Achieve More Goals With Our Goal-Setting Worksheets and Goal-Keeping Planner
At the start of every year, millions of people make resolutions hoping to make changes that will better their life. Unfortunately, the majority of these resolutions will fail before February comes along.
Does this sound familiar? If you are one that struggles with keeping your goals, you are not alone. I was guilty of this too. That is until I learned how to create SMART goals and came up with our Goal-Keeping Planner.
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In this post, I’m going to show you how you can create achievable goals and complete them by putting a plan in place.
I also have goal-setting worksheets available for free from my resource library. Just fill out the form at the end of this post to receive access to these printables.
So, What are “SMART” Goals?
In short, SMART goals are those that use the SMART method first introduced in 1981 in a managerial book by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham. It is this method that has become the standard for creating doable and successful goals.
You have probably heard of SMART goals and if you know how to create them, then you can skip to the next topic. However, if you have never heard of them or need help using the method, continue reading.
SMART is an acronym that that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Over the years, some of the acronyms have changed in wording but the intention is the same.
Personally, I have changed the wording from attainable to actionable, relevant to reasonable, and time-based to time-bound. Again, the idea is to flesh out your goals with intention.
“SMART” Goal Example
Before Using the SMART Method
So what do SMART goals look like? Let’s take a look at a popular goal most of us make.
Almost all of us promise to lose a certain amount of pounds for the year. I can’t begin to tell you how incomplete, unreasonable, and un-actionable this goal is. But every year, we make it. So, let’s turn this goal into a SMART goal.
First, let’s look at the type of goal this is. It falls under the “health” umbrella. We know that when trying to lose weight, it usually involves eating better, getting more sleep, drinking more water, etc. These are habits we need to adopt and actions to take in order to lose weight.
Next, think about how reasonable this goal is. Did you promise to lose 100 pounds by summer? Or how about 10 pounds by the end of the year? Did you promise to remove all sweets from your diet? Or how about hitting the gym EVERY SINGLE DAY? With promises like this, you will have already set yourself up for failure.
After Applying the SMART Method
So here is what this goal will look like after using the SMART method: I will lose four pounds a month by going to the gym at least 5 days a week, cutting my sugar intake by half, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, and getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
Now, this goal is specific as opposed to “I want to be healthier this year.” It is measurable in pounds. It is actionable: hitting the gym, drinking water, etc. It is reasonable to lose 4 pounds a month. And it is time-bound in that I have a month to lose 4 pounds.
Other SMART Goal Examples
Now, let’s look at more examples in other “common goal areas.”
Finances: I will set up an automatic direct deposit to transfer 10% of my weekly pay into savings until I reach $5,000.*
Spirituality: I will set up an alarm to remind me to read my Bible for fifteen minutes every night until I have read every Bible book.*
Project: I will make a blanket by crocheting at least 5 times a week for one hour until it is 5 feet wide and 6 feet long.*
Relationships: I will set up a time and place at least once a month to have coffee with my sister and spend at least 1 hour with her.
These are just a few goals but you can see that they are specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and time-bound.
*Some goals are hard to put an expiration date on and seem to lack the time-bound criteria. However, one can estimate this time-bound period or set up a different kind of goal point to reach as in the financial goal. In this case, the goal will be met when one reaches $5,000.
To learn more about SMART Goals, click here.
January 1st No No
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the first of the year to start your goals. Start right away, now, today! If it is one day I avoid making promises, it’s January 1st.
In fact, 9 years ago, when I was diagnosed with severe apnea, the doctors told me I had to lose weight. Knowing my health was in jeopardy and I had to use a sleep machine, I started right away.
That day was August 10, 2010, an ordinary Tuesday, an “imperfect date.” I ended up losing 30 pounds by Thanksgiving and another 20 pounds after that. And I no longer use that awful machine anymore.
So when should you start? Try picking a day in the middle of the week. Avoid Sundays and Mondays. And avoid the 1sts of any month. And unless your health is in jeopardy, maybe avoid the month of January altogether.
Again, find your day. And when you do, you will notice that there is less stress in completing your goal because you are not trying to base it on a ‘perfect’ date.
December 31st No No
Do not give your goals a December 31st deadline. Giving yourself too much time may cause you to procrastinate.
For example, don’t give yourself all year to lose 10 pounds. You will lag all year and when November rolls around you will most likely not want to start a diet.
Give yourself time but make goals with the intention of finishing them as soon as possible. This way you can work on a more challenging goal.
For example, let’s say that you reach a goal of losing 10 pounds in two months. Now you can work on another challenging goal like “fitting into the next smaller size” of
The Goal-Setting Process
Okay, so you know what are SMART goals and how to make them. Now it’s time to sit down and start the goal-setting process. This is more than just writing down a few goals. This is when you take an internal audit of your life and all the things you want to accomplish.
