Do you set goals for yourself? I am not talking about New Year's resolutions that by their nature are meant to be broken within a few weeks. I am talking about specific, detailed goals with plans for how you will achieve them.
If you aren't in the habit of setting goals regularly, I would urge you to take the time today to do so.
Reasons For Setting Goals
But before you sit down to set the goals, let's talk about why you should.
1. Helps you to focus. If you have five or 10 goals that you would like to accomplish over the course of a year, they can help you to focus your time on what is important to you. If one of your goals is to pay off the remainder of your credit card debt, for instance, you must make a plan to get the money to pay off that debt. “Finding” the money might mean getting an extra job or foregoing some treats or meals out so you can apply the money to your goal. If you didn't have the goal written down, you might not take the time to work another job or deny yourself.
2. Helps you to see the progress that you have made so far. It can be easy to feel as if you are making no progress when you want a result that will take a good deal of time and effort, but monitoring your goals can help you see that you are indeed making progress. For instance, if you have $10,000 in credit card debt to pay off you may feel as if you have made no progress even though your credit card debt is now down to $6,000. By monitoring your goals and progress, you will see that you are indeed on the right path, which can help you stay motivated.
3. Helps you realize you may need to try harder. If you monitor your progress regularly and see that you are not progressing as you would like in some areas, then you know it is time to focus on that area. I have about 8 goals I would like to accomplish this year; some are financial, but some are also personal such as my goal to sleep 7 to 8 hours a night. Now that we are halfway through the year and I still haven't accomplished the goal, I realize that it must not be a priority for me because I keep coming up with excuses why it is not happening. Therefore, in the month of July, this goal is going to become my priority. I will ease up on other goals to focus on this one because I do want to make it a reality.
Tips For Setting Goals
If you haven't set any goals for yourself for 2012, it isn't too late. Often, I think it is better to set goals after New Year's because the goals you set later you are more likely to keep. Remember these tips when setting goals:
1. Set a variety of goals. While setting financial goals is important and should be done, it is also good to consider other aspects of your life that you would like to improve such as your health or your family life. You might set a goal to spend more time with your family on the weekend or to read every night before you go to bed.
2. Make sure your goals have specific calls to action. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a motivational psychologist, states, “When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. ‘Lose 5 pounds' is a better goal than ‘lose some weight,' because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you'll ‘eat less' or ‘sleep more' is too vague — be clear and precise. ‘I'll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights' leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you've actually done it” (Harvard Business Review).
If you are not the type who regularly sets goals, take the time now to sit down and write some goals for yourself as well as how you plan to accomplish them. I think you will be surprised by the progress you make once you take the time to write them down.
Do you regularly set goals for yourself? Why or why not?