I touched on this in my previous post, a step by step guide to setting goals. However, this goes beyond setting goals. We’re now in the process of working towards and achieving goals. The most important thing you can do in this process is to review your goals regularly.
To use the travelling metaphor that I’ve been flogging to death over this series, if you’d set out on a trip to a brand new, hard to reach location that you’d never travelled to before, you’d want to check the map pretty regularly, wouldn’t you? Especially as there probably aren’t many signposts along the way and the terrain is likely to be pretty difficult. You’d want to look every few miles to check you were still going in the right direction and you hadn’t got side-tracked along the way.
Look over your goals weekly
As outlined in the previous post, hopefully you’ve written down your goal and broken it down into several smaller steps. Then you made a list of the things you’re going to do this week to work.
At the beginning of next week, open up the book / document that you’ve written your goals in and check it over. Have a look at all the things that you’ve written down to work on as part of this step. Have a look at the stuff you meant to do last week. Can you tick some of it off? Do you need to carry some of it forward to this week? Do you need to postpone it until later because you need more information / experience / equipment / assistance etc? Is some of it no longer relevant and you can cross it off without doing it?
You don’t need to take ages over this. I set a reminder to do it every Monday and it takes me 5-10 minutes, sometimes less. The point is just to remind yourself of the things you figured out you needed to work on and see how you’re doing. It’s just a quick glance at the map to check you’re on track and make minor adjustments if necessary.
At the end of your review, update your to-do list with the jobs you’re going to tackle this week and forget about the rest. After all, you’re going to look at it again next week, so you can always pick up some of the stuff you’ve ignored this week when you do your next weekly review.
These reviews are not meant to be a way of beating yourself up and giving yourself a hard time about whether you’ve made the ‘right’ amount of progress. They’re just a reminder of what you decided you wanted to do and a chance to decide what you’re going to do about it in the coming week.
Update your goals in more detail monthly
Once a month, as well as your normal review, go through your goals in a little more detail. Take a look at the steps you’ve worked out and decide whether they’re still appropriate. Do you need to adjust them based on any new information you’ve discovered or changes that have happened in the last month? Have you discovered new things that could get you to your goal quicker? Are there things that you thought might help but actually won’t, so you can get rid of it? Are you still committed to your goal? Do you want to change it for something else?
This still doesn’t need to take very long. Most months I look at my book and I’m pretty happy with what I have in there so I leave it be. Occasionally I decide my priorities have changed a bit so I write out the different steps I’ve come up with and adjust my weekly tasks accordingly.
For example, I had music reading as a big priority at the beginning of my goal, but I soon discovered that my knowledge of Jazz chords and harmony was weak. I realised that was more important for my immediate aims than fluent sight reading, so I switched my focus for a few months. Once I was comfortable with those new chords I went back to the reading. Those are the kind of decisions I make during my monthly ‘updates’.
I find if I’m going to make changes I often re-write out my goal and the steps and breakdowns on a new page. That keeps it nice and clear for when I look at it again and makes future reviews easier. I’m a fan of mind maps, so I’ll sketch one out and it keeps things fresh in my mind. This only tends to happen every 3-6 months for me, but there’s no set rule. If enough has changed that you think it’s easier and clearer to write it out again, take the time to do it.
If you do this electronically, I would recommend keeping old versions of your plans. Sometimes you might want to refer back to them and pick up things you had discarded. That’s why I like having my old fashioned pen and paper book, because it’s easy to flick back through the previous pages and see if there’s anything I might need to bring back.
Set yourself Reminders
It really helps if you have something to remind you to do this each week. Everyone likes different ways of doing this, but try to do at least one of the following:
- Scheduling the reviews & updates in your calendar as recurring appointments
- Writing them in a physical calendar if you prefer that to electronic calendars
- Setting up a task in Outlook or other task management system (I use Todoist myself)
- Setting an alarm or similar on your phone or computer
Obviously this needs to be something you look at or check regularly, otherwise you won’t get the reminder. I’m probably preaching to the choir here, because if my way of approaching goals suits you then you are probably a ‘task-list’ kind of person. However, I’m putting it here as a prompt for anyone who doesn’t think of it.
This regular process of reviewing and updating your goals really is the key to keeping on track and achieving your aims in the long run. If you’ve chosen your goal well then it’s something you really want and are motivated to accomplish. So as long as you are reminding yourself every week of what you’re after and what the immediate next steps are, you’re going to keep making progress.
You can’t step across the finish line until you’ve taken every step necessary to get you up to the finish line. It may not be quick and it probably won’t be easy, but if you keep working towards it every week then in the end you will get there in the end.
Next time, more tips on how to make achieving your goals easier than they might otherwise be.