I don’t know about you, but my perfectionist personality feeds off the newness of January 1st.
I reflect on where I’ve been, dream about what I want to change (usually everything!), and outline, in excruciating detail, everything I want to accomplish in the next twelve months.
One of those things was to create a Dessert Recipe Binder—an off-shoot of my regular recipe binder.
It didn’t happen.
Because every year like clockwork, October would roll around and I’d unearth my list of goals from the pages of my planner, my cheeks burning with shame over my lack of progress.
The months I had left—November and December—were some of the busiest on my calendar! And there was no way I’d get it all done.
So I’d stuff that paper into the garbage and wait until January 1st in hope that next year would be different when it came to goal achievement.
But it never was.
Until I stopped setting yearly goals and focused on shorter time-frames.
Other Goal Achievement Options Exist
Newsflash: Yearly goal setting isn’t the only framework out there. In fact, I would avoid this timeframe at all costs.
It might sound nerdy to talk about brain science and goal achievement, but there is a scientifically-backed reason why yearly goals don’t work—the Law of Diminishing Intent.
This law says that the longer you wait to take action, the less likely you are to do it. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon at some point or another.
It’s why we rush into January feeling energetic and excited about all the ideas we want to do and things we want to change, then fizzle out a few months down the road.
If you stop and think about it, you’ve essentially given yourself twelve long months to work on goal achievement. So there’s no reason to start today.
- Those ten pounds you want to lose don’t have to come off right away.
- You don’t need to declutter your bedroom yet.
- And you have all year to read twenty-five books.
But the longer you wait to start, the quicker your inspiration will fade and steal your motivation right along with it. Nothing feeds into procrastination more like the feeling you have all the time in the world (lie alert!) to get it done!
So what can you do instead?
Set Monthly Goals
Almost any planner you choose (even a bullet journal!) lends itself to a monthly goal setting system.
Besides, turning the page over to a new month feels like a fresh start! So you get twelve chances to work on twelve goals rather than that one time a year when the calendar flips over to January 1st.
Because you only have 30ish days to work on your goal, you don’t want to choose one that’s unrealistically big. Monthly time frames are perfect for smaller goals (like decluttering your beauty supplies or completing a fitness challenge).
But if a month still feels too short and you’re not crossing off as many goals as you would like, you could…
Set 90-Day Goals
This is the framework almost everyone turns to when they snub yearly goals.
The timeframe isn’t too short, but it’s not a full year either, so the chances are higher you’ll stay motivated until the very end. Quarterly goals lend themselves to multiple action steps, like writing a book or creating a family photo album.
But as the book, The 12 Week Year warns, you still can’t phone it in. You must make progress each week because you only have 12 weeks for your goal!
Besides reading The Twelve Week Year, (which I highly recommend!), you can also purchase a dedicated 90-day goal planner. Although I have not used these planners myself, they have been highly praised by my friends:
These planners focus on weekly and monthly scheduling, but also intersperse your 90-day goals so you don’t forget what you should be working toward every week.
But for me, 90 days is still too long for goal achievement.
In the same fashion as my yearly goals, I started each twelve-week year with gusto and fizzled out by week 6 or 7. I thought at first I had set too many goals. So I narrowed it down to two. And then just one.
To my surprise, the results were the same.
I needed a shorter timeline to maintain focus and not lose my motivation, but not so short (like a month) that I felt like I didn’t have enough time.
And that’s when I created my own goal setting system called The Six-Week Sprint. Six weeks to direct all of my energy toward one goal until I completed it, using brain science to my advantage.
The system worked!
The Sweet Spot: Six-Week Goals
Projects I had tried to complete in a twelve-month year with little to no progress suddenly moved off of my master to-do list and onto my Finished list!
I turned my office closet into a craft storage oasis, launched The Brainbook Printable Library (a membership site for my online business), and organized my entire book collection in the Goodreads app.
Oh, and remember that Dessert Recipe Binder? I finished that one too!
All within six weeks each.
Why is this system so successful? Just take a quick look at the benefits.
- The Six-Week Sprint System demands action right away. You have no time to procrastinate because the finish line is in sight—not twelve weeks or 52 weeks down the road.
- The shorter time-frame also helps you make better decisions on what to say yes and no to. With only six weeks to work on your goal, you’ll probably want to decline any new projects until your six weeks are up.
- Lastly, you won’t get bored and cave into the shiny new object syndrome with The Six-Week Sprint. Just stick it out for six weeks and you can move onto another goal.
I wrote an entire book all about goal-setting with the Six Week Sprint. You can grab it today!
But wait! Is there ever a place for yearly goals?
You might be wondering if there is ever a time to set yearly goals.
For some things, yes. Maybe you want to focus on a big reading challenge, read through the Bible in a year, or reach a certain level of income for your side hustle.
Those are all things that align better with a yearly focus, but you still use your shorter time-frames to reach them.
- You could chop up the reading challenge to complete 1-2 books every month
- You could segment your Bible reading plan to cover every six weeks instead of a year
- You could list out a number of 90-day goals that would help drive income up for your business.
It’s good to have a vision for the next year. Even the next 3-5 years.
But when it comes down to the nitty gritty of planning and goal achievement, focus on the short-term action steps to see progress on those long-term results. This life-giving mindset takes the power away from the calendar cycle and puts it back into your hands.
And when you’re in control, you can conquer just about anything.
What goals are on your list?
I want to hear all about them in the comments below. Remember, you don’t have to wait until January 1st to tackle them!
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