Have you ever heard of SMART goal planning? This stands for: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented (or Achievable), Realistic, and Timely. The last is probably the most important. Your goals need a timeframe because without one, you can easily spin your wheels and never reach them. A timeframe adds a sense of urgency to your goals and that’s just what they need.
How to Set Deadlines
Creating a timeframe is based on setting deadlines. Just like a deadline for work or school, this is the day when you’ll reach that goal. The first step in creating deadlines is to define the overall timeframe. Will this goal take a few years, months, weeks, or days to reach? Choose a day in the future that you think is realistic and don’t worry, you can go back and change it later.
Once you’ve got your deadline, break your goal into small action steps that will get you closer to it. These should all be tasks that can be finished and clearly defined. In other words, you know exactly when they’re done. You’ll take these sub-goals and affix deadlines to them as well. These deadlines will gradually get you to your big one.
Example – Eating Better
For example, your goal might be to eat better. You’d first decide exactly what ‘eat better’ means – more veggies, less sugar, smaller portions of meat, etc. To do this, take your overall goal and break it into these smaller and more specific sub-goals.
You might choose to make one change per week. By Friday, you’ll be eating three portions of green vegetables per day (remember that it has to be specific). By the next Friday, you’ll be consuming half as much sugar per day. You’ve now got an action plan and a solid timeframe for it.
How to Make Your Deadlines More Efficient
There are several ways to make your deadlines more efficient. First of all, the key to success is to be realistic. Look at each of your sub-goals and ask yourself if you can really reach it in that time. How do you know if it’s realistic? At first, you don’t. But a safe way of guessing is to pad all of your deadlines. Give each an extra day in case things don’t work out as planned (and they rarely ever do).
You can also monitor along the way. Check your progress periodically and see if you’re still on target for reaching that goal. For example, if your goal is to save money, you should have a dollar amount and a deadline. Every week, check your stash to see if it’s piling up the way it should be. If it’s not, push your deadline back accordingly.
Do you see a common theme here? It’s flexibility. Deadlines help you get things done and your timeframe gives it all a sense of urgency. But you don’t want to put yourself in a perpetual state of panic. Flexibility means that you’re willing to change course and adjust if needed, but not stray from your overall dream. Life happens sometimes, so let it; but don’t let it stop you from reaching your goals.