Start With Your Ultimate Dream Goals
The first thing you will want to do is look ahead, way, way, ahead. Answer the questions: What is this all for? What are you working towards? What are your dreams? What kind of life do you really want?
So whether you are a 22-year-old graduating student or a 64-year-old empty-nester, there must be something you are working towards that has given you the need to create goals.
If you are saving money or furthering your education or mending a relationship, completing your goals is just a stepping stone to your ultimate dream.
So when you begin to create goals, think about that life you want. Chances are that you will have 2 or 3 goals you will need to complete in the course of time to get you where you want to be.
My advice is to get a piece of paper and write down where you see yourself in the future. Then begin brain-dumping goals. Just list everything and don’t worry about having too many goals or writing them in SMART format. Just go at it until you can’t think of any more goals.
Sort Your Goals
Now, you are going to put in order the goals you have written down. I suggest using different colored highlighters to help you out.
First, highlight any ongoing goals. Usually, these are habits you want to either break like smoking, or habits you want to incorporate into your life like drinking 8 glasses of water a day.
These ongoing goals, or habits, should be at the top of your list. For now, you can highlight them all in one particular color.
Next, you want to highlight goals that you will not be able to either start or complete within the year. For example, part of your ultimate dream is purchasing a home. However, you know that this particular goal is not in the cards for this year or even the next.
Go ahead and mark these goals with a different color highlighter. We are not ignoring these goals so do not cross them off; we will be looking at these goals a little more closely later.
Now, you should be left with goals that you will be able to finish before the end of the year, and hopefully, some can be completed in just a couple of months.
Putting Your Goals in Order
The next thing you will want to do is put your goals in order. On another piece of paper, write down those ongoing goals/habits first. Next, look at those goals you plan on finishing this year and try to put them in order of completion.
For example, if you have a goal you know you can complete by March and another by July, list the March goal first. If you are unsure of a goal’s “deadline” just try your best to guess what it may be.
Finally, write down those goals that you know you won’t attempt this year. However, like the last set of goals, write them in order of when you expect them to be completed. This can be years and even a decade away. Again, try your best to put these in “completion” date order.
Finding More Goals
With all your goals listed out, see if you can find additional goals by looking at those last sets of goals. Ask yourself, is there something you can do this year to get closer to those goals that may be far off into the future?
For example, let’s say you have a goal to buy a home within the next three years. Perhaps there is something you can do now to get closer to that goal even though it is a bit far off. You can set up a money goal for the deposit. Or begin working on repairing your credit score.
What if one of your goals is to start a new business two years from now? Then perhaps your goal for this year can be to draft a sound business plan.
Again, you just want to make sure you haven’t forgotten any goals that you can take on this year. If you do make some additional goals, don’t forget to put these in order within your list.
Tracking Your Goals
Now, let’s take a look at some of those ongoing goals you first listed. Ask yourself, is this goal more of a goal or a habit? For example, if your goal is to meditate every morning, this would be considered more of a habit. Basically, you are trying to make a positive change in your life with no expiration date.
So, instead of drafting SMART goals for habits, all you will need is some sort of habit tracker just until the habit becomes second nature.
Now, you can use a journal, grid, or calendar as a habit tracker. I have also provided various habit trackers within the free goal-setting worksheets and the goal-keeping planner.
Drafting Your Goals
Now comes the time to start drafting your SMART goals. Take a look at your “non-habit” goals and pick a few that you want to start taking action on right now. Just be careful not to take on too many goals.
My rule of thumb is to attempt five to ten goals at once depending on the type of goal. For example, there is no reason not to work on fitness, finance, and spiritual goals all at once.
Once you have chosen the goals you will be working on first and you have turned them into SMART goals, it is time to make a plan.
Creating a Roadmap for Your Goals
Using a Planner
In order to map out your goals and goal tasks in the coming months, weeks, and days, I suggest using a daily planner. And if you can find one that has weeks-at-a-glance, months-at-a-glance, and possibly quarters-at-a-glance features, the better.
If you can’t find a planner like this, you can simply use a notebook or get our Goal-Keeping Planner (GKP). In fact, it is because I couldn’t find a planner like this, that I created the GKP.
Now, let’s get started with mapping out your goals. The photos you see below are from the GKP.
Filling in Your Quarters
Most goal planners do not have a “quarters-at-a-glance” feature. But you can easily make one by dividing a lined sheet of paper in half, then creating three columns in each half.
You should end up with six columns in total. Each column represents a month. The top half will cover one quarter and the bottom half, the next quarter.
Using your SMART goal drafts, fill in the lines with tasks you plan on accomplishing in that month (use a pencil). You don’t have to be specific. Jot down 2-3 words. For example:
- lose 4 pounds
- read 1 book
- write 5000 words
- renovate guest bath
Continue to do this for each month of one quarter so that you have the first three months filled in. With each passing month, you will revisit this page and check off all the tasks you were able to complete.
