Setting Mindful Goals
Setting goals that are "mindful" means they are both:
1. Achievable since they take into account your personal capacity to pursue the goal
2. Aligned to your overall purpose and will help you make meaningful progress toward your future vision for your life
The process I'll take you through is one I've personally used for years, and since adding it to my planner, I've had so much positive feedback around the structure and focus it brings to goal setting and planning.
But as with any process, it's important to stick to it for real results. So the goal of this post is to break down each step so you can take action! Don’t expect to complete each of these steps in a single day, as you’ll read below, you’ll want to give yourself the space of a week or two to complete the full process.
What You'll Need:
As I mentioned, this entire process is embedded within my digital planner through a series of templates, so I recommend following along in the planner for the best experience!
You can also follow along with the steps below in any digital notebook or with pen and paper. Nothing fancy needed here, just a place you can organize your notes as you go!
Step 1: Reflection
The very first step in setting goals is becoming present to your current feelings and circumstances. We are going to run through these quick prompts for each of the six aspects of your life listed below:
- Personal + Spiritual
- Social + Relational
- Home + Family
For each of these areas listed above, complete the following prompts:
- I’m currently feeling… (write out any quick thoughts that come to mind!)
- On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate my happiness with this area of my life as…
- What is working well?
- What would I like to improve?
Step 2: Your Vision
Now let’s switch gears. I’d like you to move from reflection to dreaming, let’s work on making sure you are connected to your vision for your life so you can really pinpoint the areas you should focus on setting goals around.
Give yourself the opportunity to think about what you’d like your future to look like in each of the 6 areas listed above (i.e. personal + spiritual, social + relational, etc.) I recommend repeating this exercise for both the short term and long term:
- What do I want my life to look like in each of these areas 1 year in the future?
- What do I want my life to look like in each of these areas 10 years in the future?
Go through and write out a few sentences for each. Try to disconnect from limiting beliefs or doubts that might creep in, and instead write them as if they are already a reality: “I am…”
Step 3: Your Top 3
This step is all about creating more focus in your life, and is still one level higher than goal setting. It’s important to first get clear on our focus and stay “zoomed out” enough to make sure you are setting your sights on the right path overall. You don’t want to get bogged down in the specifics of timing or actions. Instead, you want to think holistically about how this specific area of focus will bring you closer to your future vision.
Review your reflection and vision. Based on your insights here, can you narrow your focus down to just three key areas to focus on for the next 6-12 months? Ask yourself: “If I could pick just three areas to really move the dial in my life, what would they be?”
1. For each focus area, answer the following prompts:
- How will taking action in this area of my life benefit my future?
- How will I feel after making progress in this area?
Complete this for each of the three areas.
Step 4: Time Study
One of the most challenging barriers to making our goals a reality is lack of time, so the next few steps will guide you through optimizing your time and prioritizing the things that matter most. While it might feel easiest just to list out all the things you do in a given week and assign estimated time to each, I believe it’s actually critical to go through the exercise of tracking your time (in REAL time) through the course of the week. It’s easy to underestimate the time we waste on things like scrolling social media, watching tv, and getting distracted in our inboxes, so tracking in real time ensures a clear picture.
Track your time over the next week:
- Set an hourly reminder to take one minute at the top of every hour to jot down quick notes on how you spent each 15 to 30 minute interval of time
- As you record your time, capture any quick notes you have in the moment. Maybe you’re sensing a certain activity is draining your time or you realize you’d really like to have more time for something else. Don’t worry about solving for any of this, just take note if anything comes to mind.
- At the end of the week, begin thinking about different categories your time might fall into (e.g. family care, household, work, hobbies, etc.). Color code each interval of time with highlighters or colored dots just to give a visual indicator of how you are spending your time across each category.
Step 5: Your “Stop Doing” List
Look back at your time log and consider the following:1. What would you like to do less of or stop doing altogether?
2. For each item on your list, what will it take to move this activity off your plate?
- Stop Doing: I can stop doing this activity at any time (e.g. time wasters, personal hobbies)
- Delegate / Hire Out: This is an activity that still has to happen, but I’m going to get help to move it off my plate (e.g. yard work, administrative tasks.
And finally, is there anything top of mind that you’d like to start spending more time on? List these out and save this list, we will revisit it when you set your routines and goals.
Step 6: Create Routines
Routine building isn’t a “one and done” activity, it’s something you’ll continue to revisit over time. If you don’t have any clear routines established yet, think of this as your first “base routine” and expect to continue to build on it as you set your goals. The intent here isn’t to plan out every moment of your time or start a whole list of new habits at once. Instead, you want to focus on just the core things that are important to start your day off right and keep your life running smoothly. As we move into goal setting in a couple weeks, we will begin to build in more self development focused activities.
We are going to focus on three main routines: Morning Routine, Evening Routine, Weekly/Other Practices.
- Morning Routine: List out the key activities you’d like to do every morning. For each activity, write down the estimated time required. This will help make sure you’re being realistic with what you are trying to accomplish.
- Evening Routine: Just as you did for your morning, list out all the key activities you’d like to accomplish every night. Think about what you can do to help yourself wind down from the day and set yourself up to be effective the following day. List the time required for each.
