Identify and Prioritise: The Beginner's Guide to Goal Setting
If 2020 was a tough year, 2022 felt tougher. I had just delivered my second daughter after a particularly exhausting and complicated pregnancy, I was on leave without pay, I was also being made to take a few classes without being paid a dime and naturally I was contemplating the tough decision of leaving the toxic environment.
While all this was happening, I was also trying to look for a new job, work on my career as a surface designer, and find the right balance between work and family. I hustled like never before only to realize I was totally burnt out and did not enjoy working towards the goals that had initially excited me.
This is a slightly updated post since I have brought about a few changes in the way I’m setting this year’s goals. While setting my goals I always start with my purpose–kind of like my “why” but a little more defined.
Last year my goals were:
Sign at least three art licensing deals in 2022
Sign up with an art licensing agency
Revamp my portfolio website
How much of that did I get done? Nada!
So this year I want to switch up a few things. I usually start off with identifying two or three things that I want to accomplish, say five years from now. Then I identify the ‘why’ behind those goals. This time, I’m starting with my ‘why’ and then arriving at my goals.
I then move on to breaking each of these five-year goals down into short-term goals. Now, you could always have separate short-term and long-term goals but I like to base my short-term goals on the bigger picture. I also work on one goal at a time.
How do I decide which goals to start working on?
The primary motivation behind deciding on my goals and then staying on track (unless life has other plans) is to consider what matters the most to me.
Here are a couple of things that I like to consider:
What are my aspirations?
What is important to me?
What do I want my career to look like in the next five years?
How do I want my relationships to improve?
What makes me happy?
What does success look like for me?
Based on my answers to these questions, my long-term goals could look like these:
I want to quit my day job to pursue a career in art.
I want to be able to work from home, decide how many hours I want to work, and spend more time with my daughters.
I want to build an engaged community of other creatives and share my knowledge with them.
Now, I like my goals to be SMART, and while the above might seem like goals, they’re actually more aspirations.
Now is the time when I am going to refine these aspirations into SMART goals.
What does SMART mean?
Specific: Is the scope of my task narrow enough?
Measurable: Can I quantify my task or its result? In other words, can I measure my progress?
Attainable: Is my goal achievable? Is it too difficult? Is it too easy?
Relevant: Is my goal relevant to my ‘why’? Will it help me in my personal and professional life?
Time-bound: Have I set myself a deadline to achieve my goal? Is this deadline enough to achieve the goal?
According to author Michael Hyatt, goals are more effective when you make them SMARTER. So, what do the last E and R stand for?
Exciting: Is my goal motivating enough for me to work hard towards achieving it?
Risky: The goal does not have to be over-the-top but does it challenge me enough?
Taking everything into consideration, here are my SMARTER Goals
I want to quit my day job by December 2025.
Starting January 2026, I want to transition to a 4-day work week.
I want to post three blogs a month, three Instagram posts a week, and send out two newsletters a month to build an engaged community of other creatives and share my knowledge with them.
Something I’ve noticed when it comes to community building is that we often tend to get caught up in trying to increase our social media following. We might say, I want to gain 1000 more followers in one year. But this isn’t a realistic goal because it doesn’t depend completely on us. There are several factors involved including the platform’s algorithm.
Each goal can further be broken down into actionable steps. I mean, unless we do the work there’s no way we’ll achieve our goals, am I right? It’s always helpful to note down what that work would mean for us.
Set yourself a deadline. I give myself quarterly, weekly and even daily deadlines at times. Short-term tasks work better for me because they mean quicker gratification. I’m also someone who gets bored of doing the same task every day for a long period of time. Hence, a shorter due date helps me stay on track without leading to more anxiety (which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid here).
Tips for making goal-setting a success
Write them down. I can’t emphasize enough on the importance of writing down the life you envision for yourself, the goals that vision translates into, and the steps you will take to build that life that brings you joy. Writing your goals down on paper (or whatever works for you) is in itself a form of accountability.
Always remember to make your goals manageable. Smaller goals are easy to achieve and make you feel good about yourself.
Find an accountability partner. For instance, you’re more likely to stick to a fitness schedule if you work out and follow the same deadlines as, say, a friend. This way you not only check in regularly on each other’s progress but can also celebrate milestones together.
Last year I advocated telling the whole world about my goals. Truth be told, no one really cares. So, piggybacking on the previous tip, talk about your goals only to those who are directly involved in your progress or those who can cheer you on as you work hard towards your goals.
Track your progress to set yourself up for success. Every quarter and then once a year, sit down to evaluate what has been working, what has not, what needs to change, and whether the timelines you’ve decided can be met.
I also like to brainstorm a couple of challenges that I might face as I work through my goals. This helps me come up with probable solutions to overcome those hurdles when the time comes.
A few other things to consider:
Rigid goal setting can lead to overwhelm. Be prepared to move things around if required; no one’s going to judge you.
Too many goals can take the fun out of goal setting.
It’s okay to fall off the wagon. You can always pick up from where you left off.
Just as goals shouldn’t be too difficult, they shouldn’t be too easy.
Finally, for some of us the process of setting goals itself might seem overwhelming. The key is to go easy on yourself, and perhaps try it again sometime in the future.
To help you make the most of this smart (yes, pun intended) process, snag your free copy of my goal planning sheet.