This is a post about making goals (not the soccer kind, but the life kind).
I am a dreamer. I love thinking BIG about what is possible. I see potential in everything. I love brainstorming, envisioning something as new and better than what it is today. I love extreme makeover shows where in one 30-minute episode someone conceives of a complete home renovation and then makes it happen practically overnight.
I wish real life were like Fixer Upper. I wish I could just sketch out a plan for some huge thing I want to accomplish, have a quick convo with my team of experts and then boom everything happens just as I had envisioned.
But of course real life does not work this way. For most of us goals take a long, sometimes boring, tedious slog through self-doubt and long stretches of asking yourself “why am I doing this?” Until hopefully you get to that glorious finish line.
This post is the first in a series that will explore how to make goals that are achievable and strategies for actually accomplishing what you set out to do.
So, let’s say you have a goal in mind. You want to run a marathon, write a novel, start a business. You didn’t just come up with this goal on a whim. It is something that has been tapping on your shoulder for a while. It is something you feel is worthy of the time and energy it will take to accomplish. Great! Now, it’s time to figure out where to start.
STEP 1: START AT THE END
I have run three marathons and trained for each one somewhat differently. During this last training I learned the importance of starting at the end. One of the biggest mistakes people make when running a marathon is to do their longest training run too close to the race. I made this mistake when I trained for my first marathon. People are understandably nervous about running 26.2 miles and want to make sure they can run the distance, so they sneak in a really long run of 20+ miles right before the race, thinking that having that distance under their belt will give them confidence come race day. It makes perfect sense intellectually. But physically it puts you at a huge disadvantage. You need about a month to recover from running 20-something miles. You have broken your body down right before you need it to perform at its best. Not a good plan.
So what I learned with marathon training is to start with the end and work back. If my race is January 1st, then I know that my longest training run needs to be no later than December 1st. I plug that distance into my training calendar and then work backwards from there decreasing mileage each week until I get to my starting point.
To use another example, if I know I want to submit to a writing contest, I would work backwards from the submission date creating a timeline of drafting and revising milestones from there. Sometimes this process forces me to come to terms with the fact that my goal is completely unrealistic. Kind of a sad face moment to be sure, but it allows me to not waste time and move on to a new, achievable goal.
Sometimes goals don’t have an obvious end date or deadline. This is when you have to invent one for yourself. Maybe there’s not a contest that you are submitting to, but you need a deadline for finishing that book anyway. That’s when you make a pact with a friend that you will send them a finished manuscript by X date. You create your own deadline, and you stick to it.
This strategy is hard for me because I have really nice friends who I know will still love me if I miss our deadline. It works better for me to find a contest deadline. And thankfully there are always writing contests and grants to apply for.
STEP 2: BUDGET YOUR TIME
In a previous post I wrote about the limitations of time. We have more time than we think we do, but time is still a finite thing. If you start a new goal, the time you will need to accomplish that goal will have to come from somewhere. You are spending time on something new, and that means you will be spending less time on something else. Sounds super obvious to say that, but we don’t like to think about the nitty gritty of how much time something will take. (Hence, the popularity of the 30-minute home renovation shows).
So, in the case of training for a marathon, you need to crunch the numbers and see where that training time will come from. Ditto for any other goal. Figure out your end point, work backwards and plug that time into a schedule. Doing Laura Vanderkam’s time log is a great way to see the cold, hard facts about how you currently spend your time and where there is wiggle room. Think of it as your budget. If you wanted to buy a new car you wouldn’t just go buy whatever car you wanted regardless of what it cost. You would look at how much money you have and how much you can afford to spend. You have to budget your time the same way.
Hopefully these first few tips will set you up for success! More goal making strategies are forthcoming, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, keep taking those daily baby steps on whatever bigger journey you are on. I am right there with you.
P.S. Thank you for reading! I would love to know more about your goals. Tell me what you are working towards so I can cheer you on to the finish line! You can comment below or on my facebook page.
Whatever your goal is I hope you take a step towards achieving it today!