Tips on setting goals

I am a huge advocate of setting goals, but I wasn’t always. It took a while and a few trials for them to click and for me to understand the value there is in working towards a plan. Here are some of the tips and learnings I’ve discovered along the way. They may not work for everyone, we all work and think differently, and that’s a good thing.

Energy in doesn’t equal energy out

Why set goals in the first place? Let’s be honest, it’s added time and effort when most of us barely have enough as it is. The adage, you get as much as you put into things, never made sense to me. Where’s the value in doing one thing over another. There’s truth in breaking the laws of physics and getting much more than you put in. What do you get out of setting goals? It can vary depending on the goal but growth is almost always a result.


A lot of frameworks out there clearly divide personal and professional goals. I struggle with this concept and many others will agree that work is extremely personal to them. Your career, salary and working environment can have an impact on your personal life, family and health. I’ve found success in treating my goals as a financial portfolio, making sure I invest in well-rounded investments. While I don’t set any firm rules, I always keep in mind to set goals related to different things such as:

  • Learning and growth
  • Family and friends
  • Physical and mental health
  • Money
  • Career
  • Hobbies and interests

Write them down

One of the most important things is to write down your goals. For far too long I kept them internal, juggling them with my day-to-day tasks, thoughts and to-dos. It’s a recipe for them to be skewed, or worse, forgotten. Writing them down provides multiple benefits, you obviously won’t forget what they were and you can reference them whenever you need to. Write down updates, random thoughts and accomplishments. Find a place that works well for you, or write them down in multiple places:

  • Published on a personal website or blog.
  • Start a dedicated bullet journal or notebook.
  • Pinned at your desk, have fun I have mine typed out on a typewriter.
  • On your desktop. Tip: set it to open up whenever you turn on your computer.

Additionally, it makes them easier to share, more on that later.

Use your own language

There are many different frameworks out there to help get you started. But finding one that works the best is extremely personal. I had to create my own to feel like I was equipped to be successful. I adapted Todd Henry’s Step, Sprint, Stretch model and created a Prep, Practice, Perform framework.

Prep goals

What do I need to get started? These are often educational or research items.

Practice goals

How can I build confidence? These are typical exercises and low-risk objectives.

Perform goals

What do I truly want? These are the large, sometimes scary things you want to do.

Make them trackable, celebrate success

No matter what framework or language you choose, it’s important to ensure you can measure your results. Borrowing concepts from Scrum, ask yourself, what’s the definition of done? Using quantitative data goes a long way, I’ve found it helpful to us numerals and dates whenever I can. I want to do something, a number of times, before this date. There is definitely a place for qualitative data by asking for feedback from others. But ensure the feedback is trusted, honest and given multiple different times so you can measure the advancement of your goals.

What’s the point of tracking your goals? Success. We don’t celebrate it enough, but you worked hard and it deserves recognition. When you’re so close to things we often don’t notice how much change and growth is happening. Take the time to reflect, celebrate and reward.

Share your goals

Despite goals being very personal, there’s a misconception that you have to do it alone. In my (potentially lucky) experience, I’ve realized that people instinctively want to help. It’s scary, and you’re being vulnerable, but sharing your goals with people can lead to huge gains. You may gain new insights and perspectives, be able to brainstorm new ideas, and often get a leg up to achieving your goals. I’ve had people teach me new skills, connect me with others and have received opportunities that I wouldn’t have normally been given.

In addition, they will hold you accountable. You’d be surprised how a simple, “How are your goals doing?” can do wonders in motivating and ensuring you’re staying on track.

Take care of yourself, it’s ok to adjust

Lastly, it’s important to remember that you’re doing these for you. We can’t always control what life throws at us and sometimes things change. It’s ok to pause goals in stressful times, rest is just as important. Having them written down will allow you to pick up right where you left off. It’s also ok to realize some goals aren’t worth pursuing anymore. Adding, adjusting and removing goals is no big deal. However, I find it helpful when removing goals to channel your inner Marie Kondo, thank your goal and reflect on any of the learning from them.