It’s very important to write down your goals. That isn’t just because it’s easy to forget. There’s a lot more to it and there are some very important reasons why you have to write them down. I thought in today’s blog post, I’d share my thoughts on this and hopefully inspire you to write down your own goals going forward. By the way, this works for any type of goal, not just the business ones.
An important step in an achievable goal is writing your goal down. Use the SMART goal system to make sure that a goal is stated in a way to make accomplishing it more doable. SMART goals are:
Specific – Clearly define your goal; answer what, why, and how. Don’t say “I’m going to lose weight” but rather, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds”.
Measurable – Make sure your goal contains concrete criteria for measuring your progress. The same example as specific works here, with “I’m going to lose weight” how do you know how close you are to achieving your goal. Or worse yet, once you’ve lost 1 pound you can quit because you accomplished your goal. I doubt that was what you were thinking when you made the goal.
Attainable – Your goal should be challenging yet realistic. You should be capable of reaching the goal and have the resources you need to reach it. When talking about New Year’s resolutions, it’s not attainable to lose 200 pounds this year, but it is attainable to lose 50-100 pounds this year.
Relevant – Is the goal important to you? Many times, goals that aren’t thought out really aren’t that important to us. We either stated them because we thought that was what someone else wanted to hear or to blend in with a group. If a goal isn’t relevant to you, it won’t hold your attention and therefore you won’t achieve it.
Time-bound – Specify the time frame for accomplishing your goal. While “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” could easily meet all of the other criteria, but it doesn’t have a time component, so you don’t know when to measure your success. By setting a “by date” you put urgency on your goal. It’s no longer whenever I get to it, it is now.
The simple act of setting a goal, even if it’s just in your mind, doubles your chances of success. That’s a pretty big deal in itself, isn’t it? If you take it a step further, and actually write those goals down, you’re 10 times as likely to succeed. Read that last line again please. That’s right…you can increase your chances of making it by 1,000%. That’s mind-blowing.
There are a few different mental and psychological processes going on here that start to give us a glimpse into why it is so important and effective to write our goals down. The first is that it’s a lot easier to remember something that we’ve written down. You’ve experienced this first hand with your grocery list. When you make a mental list of 10 or 15 things, you’re likely to forget about half of them when you get to the store. If you write out the list on the other hand, and then end up forgetting it on the counter, you will remember the vast majority of the items you needed. This is explained through the fact that information has to be moved from one area of the brain to another to turn it from thoughts into written words on a page. A process called encoding is also involved. All of this helps you retain and store the information better. It’s the reason we’re asked to take notes during lectures in college.
Last but not least, when you write down your goals, you have something you can review regularly. This adds another layer of cognitive processing and increases your chances of success even further. Sadly, only a very small percentage of people make the time to regularly review and evaluate their goals. The ones that do are some of the most successful and highest achieving people out there. In other words, it’s something we should do as well.
To recap, start by setting smart goals. Write them down in as much detail as possible. Set aside some time to review them regularly. This could be weekly, or even daily. Give it a try for this coming quarter. Set yourself a goal. Be specific. This could be something like finally creating that first paid product or adding an extra $500 to your bottom line. Decide by when you’ll reach your goal and how you plan to get there. Write it all down and look at it every morning. This will help you stay on track and make time in your busy day to work on making progress towards your goal.
Let me know what your goals for the next quarter are. Send me an email to email@example.com or comment below.
In case you missed one of the earlier posts, here are links to all of the posts in the Business Planning Series: