I have shared a lot about goal-setting over the years and something I mention often is that I like to have a few little goals and a few BIG goals in progress at any given time. Variety helps keep me interested and interesting and I work best with a few different things on my plate.
What I have not done, is really explained how I accomplish the BIG goals.
So here's my very obvious and easy secret - I take a BIG goal and I chop it up into as many separate small action items as possible. And then I schedule out those tasks onto my daily to do lists.
FOR EXAMPLE: I set the goal this year to get my newsletter off the ground. On January 1st I had no idea how to actually MAKE a newsletter, but I did know that I was going to use MailChimp (because I had seen other people with small businesses use it effectively). This is how my to-do list for that goal broke down:
- open a MailChimp account
- create a sign-up form*
- make a banner for the sign up form
- open up the newsletter to subscribers (I did this with a tweet on twitter) and make sure it works before sharing on the blog
- share the newsletter on the blog
- add a sign up link to the blog sidebar
- write my first newsletter*
- experiment with graphics for the newsletter
- send a few test emails to make sure it worked
- send out the first newsletter
To actually launch a newsletter, I had to go through the ten steps above. Of the ten, only two (the starred ones) were actually "hard" because they involved me doing something I had never done before. Let's be clear, the MailChimp service is fool-proof and so simple to use, but I didn't know that going in and I was nervous about how I would accomplish a few of these items. Breaking it down helped me to just put one foot in front of the other (cross one thing off the list at a time) until I was done.
I used this same process with our backyard. I set the goal to "finish off the backyard" and then I listed everything I wanted to accomplish (in this post). After that it was just about crossing things off.
Sometimes, like in the newsletter case, it really matters that you accomplish your tasks in order because you can't move on to step 2 until step 1 is complete. Other times, like in the case of the quilt eCourse (a huge project I tackled last fall), it didn't matter at all the order in which I worked, but when I was done I needed to have all the little boxes checked (literally).
Above is a mock-up because I lost my original breakdown sheet, but this is exactly what it looked like when I started. This sort of chart is very common for me and my type-A tendencies. I often break down big projects (like eCourses or new blog re-designs) so I can see all the tiny steps. The process of actually making the chart helps me to organize my thoughts, think through my idea thoroughly and (maybe most importantly) helps me to see my progress.
When a project isn't quite so intense, I like to just set up my goals breakdown on paper (and skip the spreadsheet). I have a Behance Action Book that I use for this. I love that each page gives me space to break down my to-do list and extra room to write other notes, draw sketches, etc. The photo above shows my "break-down" for Queen Bee Market prep last fall.
Setting and reaching goals is just like anything else; practice makes better and you get to build on your past successes. Each time I accomplish something it's added to my skill set and when I find myself up against a big project I have resources from past projects to draw on.
Since writing this post, I created Get To Work Book! It's a day planner + goal setting workbook that is designed to help you take your big goals turn them into something real. Learn more and shop the brand here.
Other posts you might enjoy:
- on motivation
- how I tackle huge projects.
- time spent consuming vs. creating.
- how I keep my daily tasks organized.
- why I set goals
- tips for success with long-term projects
- more thoughts on "balance."
- creative books I always return to.