Pen making a list

Setting Goals 6 – How to Set Goals – Step by Step

Up to now we’ve talked a lot about goals (start at the beginning if you haven’t already) and explained why you can only really have one or two. Then I gave some tips on how to choose your goal. So once you have an idea what it is, what should you do?


Step 1: Write it Down

Get a notebook or document or something where you can write or record what your goal is. Personally I like the tactile quality of pen and paper, so I use an A4 notebook. I’ve had the same one for about 10 years now. We’re not going to write loads in it, so it doesn’t need to be too big.

I like A4 size because it allows me to draw, scribble, make mind maps and fit lots on one page or double page spread if I need to. I prefer to have everything visible to me in one go, rather than having to scroll up and down a document.

However, I know a lot of people prefer electronic devices, and they have the benefit of being accessible from anywhere if you store them in a cloud environment, so use whatever works for you. The important thing is that it should be easy to access, easy to use and ideally you should enjoy working with it. If the medium you use for writing and checking your goals becomes a chore then you’re creating obstacles for yourself before you even start.


Be Specific and have a Timescale

Remember what we covered in the ‘What are goals?’ post. Your goal should be specific – you should be able to say definitively when you have achieved it. Vague terms like ‘improve’, ‘increase’, attempt’ aren’t good enough. It needs to be something you can measure. So ‘Save up money and purchase tickets to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Japan’ is good. ‘Travel to the East’ is not. It’s to vague.

Also give yourself a timescale. Not too challenging a once which will demoralise you, but something to give you a bit of motivation, so it’s not an open ended task that you can let drift.


Step 2: Break it Down

Once you’ve set your goal, the next thing to do is break it down into smaller steps, each with their own time frame. The goal is the big picture, the steps are the individual things you need to do to get there. This will help you plan and focus your activity. These don’t need to be quite a specific as the main goal, although they can be if you’re meticulous in that way.

As an example, here’s the breakdown of my steps for my Strictly Come Dancing goal (see Goals #1 post if you missed that):

– Year 1: Play in one amateur musical each month to gain experience and proficiency.

– Year 2: Get paid performance work involving music reading – e.g. cruise ships or touring band.

– Year 3: Continue with paid work, try to get work depping on professional musicals.

– Year 4: Get work depping on West End musicals.

– Year 5: Get the chair in a West End musical.

– Year 6: Get called to play on Strictly Come Dancing.
Some might take longer than that, some might be shorter, but it gives me a structure to work with. Yours don’t need to be expressed in years, just whatever time frame you feel is appropriate.

It might be that you need to adjust your overall time scale for the goal as a whole once you’ve done this. That’s OK. Actually it’s good. You will have a better thought through and more accurate time scale than you did before.

Write these steps in your goal book / document / record too.

If you need to, break these steps down into smaller chunks too. The more ‘bite sized’ you can make each section the easier it is to tackle. So my year 1 included: Practice music reading; make list of Amateur Dramatic societies to write to; write to those societies; research and acquire equipment required for those kind of gigs; find teacher experience with musical theatre; etc. Anything you think will move you towards your goal.


Step 3: Decide what to start doing now

You’ve broken down your goal into smaller steps. Now decide what you can start doing this week to work towards achieving the first step. No need to keep it to one thing now. Write down all the little things you need to do and start doing them. You are on your way towards your goal!

I don’t personally write these weekly tasks in my goals book. They go on my regular to-do list. That way I see them all the time, rather than being hidden in my goals book which I only look at once a week or so. I’m much more likely to get them done if they’re part of my regular weekly activity, rather than treating them as something separate.


Step 4: Review Regularly

This step is so important that it’s going to be the subject of a whole post in its own right. For the purposes of this article, the short version is that you should review your goals book at least weekly. Tick off stuff you’ve done. Adjust timescales and targets if necessary and decide on the next things you’re going to do that week to keep you moving towards your goal.

If you’ve done this you’re on the road towards your ambition. Hopefully that’s a good feeling. It might also be a bit frightening – that’s usually a good sign that you’re stretching yourself and working towards something worthwhile for you. The next few posts will be about keeping you on the road and getting along it as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

2 thoughts on “Setting Goals 6 – How to Set Goals – Step by Step”

  1. Pingback: Achieving Goals - Review Regularly - Matt Helm Guitar

  2. Pingback: Goal Setting 10 - Summary / Recap - Matt Helm Guitar

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top