Looking at the best, most successful people in the world and the habits they hold, there is one common theme that holds true – goal planning! Clear, concise and regular planning is something that they all credit a part of their success; something that has also worked tremendously well for me over the last 4-5 years.
Back in March 2012 I attempted to get my life back on track when I realised that I was quite overweight. I was sick of being slow and weak when it came to my football performance and it was horrendously depressing seeing my reflection staring back at me every day. I felt like I needed to set myself goals because I was tired of looking back each year feeling like nothing had really changed!
That year I promised myself it was going to be different: I knuckled down, sat myself some goals, and developed a plan on how I was going to get them. Little did I know that this session would be the first of many over the coming years, one which would drive serious changes in my life as a whole.
And although I’m far from an expert, even now some 5 years later, I’d like to share with you the learnings I’ve taken from my goal planning process that have helped me achieve things like:
- Losing close to 60 lbs in four months
- Deadlifting, squatting, benching, and overhead pressing 3, 2, 1.5 and 1 times body weight respectively
- Changing career into one I’m deeply passionate about.
- Writing my first, of hopefully many, Ebooks.
How I Started
Up until the start of this 2016, my goal setting was limited to just once a year; essentially setting myself glorified New Year’s Resolutions, with most of these goals having monthly check marks assigned to them. As an example, one goal was to listen to 12 new albums a year, with 12 being picked because it lined up with one new album each month.
This acts as a very quick and dirty feedback system and it’s very easy to know if you are on track or not – In July, you’ve either listened to 7 new albums or not! And my planning actually never went any further than this – I simply set myself goals for the year, hoping that monthly check ins and motivation were enough to keep my efforts up to scratch!
For the first year at least, this system worked perfectly, but that was less about the process itself and more about the goals I chose. These goals were:
- Lose weight,
- “Sort” my diet out (whatever that means),
- Get quicker,
- Be a better hitter in football,
- Get stronger.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me these all look like one big goal – If I managed to lose weight, the rest of these would have all just fallen into place. I couldn’t get jacked by having a bad diet, losing that excess fat would have instantly mad me faster and stronger, making me a better hitter in football.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t see this. Not that there is anything wrong with just having one goal, especially one that meant so much to me, but it would have reduced my focus so much which would have made it sooooo much easier.
In any case, although I don’t think this yearly method of goal planning would be good for me right now, nor do I think it was ideal for me at the time, it’s hard to argue with it given the fact that it worked!
Why That Stopped Working
I think the main reason that this system worked for me at the time was because all my goals that year boiled down to one, one which the mirror gave me constant feedback on every single day as I got dressed in the mornings.
Going with the age old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, I used this yearly process of setting goals all the way up to the start of 2016, only stopping when I realised that it was no longer working for me after a total failure in 2015!
- Go on 12 Micro Adventures,
- Read 12 Books,
- Listen to 12 new albums,
- Visit 12 “Bucket List” eateries in Ireland,
- Visit a float tank.
Out of all these, my main goal of 12 Micro Adventures failed flat on its ass – I only went on three! Not only that, but my book, album and restaurant goals all got left till the last 2 months of the year; hardly a successful structure to follow for a year’s worth of goals!
What gives, though? The planning system that once worked so well for me just left me sitting, wondering what had gone so awry to have me this far behind where I wanted to be.
The reason was simple: I had given myself too much freedom and laxity to just let things happen without any source of regular feedback as to whether I was on or off track!
This system worked perfectly for me when I was incredibly driven by my utter hatred for being overweight and the daily reminders I was getting, but it just wasn’t up to scratch when it came to things I was much less passionate about achieving – something which I had to change if I was to continue improving every year!
My Planning System Now
Want to hear something funny? I only had to make two small changes to this system to turn it into something that is HIGHLY effective.
The first: Frequency of goal setting. Instead of sitting down once a year to set goals, now I do it every 90 days! This serves two purposes: Not only does it give me four more chances to get back on the horse if I fall off, but it also gives rise to more frequent opportunity to assess the systems and see if I need to make changes to it.
The second: Weekly planning. Leading into each and every week, I sit down and decide just how much time I need to spend on my goals over the next seven days and put it into my google calendar. This calendar is where I keep track of all my coaching sessions, meetings and reading time, meaning that during the day all I have to do is look to it and I know what I should be working on at that exact moment.
The real benefit of this comes from not only constantly working on my goals every week of the year, but also by giving me a chance to asses if I’m still on track or not. No longer am I just letting will and motivation alone take the reins; I’m taking ownership of my growth and making sure I give my goals the time they need to become reality!
In reality there will never be one single way of planning goals that will work perfectly for everyone. It will be an ever evolving process of changing and adjusting based on your goals and lifestyle. That said, there are two elements that I feel are key in actually making progress;
- Constantly assessing yourself and the progress you are making towards your goals and,
- Regularly dedicating specific time in your schedule to work on them.
Get this under wraps and you’ll be hard pressed not turning those goals into reality!