Filling in Your Month
Next, you will want to fill in your monthly sheets using your quarterly columns. On your paper, write the name of the month then begin writing down any special appointments, events, or vacation days that may interrupt your tasks.
Under these appointments, write down all the tasks you need to accomplish for your goals. Again, keep these brief but you can be a little more specific. Here are what these tasks may look like:
- Pay an extra $500 toward school debt
- Sign up for a knitting class at the library
- Read Pride and Prejudice by Austen
- Remove all guest bathroom fixtures
- Remove wallpaper in the guest bathroom
- Lay down new flooring in the guest bathroom
Use any extra space on your paper for any new tasks that may arise. For example, let’s say that after I removed the bathroom fixtures, I realize that I will have to replace some of the plumbing. I can then add this to the bottom of my sheet and either take care of this immediately or add it to my next’s month’s sheets.
Filling in Your Week
Next, you want to get even more specific with your tasks. At this point, you can probably use a regular daily planner if you are good at using one on a daily basis. If not, follow the next step for creating your weekly sheet.
Your weekly sheet should be divided into seven days. For each day, list any appointments or events you need to attend. Then list tasks that you will need to do for that day.
Here is what this will look like:
- Monday — remove guest bathroom fixtures
- Tuesday — remove wallpaper in the guest bathroom
- Wednesday — purchase primer and paint
- Thursday — apply primer to guest bathroom walls
- Friday — paint guest bathroom walls
- Saturday — remove guest bathroom flooring
- Sunday — purchase guest bathroom flooring
Again, these tasks are getting more and more specific.
Filling in Your Daily To-Do Sheet
As I said before, if you are an avid daily planner user, then you should have no trouble with filling out your daily to-do sheets.
On these sheets, you’ll want to not only include your goal tasks but also other obligations not related to your goals. These include chores, paying bills, attending events, etc… I advise breaking down these tasks by the hour.
Review, Revise, and Reflect
After you’ve filled in your planner, I highly recommend that you keep it with you at all times if possible. You should go over the day’s tasks and cross out (or highlight) any that you have completed.
If there are any tasks that you didn’t complete, see if you can add them to the next day’s sheet. If you are keeping a habit tracker, you’ll want to fill this in as well.
Set aside a few minutes the day before your new week starts, and go over the coming week’s schedule. You’ll also want to set aside 10-15 minutes at the end of each month to go over the following month and to fill in another quarter’s month.
Constant Revising and Moving Goals
If you find yourself constantly revising and/or moving a particular goal, find the SMART goal draft sheet and reflect on what is keeping you from completing its tasks. Are the tasks too difficult? Can you break them down further? Is this a goal you really want to achieve?
It is not unusual to add a goal that you thought you really wanted to accomplish only to find out that the interest is really not there. Perhaps that yoga class is not your thing or you thought you would like RVing across the country.
It’s okay to drop a couple of goals if you later find out you really don’t want to do them. But I highly suggest trying those tasks before giving up. You never know what you might or might not like if you don’t try first.
When I created the GKP prototype, one of the goals I listed was a shared goal between my husband and me. We were going to renovate our 1st floor in eleven months in time for Thanksgiving.
Every week we sat down for ten minutes to go over the upcoming week’s tasks. We would review and revise our tasks so that we didn’t fall behind our goal deadline.
I owe those “meetings” to the success of that huge goal. So if you have a shared goal, I suggest having a weekly meeting so you are both on the same page.
Final Thoughts on Setting Goals
To sum up, remember:
- Think big and brain-dump your goals
- Turn these goals into SMART goals
- Order your goals so that you can easily enter them into your planner
- Keep track of your habits
- Review, revise, and reflect on your goals daily, weekly, and monthly
- Avoid starting goals on “the first”
- Avoid a December 31st deadline for goals that can be completed sooner
- Keep your planner by your side and never “put it away”
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Thank you for this in depth article on SMART goal setting. I like the detail and the examples. As I read through it, the same thought pops up in my mind whenever I read goal setting or organization routine planning. That is, “But what about us? The people with invisible illnesses and/or pain?” Routines and schedules just don’t work because we never know when we are going to have a good day or a bad day and not be able to accomplish things. We desperately want to set goals and achieve them. Yet when we continue to fail at doing so, it gets very discouraging. How do we set attainable goals? Thank you so much for your help with this.
The best thing you can do is to set goals with grace. Avoid giving yourself a strict deadline. On days that are not possible to work on your goals, simply stop working on your goals. On good days, get back to your goals. Reaching goals will take longer but you can reach them as long as you return to your goals on days you can work on them. Also, list down every single step you need to reach a particular goal. This way you will know where you left off and you can avoid having to restart them when those good days occur.