Goal Setting: Break It Down 1


What’s your biggest goal? What’s the nagging idea you’ve wanted to try but keep putting off? There can be a wide assortment of reasons holding you back, but perhaps one of them is that your goal is too big or too vague for you to know where to start. In this article, we’ll cover how to break down your goals into chunks you can actually accomplish.

Breaking Down Goals To Make Them Actionable.

Most of us have huge dreams and goals we want to accomplish. Not all of us know how to get started. Whenever you have a new goal that seems too big to handle, you can break it into smaller chunks until it becomes manageable. It may be difficult, especially if it’s a goal or topic with which you have little experience, but having specific steps will create a clear path to progress.

To break your goal down, start with what you hope to accomplish and work your way backwards. As you go backwards, breaking it into smaller pieces you’ll eventually find tasks until you can tackle immediately. Some people like to draw out a map so they can visually understand exactly what needs to be done and how the pieces relate. Once you have actions you can take immediately, it’s much easier to slot the goal into your schedule and start working on it.

An Example Of Getting Specific

To illustrate, let’s use the example of ‘start a side business’. Alone, ‘start a side business’ is both a large and vague task which doesn’t fall within a single action. To get at the root of our new goal we first have to understand what ‘start a side business’ means to you, and turn it into something we know whether we achieved or not. Let’s say our more specific goal is start a side business that makes $500 in a month. Now we have a goal we’ll know for sure if we accomplished or not.

Next, we need to figure out smaller steps we can take. It could be one or it could be a hundred, but we need steps. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say we’re already certified as a personal trainer but we’ve never acquired any customers. If our next goal chunk is ‘find new customers’ that’s still not quite specific enough. Yes we’ll know if we get customers or not but how are we going to get them?

Another round of breaking down the goal will force us to think of ways to find new customers. Here’s a short list I came up with – Ask friends and family if they have anyone to refer, print up fliers and post them at local gyms, post on online message boards, etc. Add numbers, and these tasks are specific enough you know exactly what to do. You also know they all filter back up to your overall goal.

When Will You Work On Your Goal?

When you’ve broken your goal into small enough chunks you think it’s practical, run it through this test: “What block of time can I put this in today to achieve this chunk?”. If your chunks can’t fit into a block of time where you’ll know whether they’re completed at the end, then they aren’t specific enough. If you can’t say ‘yes I did this’ or ‘no I didn’t’ with full confidence, keep breaking them down and looking for ways to make them more actionable. This will keep you on track toward your goal.

If You Don’t Have The Knowledge, Get it!

If you don’t have a lot of experience in the topic, you may not be able to plan your next chunk until you complete the preceding one or you may have to use vague intermediary steps. For example let’s say you want to start a garden, but know nothing about the topic. You might need to start with reading a book or taking a course to teach you the basics. After you learn more you can re-chunk your goal and go from there. Don’t let the lack of knowledge intimidate you, each step gets you closer to achieving the goal.

Focus On The Next Step.

As you work through your goal, you should periodically revisit your overall goal to make sure the chunks are taking you in the right direction. The majority of your focus, however, should be on the next step. It’s easy to get caught up worrying about how many pieces you have to achieve in order to accomplish your goal. To avoid that worry, complete one step, then move on to the next one. Trust in your ability to set goals and make adjustments as needed.

Only Be As Specific As Necessary.

Another point worth covering; you can easily break down a goal to the point of being absurd. Pick up egg 1. Crack egg 1 into the pan. Discard the shell. Pick up egg 2. Crack egg 2 into the pan. Discard the shell. Look into the pan to see if there are eggshell remnants. If so, remove egg shells. If not, find a utensil to break the yolk with. You only need to chunk the goal into small enough pieces you can digest it and put it into time blocks. There’s no reason to get more specific than necessary, unless you find it helpful.

One More Quick Example

Alright, let’s try one more example. Since I have a bit of experience writing books, that’s the example we’ll use to give you a firsthand look at what it’s like to break down a bigger goal quickly. We’ll start with the end goal: Write A book.

For me to write a book, I need an idea of its length. So my first step is: Write an outline of the book.

One I have the outline, I’ll know how many chapters are in the book. Let’s say I’m expecting 3 chapters. My next few steps are: Write Chapter 1. Write Chapter 2. Write Chapter 3.

In my experience, practically everything I’ve written has to be gone through again at least once for errors. So my next steps are: Edit Chapter 1. Edit Chapter 2. Edit Chapter 3.

A book also has a few other steps to polish up the details so I have: Create A Title Page. Create A Book Cover. Format The Book Text.

And voila! Now, I have a set of actionable steps. I can slot these chunks into different parts of the day and know by the end whether or not they’ve been completed. I hope that helps you break down your big goals into more actionable pieces. Let us know what you think!

Exercise:

  1. Write down one of your goals. 
  2. Break it into chunks and list out all the steps you need to accomplish to make your goal happen.

Reflect, Take Action, and Enjoy Life


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