productivity tips

How Many Goals Are You Chasing Right Now (And Do You Have Too Many)?

Are you going after too many different goals right now? Do you have a long list of projects that you rarely make any progress on?

There’s no “perfect” number of goals … but, generally, the fewer goals you have, the higher your chances of succeeding with each.

Two Approaches to Goal-Setting

Imagine two people, Alice and Bob. They’re a couple; they have two kids, and they both have day jobs.

Alice has one big goal: to run a marathon in a year’s time.

Every evening, she goes out for a short run; on Saturdays, she trains in the morning while her husband Bob takes care of the kids (they swap in the afternoon). After a year, she runs that marathon and achieves a very respectable time. She also raises more than a thousand dollars for charity.

Bob has five big goals.

He wants to (1) write a novel, (2) lose weight, (3) decorate the spare room, (4) get good at public speaking and (5) switch careers. After working on these goals for a year, he’s written two chapters of his novel, gained five pounds, stripped the wallpaper in the spare room, attended one Toastmasters meeting, and spent a lot of time daydreaming about his potential new career.

Alice ends the year happy and fulfilled; Bob ends it frustrated with himself. Every January, he resolves to work harder and to be more focused – and it lasts a few days. But he never seems to follow through on any of his goals.

Your turn: Write down all the goals that you have on your mind right now. These might be things that you’ve made active progress towards recently – or things that you keep talking about doing, but never quite seem to get around to.

Cutting Down Your Goals

If your life looks more like Bob’s than Alice’s, you need to cut down on your list of goals. That doesn’t mean you need to pick just one single goal … but you do need to make sure that your goals are compatible.

Bob’s problem is that he has five big goals that take time and energy. If he’s writing his novel, he’s not decorating the spare room; if he’s at a Toastmasters meeting, he’s not exercising to lose weight.

What’s your most important goal? If you could only achieve one thing this year, what would it be?

For Bob, that goal is switching careers. His day job is boring, and not very well paid. He knows he has the skills to do something better, but he doesn’t feel very confident.

Once you know your most important goal, you can see whether any of your other goals are supporting it.

Bob’s goals of “losing weight” and “getting good at public speaking” will both help him gain confidence (and may also help him make a good impression at interviews). Losing weight doesn’t take up a lot of extra time – it mostly means making different food choices. And while preparing speeches and attending Toastmasters meetings does take time, he may meet useful professional contacts at these meetings.

Bob decides that his novel can wait until he’s made that career switch. So can decorating the spare room.

Your turn: Look at your list of goals. Which is the most important to you? Do any of your other goals support that one?

Completing Your Goals

The goals that you cut from your list aren’t ones that you’ve abandoned forever: they’re just not ones you’re working on right now. You can start them up again in a few months – once you’ve finished your current goal.

Get into the habit of completing one goal before starting on the next: you’ll make much faster progress that way. Plus, you may find yourself more motivated to work hard on your current goal, so that you can move on to something new.

You might want to keep a record of progress made each month, and goals achieved each year. (Adjust the time frames to suit your own goal – some obviously take longer than others!) This is a great way to stay motivated, and to see how far you’ve come.

Your turn: This month, sit down every Saturday and write down what you’ve done towards your goal during the previous week.

If you’d like to share your current goals with us, or if you have a great tip on goal-setting and goal-achieving, just pop a comment below!

Photo credit: ‘Goal Keeper‘ by Big Stock

  • http://hackmymodernlifestyle.com/ Hack My Modern Lifestyle

    Excellent Said. One of the thing the most people fell into is to set too many goals and aspire to achieve everything. But end up achieving nothing because they eventually lacked focus and interest level gradually died off. I believe the key to success is to focus on a few goals and be absolute crazy and obsess about it. 

  • http://www.2knowmyself.com/ Farouk

    that’s right Ali
    too many goals can make us feel distracted and reduce our productivity 

  • http://www.mazzastick.com/blog-3/ Justin Mazza

    This seems like a great formula for success. Once we achieve one goal than we can move onto the next one with ease. 

  • Maria Aagaard

    Thank you for the perspective on this topic. It makes me reflect on my own progress.

    Phew, I know I have way to many on my list and I really just got overwhelmed my them all so I couldn’t complete a single one of them.

    What I do at the moment is making week to week goals as part of one bigger goal (Which I can see you also suggest :) ). I think it will help in the long run, but I can feel myself being distracted too easily still. My mind is not  used to focus on one thing at a time.

  • Maria Aagaard

    Thank you for the perspective on this topic. It makes me reflect on my own progress.

    Phew, I know I have way to many on my list and I really just got overwhelmed my them all so I couldn’t complete a single one of them.

