Goal Setting

The beginning of the new year is officially over so that means we can all get back to setting realistic goals and giving ourselves some grace (if you’ haven’t been already). Goal setting can be extremely overwhelming, but it is a key to success when done correctly. I set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. If you think that sounds like a lot, you’re right! But, each goal helps reach a larger one. Here are  my 5 tips for effective goal setting:


Base your goals on your motives

Think about things you want to achieve in your professional life and your personal life. These might include getting promoted, losing weight, improving relational communication, and/or traveling more. Whatever they are, write them down. Then, think about what it will take to achieve each of these. Here’s one professional and one personal example for you:

Professional – to get tenure in 2021

  • Conduct and publish my research in empirical journals.
  • Be an effective and above average teacher.
  • Engage in service to the department, university, and academy at large.

Personal – to travel more domestically

  • Save money
  • Plan in advance
  • Compromise

Break It Down

After you’ve identified your goals, break down each goal into smaller and smaller goals. This is what sets #goaldiggers apart from goal setters. Think about what needs to happen yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily to help you reach your goals. Using a portion of the two examples above, here’s what my break down looks like:

Professional – to get tenure in 2021

  • Conduct and publish my research in empirical journals.
    • Yearly – 2 studies accepted for publication
    • Quarterly – 2 papers under review, 2 studies in progress
    • Monthly – research planning and follow-up
    • Weekly – complete one research related task
    • Daily – work on research for at least 30 minutes per day

Personal – to travel more domestically

  • Yearly – select 2 – 4 destinations
  • Quarterly – plan time on the calendar, review budget, make reservations
  • Monthly – put money into savings, talk about activities
  • Daily – try to be mindful of spending  (like not going to Starbucks every day!) and work load so that I don’t feel overwhelmed when I take time off

As you can see, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. My professional goals are broken down differently than my personal goals. What matters is that you’re identifying what you need to do to reach the overall goal.

Be Realistic

You’ve probably heard all about SMART goals, right? If not, check this out. I think the idea is great, in theory. But what normally happens is people are not realistic. For example, I can’t expect to complete one research study per month. But, I can try to work on research for 30 minutes per day. I can’t expect to immediately run a 5k after not running for six months, but I can agree to go running 3 times a week and build up to a 5k distance. Do you see the key here? You want to have measurable and attainable goals, but YOU are setting the measurement. Be gracious with yourself.


Build In Backup

Life happens. You get sick, you get bad news, you burn out, something unexpected happens, and so on. With each goal build in back up. Just like when you budget you should always build in some cushion, do the same with your goals. I always give myself 2 extra weeks to meet monthly goals. And, if something doesn’t happen daily, but it still happens at the end of the week, all is good! You run your goals, don’t let them run you.

Record Your Goals and Progress

Writing down your goals has been proven to be more effective than just thinking about them. Write down your goals! Then write down your break down. I am a big fan of Apple’s Reminders app. I have running lists that are synced between my phone, laptop and iPad. I have a list for my yearly goals, then I have a list for my monthly, weekly, and daily tasks to help me reach them. It feels SO GOOD to check off tasks related to your goals. Do not cheat yourself of this gratification. It’s also amazing to look back and see how hard you worked to accomplish your goal. Buy a cute notebook, get a new app, grab a cute pen, and get to writing!



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