New Year, New You: Plan & Achieve Your Long-Term Goals with You v2.0
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Setting long-term goals is overwhelming for a lot of people. Your dreams and vision look great in your head, but you have no idea how to get there. It looks like a lot of work, and you don’t know where to start. How do you translate a big idea into a mid-term plan that links to daily action?
“Not starting at all” often sounds like a good option. Or you jot down a few short-term goals or daily habits. It’s easier to write down that you’ll “stop smoking” or “exercise 15 minutes every day”. That should get you there, right?
If you create habits and goals without the long-term in sight, two problems arise. First, when your short-term goals aren’t placed within the larger context of your future, you have less reason to commit and stay motivated. Having a purpose, being clear of intentions, and knowing the big “why” behind your actions is essential to stay on track. Without them, you are less likely to stick with new habits and nail new goals.
Second, and even more important, when we set on the road to achieving our goals, we might be so busy with the small stuff that we don’t pay attention to where we’re going. We become distracted and one day wake up to find that we are nowhere near the ultimate big vision. How do you ensure that you are on track 3 years or 3 months out from your big dreams?
Let’s switch perspective. Let’s shift gears to the next version of you: You v2.0
Bridging our broader vision to daily action doesn’t have to be difficult. You can make planning for the future tangible and actionable by using the right approach and tools. You can pace yourself. You can even enjoy taking the right steps every day to achieve something bigger.
So how do we plan our long-term goals? What techniques can we use to connect our big picture dreams to daily action?
The method is surprisingly simple:
- Start with your vision
- Funnel your goals into 5–3–1 years
- Set 90-day challenges
- Build a weekly plan
- Track and reflect
Just like that, we break our big goals into bite sized pieces. First into chunks of years, then months and days.
Note: I use a combination of g-sheet, Evernote for the daily planning and Loop habits when working with this method. I find g-sheet gives you a solid bird’s eye view of your progress and is easy to manage. I’m yet to discover a perfect tool I can use for all planning.
1. Start with your vision
Within the context of this post, I assume you have somewhat articulated your vision, purpose, and values. If not, I’d recommend you check out this blog on zen habits or read Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’. Purpose questions range from “Who do you want to be?” and “What are the big things you want to achieve?” to “What are the three most important values you cherish?” Answering such questions and imagining your future self-helps clarify your purpose and core values. It’s okay if your vision and purpose feel a bit “vague” at this stage without specific and measurable goals. This step is important. It allows us to begin with the end in mind.
2. Funnel your goals into 5–3–1 years
What would it take to follow your vision in the next five, three and one years? What are the big goals you would achieve? How would You v2.0 look like? Close your eyes. Dream big. Decide where you want to be. You will find that the closer you get to the present moment, the easier it is to prioritize and make your goals specific. Yes, some guess work may be required, but the outcome is invaluable. What you are doing is setting benchmarks that are in line with your greater goals and your vision.
You might find it helpful to group your goals into distinct areas that are in line with your values and that are important to you. For me, that’d be health, relationship, finance, career, education and clarity/spirituality.
An important checkbox to tick is the emotional element of those goals. Are you excited when you visualize yourself achieving those goals? Are you thrilled to get a jump start on them right away? I recommend reviewing those goals at least once a year (Hello 2017!). This ensures that your goals continue to make sense to you. It also keeps you from blindly running after irrelevant goals you set when you were a teenager.
3. Set 90-day challenges
Look at the goals you want to achieve in the next year. In your spreadsheet, create a table for the next 3 months and set short-term goals that will get you on your way across all those areas. Now is also a good time to define the regular routines and habits you would like to adopt. Be specific. Remember: Always keep the end in mind.
The reason why 90-day challenges make planning so successful is because the brain likes winning. You like those dopamine shots of achievement! If the reward is 10, 5 or even 2 years in the future, it tends not to be a strong enough motivator to make you take immediate action. By having a long-term plan supported by short-term action, you are more likely to stay on track and less likely to be distracted. This is why creating daily habits and short- to mid-term goals is so important.
4. Build your weekly plan
When you are doing your weekly planning, make sure to open the 90-day challenge and add those short- and mid-term goals to your agenda. It’s all about making the goals actionable so you can act upon them today. Your daily MITs (Most Important Things) should cover at least some of those goals. You may find that using the right apps can help you execute repeated tasks. The easier it is to complete daily tasks, the higher your chance of success. And since your daily habits and goals are linked to your vision of You v2.0, you know you are on the right track!
5. Track and reflect:
Set a time daily and weekly to reflect on your progress and review your progress. Regular reflection is powerful; I have written more about it here.
This is your personal roadmap to your vision. And with mid- and short-term goals, you know what to do today to get there.
The secret to achieving long-term goals is to combine clear direction, with practical action and a way to track your progress.
What’s great about this method is that it allows you to stay flexible and enjoy the journey (vs. pushing goals that were set years ago). We all know that the future matters, but what we decide to do today actually matters more.
This New Year, why not invest in the next 30 years? Take a leap and plan ahead.
Your future self will thank you.
Yours sincerely, Tomas v2.0
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