    What I do at the moment is making week to week goals as part of one bigger goal (Which I can see you also suggest :) ). I think it will help in the long run, but I can feel myself being distracted too easily still. My mind is not  used to focus on one thing at a time.

  • http://www.inspiredgiftgiving.com/ Marquita Herald

    Great message and one I finally ‘got’ last year. My list of goals was starting to look like a shopping list and I kept justifying it by repeating that old motivational saying – reach for the moon and even if you don’t make it you’ll reach the stars – yada, yada, yada. Now I have one BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and rather than a bunch of other unrelated goals – I have smaller goals that are stepping stones to achieving the BIG goal. That way I have smaller achievements to celebrate along the way to keep me motivated, but I’m always marching toward achieving that one dream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/itsrichardanderson Richard Anderson

    Good advice. I’ve found personally that I work much better on goals which I know I have a chance of succeeding at. These then compound to make up to some of my larger goals. One large goal can seem insurmountable without the evidence that the smaller steps en route are doable.

  • http://susangregg.com/ Susan

    I like the way you group Bob’s goals Ali.

    Life is usually interrelated. If we look at our goals with that sort of perspective not only are we more likely to accomplish them but one goal can lead to another.

    Thanks for the great post,
    Susan

  • Underthelight_paladin18

    The thing is, people like Bob thinks that they could multitask when it comes to goals but that’s not always the case.

  • kmenzies

    I agree, much easier when focus on fewer “bigger” goals.  The only way to stay sane and enjoy the journey!

  • http://www.success-daily.com/story-marketing-for-small-buisnesses/ kelly@successdaily

    This is really good advice, when you are focused on too many things at one time, all of them seem impossible to complete and you get discouraged. Much like prioritizing, choosing two or three main goals to work toward will give you enough time each week to work on them a good amount, and they will be more attainable.Whether they are goals that take time, or simply more effort, anything worth doing is worth doing well- so completing something just because you want to get it done, has no positive impact on your life.

  • http://twitter.com/SteveWhiteToday Steve White

    Ali,

    This post is something I’ve been thinking about (and talking about) for quite some time now, and you’ve explained it quite eloquently. I think it’s most important to have one primary mission, and use smaller, supporting goals as checkpoints on the way (much like how Bob can use Toastmasters meetings and losing weight to help him gain confidence – which will ultimately help him find a new job.) Of course we all have plenty of things we want to accomplish but if we focus on all of these things at once, succeeding in just one can feel impossible.

  • http://simplemoments.org/ Jenni

    Well said.  I recently have let go of some of my goals – for now.  What I have found is that I am making significant progress on other goals without killing myself.  I love the idea of getting in the habit and completing one goal before starting on the next.  And sitting down once a week to check my progress – this I need to do.  Thank you!

  • http://simplemoments.org/ Jenni

    Well said.  I recently have let go of some of my goals – for now.  What I have found is that I am making significant progress on other goals without killing myself.  I love the idea of getting in the habit and completing one goal before starting on the next.  And sitting down once a week to check my progress – this I need to do.  Thank you!

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  • http://www.breakingthehabitofme.com/ Breaking The Habit Of Me

    I am Bob!!!

    But I had planned to sit down and do a bit of prioritising this weekend.
    Oh dear. Now I sound like a procrastinator.

    Going to stop talking now :)

    Great post, Ali. Has given me food for thought.

    Keith

  • http://www.breakingthehabitofme.com/ Breaking The Habit Of Me

    I am Bob!!!

    But I had planned to sit down and do a bit of prioritising this weekend.
    Oh dear. Now I sound like a procrastinator.

    Going to stop talking now :)

    Great post, Ali. Has given me food for thought.

    Keith

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  • Anudeep410

    i like this idea

  • Nana

    It makes sense!! I just realized I have many things in mind that I would like to do. I don’t know if these are goals or just wishes. I have many ideas for novels, and I try to write, but I feel my vocabulary is not strong enough. So, I tell myself I have to take some kind of an English course. Yet, I see myself as a future author! .I enjoy taking pictures, but know only the basics of camera use, yet I see myself as a future professional photographer! I graduated from college some twenty years ago with an interior designer major, and due to my marriage and having to take care of my kids, I fell behind on my career. I try to read books and articles on the subject, to keep up to date, but I lack the practice. I dream of becoming a successful interior designer and I see myself owning a business but I realize this will not happen before I start from scratch, as a trainee. Add to do that I want to become fitter, shape up, and quit smoking. I want to learn salsa, and belly dancing, and I want to be good at them. I also want to take a secretarial course, and learn how to use a computer properly, beyond internet use! .What did I accomplish from all this? Zero! Oh, and did I mention I am 45 years old?? FUNNY!

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