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How To Stop Setting Goals And Start Making Progress

Goals.

Setting goals gets hammered into our brains at a young age and never stops. We have goals for school, sports, jobs, even life goals.

Goals are good. Goals are motivating. Goals make you want to succeed.

But there’s a hidden dark side to setting a lot of goals. You’re always chasing them. I know this from experience. Most of the time, my goals were so far off I was never able to hit them, or too overwhelmed to start.

It wasn’t until I took a different approach that things changed. Rather than making a lot of goals all the time, I made systems. And with those systems, I finally made progress and improved my freelance business.

Make Results Count (Literally)

The most significant key to my success was two-fold.

I had to change nebulous goals into quantifiable results. You likely have lots of unquantifiable goals. These are things like “lose weight” or “get more leads” or “get more Twitter followers.”

There’s nothing wrong with these goals, but they don’t mean anything.

One of my goals was always to make my site more popular.

“Have my site be more popular” is a great goal, but what the hell does that even mean?

More traffic? More leads? More social media followers? In what time frame? I never actually broke down what I could do that would make my site more popular. So I always felt I was failing.

Get to ‘Yes’ or ‘No’

Here, you have to ask yourself the hard questions. These need to break down your original goal to something that is answered by either “yes” or “no.”

Use my goal from above, to get my site to be more popular. Now ask: What actions can I take that will make my site more popular in a year?

  • Blog consistently
  • Pitch guest posts
  • Promote content

Ok, we’re getting somewhere.

Next, take those answers and try to get tangible numbers out of them. Remember there needs to be a “yes” or “no” answer to each question.

An example:

  • Publish post 1 blog per week
  • Write 1 guest post per month
  • Spend 20 minutes a day promoting content and engaging with followers on social media

See the difference?

There’s more impact when you set specific tasks. Now it’s about establishing a system to get to yes for each.

Chunkify Your Life

Next, go granular. I break things down as far as they can go. I call it ‘chunkifying.’ I take all the things I want to get done in a time frame and break them down into small chunks.

These chunks are so easy it doesn’t feel like work getting them done. They are the only things I focus on daily. With very few exceptions, I don’t look down the road at what’s coming.

If you’re someone who gets overwhelmed by big lists or lots of stuff to do, this is an excellent way to get started changing your mindset.

With chunkifying, the ideal outcome is to answer “yes” to “Did I do X?” as much as possible each week.

Let’s keep using the example from above to keep things simple, though you can replace that goal with anything. I want to publish weekly. But having a ‘goal’ of 52 blog posts already feels overwhelming.

Instead, I operate in weekly chunks. Saying one post per week feels more manageable. It can get even smaller than that by focusing on daily tasks.

Publish 1 post a week becomes:

  • Monday: Brainstorm ideas and choose one
  • Tuesday: Write outline
  • Wednesday: Write first draft
  • Thursday: Review and edit
  • Friday: Schedule

In the past, I’d tell myself I was going to write a post weekly. Then I’d do nothing until Friday afternoon.

Maybe I’d throw something together and hope it sounded ok. That was the best case scenario.

More often than not, I’d push it off.

I can’t do that with daily tasks. I only (this is key) look at what I have to do that day. If I’m feeling motivated, I’ll tackle tasks scheduled for later in the week. Anything I don’t get done will be the first to be tackled the next day.

Little Chunks Add Up

It is amazing what you can get done focusing on things this way. It adds up.

For example, over the past almost five months, I’ve been writing at least 500 words a day. Once again, this is a chunk.

I wanted to start a daily writing practice to put out more content and become a better writer. I’d tried and failed many times because I set a goal and not a system.

I started with 500 because it was easy. Sometimes I struggle, sometimes I bang out 1,500 words.

In my first quarter writing, I produced over 60,000 words. Some of those words likely won’t see the light of day.

But many of those words became:

  • Weekly posts for a new site
  • 5 guest posts
  • Course blueprint
  • Email newsletters
  • 3 lead magnets
  • Autoresponder series
  • Updating my website
  • Successful pitches for new clients

This is my personal content. I don’t use my goal words for client work.

One simple daily task created that.

If I had set all those as goals three months ago, the chances of me tackling them all would have been slim.

But by focusing on nothing but getting 500 words out a day, even if some of those 500 words stunk, it added up.

Final Thoughts

For me, these small steps have been the most significant path to success.

I’ve found that developing a system that has set me up for success is so much easier than chasing goals. Try to see what you can do daily that will add up over the long run.

Have you got any tried and true systems that have upped your game and made you more successful?

Let me know; I’d love to hear them!

Liz Froment

Liz Froment is a Boston based freelance writer. She primarily works with B2B clients in the finance, tech, and SaaS spaces. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and read more on her blog.

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