- Weekly/Other Practices: List out any other activities that have to be accomplished and how frequently (e.g. weekly, monthly) For each, choose a cue or trigger that will prompt you to do the activity (e.g. specific day of the week, certain event)
Focus on sticking with this new routine throughout the next week! As you go through the week, give yourself a chance to adjust as needed to make sure your new routine is working for you.
A few important notes on routines:
- You can only effectively work on establishing 2 to 3 new habits at a time, so make sure you keep your routines simple and manageable. Once each activity in your routine becomes a habit, you can add in other activities - this is called “habit stacking”!
- If you start feeling overwhelmed with lots of ideas for activities to build in, give yourself a chance to step back, choose just a few things to focus on and write the others on another page to revisit and incorporate later.
- Your goal right now is not to pack your mornings/evenings with activities. You haven’t even set your goals yet! Make sure to leave room to add more in the future, and just focus on the most critical activities right now.
- Establishing effective routines is an ongoing process, it’s never “done”. You’ll always have to adjust your routines as your life circumstances change and as your goals and focus shift. But as you work to create an initial routine, you’ll establish a foundation to build on moving forward.
Step 7: Create a Weekly Schedule
One of the best things you can do to ditch the overwhelm day-to-day is to add more structure to your time. You’ve already started on this by clearing out unneeded tasks (your “not to-do” list) and creating routines, so now it’s time to put it all together and map out your time for a typical week.
While no two weeks are identical, most of us have some level of structure in our week. Whether you spend your time at work, at school or at home, mapping out your time will help you see where you have open pockets of time to dedicate to your goals.
I like to look at my time each day through time blocks, each with a distinct focus. For example, my early morning is typically focused on waking up and getting my family ready for the day. On my work days, my late morning time block starts when I begin work. It marks my shift from personal/family focus to work/professional focus. By thinking about my time in blocks rather than by specific hours on the clock, it gives me the flexibility to stick with my routines even when my day shifts a bit, or I’m running late.
To create your weekly schedule:
1. Map out all of the main blocks of your week. This includes your routines and any other commitments you have.
2. Use highlighting or schedule blocks to visually show how you are spending your time (e.g. work priorities, family priorities, personal time, etc.)
3. Step back and look at what you’ve added so far. Where do you have gaps in your time that you can start dedicating to your goals?
4. Take a test run! Check in throughout the week to make sure the priorities you’ve set for each block fit within that time frame. Just as you did with your routines, be prepared to adjust as you go.
Step 8: Setting Your Goals
First, go back and revisit your notes from steps 1 to 3. Remind yourself of your focus and your overall vision for the future. If you’re new to goal setting, I recommend starting with setting just one goal to focus on at first.
A few notes on goal setting:
- Get Specific: Your goal should be specific and measurable so you can easily gauge whether or not you’ve accomplished it. For example, if I set a goal to “improve my physical fitness” that wouldn’t give me a specific or measurable end result. Instead, if I set out to “complete a 5k race by the end of May 2021” that gives me a really clear and measurable end goal that I can celebrate accomplishing!
- Limit to 90 Days: When setting a goal, you’ll want to choose something you can accomplish within about 90 days. You may have a larger vision that will take much longer to achieve, but for goal setting, you’ll want to choose something that you can achieve within a few months. Going back to our 5k Race goal example in the last step, your future vision might be to run a marathon. But if you’re new to running, finishing a 5k will be a much more attainable goal to start. Once you achieve that goal, you can build on your momentum with a longer race and continue building with each new goal until you complete your marathon!
- Break it Down: Every goal has to be broken down into specific actions so you can make progress day-to-day. I’ll guide you through my approach to breaking down your goals in the steps below!
To set your goal:
1. Write down your high level goal (this should be specific, measurable and able to be accomplished within about 90 days)
2. Start thinking about what it’s going to take to accomplish this goal and split those actions into two groups:
- Progress Goals: These are individual steps you can take to achieve your high level goal that do not have to be repeated routinely. In our 5k Race example this might include “buying running shoes” or “finding a training program”.
- Habit Goals: These are daily/weekly actions you need to repeat to get to your end goal. In our 5k Race example, you’d have to establish running as a daily habit to improve your endurance to prepare for your race.
3. Write down each of your progress goals and set a specific target date to complete each
4. Write down each of the habit goals you will have to maintain and the frequency of each
5. For each of your habit goals, revisit your routines/weekly schedule and make sure you fit this new habit into one of your existing routines to ensure you stay accountable to your new habit.
6. Before finalizing your goal, set yourself up for success by considering the following:
- How will this goal impact your life overall? What is your “why” and how can you keep that front and center to stay motivated day-to-day?
- What external support or accountability will you need to accomplish this goal? Don’t hesitate to ask for support!
- When you achieve this goal, how will you celebrate? It’s always important to make space for appreciating your accomplishments!
And that’s it! After you complete the steps above, you’ll have an end goal with a really solid action plan to complete it. Repeat these steps to set additional goals.
Taking action on your goals
After you set your goals, the key to achieving them is taking consistent action. For tips on incorporating your goals into your weekly planning, watch the video below!