Your goals are the building blocks of success. Without goals, your career, and even your life, can drift aimlessly. But having a goal is no guarantee of success – a statement of intent is just the start of your journey.
You have to know how to define your goals, how to create a plan to achieve them, and how to stay the course when the going gets tough.
Chances are, you do have a number of goals that you'd like to achieve, and a date by which you hope to do so. But, in between, there are well-trodden steps that you need to follow. These will help you to stay focused, and to avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that can block your route to success.
For example, it's important to set goals that motivate you. If you don't really value the outcome, or set goals that don't have a high priority in your life, you'll likely lose focus and interest in them. Here at Mind Tools, we are big fans of the SMART Goals model. This is a powerful set of rules for ensuring that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
But we wanted to know what rules or top tips YOU follow to achieve your goals. So, we put the question to our friends and followers on social media, "How do you stay focused on your goals?"
Facebook friend Chetan Agarwal, believes the key is to take a bite-size approach to larger aims. He said, "To accomplish my goals, I will break each of them down into smaller action items, and set aside time in my calendar for six months, and follow through on these." Chetan also keeps himself on track with a very motivational tip: rewarding himself for success! He added, "I set up a reward mechanism for myself after I complete each action item, like a bowl of Alfredo sauce pasta."
On Twitter, Mind Tools insider @Midgie_MT argued for the need to be flexible. She said that she makes "weekly reviews of my goals and what progress I have made during the week, so that I may readjust and refocus as necessary to keep progressing."
ZayNb R, an HR specialist from Egypt, offered a three-pronged approach to staying focused. Writing on LinkedIn, she said, "1. Write them down everywhere so I can see them every day. 2. Read at least two articles a day, or watch videos of what I am passionate about, to motivate myself. 3. I try to control my mood to stay focused and enthusiastic about what I am going to do throughout the day."
Also on LinkedIn, Aisha Minhas, a team manager in Manchester, U.K., said, "I have a vision of where I want to be in the next 3/5 years, so I have been understanding what I need to learn to achieve and focus on this. I’m extremely lucky that I have mentors and a good manager who steers me, but I'm someone who is relentless and will keep striving once I know what I need to do."
Daniel Takara, a client performance adviser from Hawaii, said, "I get easily distracted by all the ideas in my head. I've started writing them down and putting an "after this" mental label on them. Some still won't get done, but it makes focusing much easier."
Talent acquisition manager Erica Rogers, from Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S., keeps a monthly schedule to review her progress, and even sets reminders on her phone. She said, "I write the goal and then plan accordingly. If I want to do good deeds, I would need to plan how often each month, who I will do good deeds for, what deed I will do. It's on my calendar each month (in my phone to alert me), I reach out a month ahead to my target. It can work for an entire year, if I have a big picture and set objectives and timelines every month."
Thank you to everyone who contributed ideas and suggestions. If you have any more top tips to share, then please do so, below.
For information on what NOT to do when setting goals, see our article, Eight Common Goal Setting Mistakes, and to find out where you might need help on this issue, take our quiz, How Good Is Your Goal Setting?