How To Set Goals - Legally Bold

How To Set Goals


I always equate September with the beginning of a new year. Partly because I spent so many years as a student going back-to-school. But also because my birthday falls in September. This makes the month the beginning of my personal new year too. 

Because September signals a fresh start to me, I like to ask myself big philosophical questions about my future during this time. Here’s one I heard the other day — would the 14-year-old you be proud of the person you are today?

My answer is, I think so but.  

While I don’t remember the ins and outs of my life at 14, I remember that the dreams I had for my future included becoming a lawyer, raising a family, and doing something significant to change the world. So I think the14-year-old me would be pleased with what I’ve accomplished so far. But…

She also would question why it took me so long to bet on myself, start my business, and go after my dreams in a real way.  

Part of the issue was that for years, I never really set a goal to achieve those dreams. Yes, I thought about quitting and entrepreneurship. But I didn’t turn those thoughts into a concrete, actionable, and measurable goal until 2014. Once I did, things moved quickly, and I had a whole new life by that next year.

Understanding Goals

The dictionary defines a goal as the aim of a person’s desire or effort. And everyone has heard that to be actionable, goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. meaning specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. This is all true. Where we get in the weeds is that we end up turning strategies and projects into goals. They are not one in the same. 

A goal is something you want in the future that you don’t have full control over. For example, you might have a goal to increase the traffic to your website by 50% in 3 months. You can come up with a strategy to achieve that goal, but there is an element of it that you don’t have control over. Even if you have the most sophisticated strategy in the world, there is an element of this goal that is beyond your reach.   

Strategies and projects, on the other hand, are entirely within your control. You work on the strategy in the present to achieve your goal in the future. So to hit that 50% traffic increase goal, your strategy might be to post about your website on 3 social media channels every day. Then the project would be habitually posting on those channels each day no matter what. Both of these things, the strategy and the plan, are within your control. Therefore they service the goal, but they are not the goal. 

How To Set A Goal

Now that you understand what a goal is, it’s time to set and achieve them. Here’s a step-by-step process to do just that.

Step 1: Set 3-5 Major Goals For The Year

Write down all of the major goals you’d like to accomplish in one year and whittle that down to a list of 3-5 major goals. This may seem like a small number, but when you set unrealistic expectations and don’t achieve what you set out to do, it can lead to all sorts of unnecessary negative self-talk and halt progress. By limiting yourself to the top 3 to 5 primary goals, you focus yourself and manage expectations. Remember, goals are S.M.A.R.T., or specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. They should also include an element that is not within your control. For example, making 30K in revenue in your business in the next two months.

Step 2: Set Milestones With Deadlines For Each Goal

Want to know if you are heading in the right direction toward achieving your annual goals? Set milestones along your path to keep you focused. For each of your 5 goals, you’ll want to set at least 5 time-sensitive benchmarks.

Setting milestones with deadlines forces you to make a decision and get things done on a deadline. This stops you from wallowing in indecision and research. Once you commit to the milestones and deadlines, you’ll see how each step moves you closer and closer toward your goal.

Step 3: Create a LATL

To translate the milestones into daily activities, create a LATL – Long Ass To-do List. A LATL is a master list of everything that needs to be done to reach a milestone. It also includes all of those day-to-day tasks that come up like buying toothpaste, calling a sibling, or buying a birthday gift.  

To make your to-do list manageable, select and rank 5-8 items from the list to get done that day. As you complete each item, cross it off your daily to-do list. Anything that doesn’t get done gets transferred to the top of the daily list for the next day.

Step 4: Get Support

Inevitably plans fall apart, and you don’t get as many things done as you intend. Instead of spiraling into negative self-talk, get support. Ask for help from friends and family, and take a break when you need it. Getting support helps you to keep going even when things seem more complicated than you anticipated.

If you follow this approach, you are well on your way to making your goals a reality. But I want to hear your take as well. Let me know how you set and achieve your goals in the comments below.