significant, stretching
  • M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
  • A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
  • R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
  • T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

There’s the strategy of setting big goals for the year and then chunking them down into quarterly, monthly and weekly tasks.

There’s the strategy of not planning by year, but by quarter or even by the month.

Then there’s the method of throwing a bunch of ideas on your to-do list and trying to wrestle it into submission every day.  Guilty as charged.


Why Some Ways Work Better Than Others

  • Are you including what matters most?

Don’t just include your business when setting goals for the year ahead.  You are not just a business owner, you are a human being with a human body that needs your care, and human relationships that need your attention.  Be sure to include all areas of your life that matter.

  • Do you have a clear WHY?

For each goal you’re setting, can you clearly explain WHY that goal is important?   Sometimes it’s not the method you’re using for goal setting, but the goals themselves that are defeating your method.  If your WHY is fuzzy, the goal may not be a goal at all, but wishful thinking or even a goal that someone else is imposing on you (more on that later).

  • Are you a long-term planner or a mid-term planner?

If you can think in terms of a 1-year, a 5-year and 10-year plan for your life and/or business, planning for a whole year at a time might work best for you.  But, if your brain goes blank when asked “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”, you might be more of a mid-term goal-setter.  Rather than trying to plan for the entire upcoming year, try setting goals for just the first quarter instead.  


oal setting - sticky notes - some ways work better than others

What Not To Include

  • Goals for other people – family members, etc.

I’ve made this mistake quite a few times.  When my goal is for Family Member X to accomplish X by such-and-such date, it’s doomed.  It’s not your goal, it’s your hope for them.  Hope is fine.  But, frankly their goals are none of your business.  Yes, they may affect you, but don’t put someone else’s actions or behavior on your goal list.  Let them put it on their list if they choose.  Your goal in this case would be to support them in a specific way, not to make them accomplish the goal.

  • Goals that aren’t yours, but other people want you to achieve

This is the reverse of the case above.  When a business partner or family member expect you to accomplish something and you put it on your goal list, make sure you’re 100% ok with that.  Your goals are none of their business.  Your mutual plans are their business, and you want to be on the same page about those, but your goals are yours. They can hope and encourage you to do specific things, but that doesn’t automatically make it on your list of goals.


How To Find What Goal Setting Method Works Best For You

It may take a while to land on a method and timeframe that work best for you.  If you’re a year-at-a-time planner, it may very well take several years of trying different things before you know what works best for you.  But, remember that goals aren’t set in stone and neither are the methods you choose to manage them.  Michael Hyatt, the author of numerous bestsellers on business and leadership, uses the method of the 3 R’s to evaluate our goals and our goal-setting method:

  • Recommit – do you just a motivation boost?   When you’re in the “messy middle” of the year and your plan has gone sideways, sometimes reconnecting with your WHY can give you some new steam to keep on going.
  • Revise –  Does the goal need to change a little to match changed circumstances? Is this method still relevant to you?  
  • Remove – is this goal still important? Can you lose it and focus on something else that’s become more a better opportunity for growth?


Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you find yourself feeling less than adequate when taking stock of goals you didn’t reach, or goals you had to completely scrap midway through, welcome to the club. I like to think we’re not meant to accomplish all of our goals.  I purposely shoot for some that are not easy and I fall short all too often.  But, by trying, I’ve gotten closer than I would have otherwise.  It’s important to look back and celebrate what we DID accomplish and look forward to a new year (or a new month) and a brand new opportunity to try again. Here’s to another round of goal setting!

About Author


I am a web developer and founder of Digital in Kansas City, Missouri. I built my first website 1999 and have been hooked ever since. My mission is to help small businesses thrive by using technology and social media effectively and efficiently.