Mark It Off: A Goal-Setting Process

Posted on Jan 12, 2018 in business, lessons, ramblings

Goal Setting

^^ It doesn’t have have to be beautiful to be effective ^^

If you’re like me, you’re a list maker and a goal setter. (Accomplishing them all is another story… ;)). Though something else might work better for you, I wanted to share a goal-setting process that works well for me.

The overview: start big then make them measurable, write them down, and cross things off. Then re-evaluate and do it all over again.

Here we go!

I begin by thinking big. I brainstorm how I feel in my current state and what I want to do in the future – maybe 5, 10, 20 years out. These are essentially lofty life goals. What makes me happy? What do I like about my life right now? What do I want to change in the future? What does success mean to me?

Then I narrow it down a bit. I think about what those prior answers mean for my year ahead, and what I can do this year to help feed those big goals. Are there aspects of my current life I want to maintain? To change?

With that, I set some basic goals for the year. Maybe these are things like “get fit,” “grow my business,” or “get closer to my family and friends.” According to the SMART goal process, these should be measurable and time-based, but don’t worry – we’ll get there.

Now, I dive into a one-month time frame. What measurable activities can I do in the next month to help me work toward my annual goals? Here’s where it gets interesting.

A: Pick Your Categories
I write down three headers on a piece of paper: “Personal,” “Professional,” and “Social.” These are my three goal categories for the month.

My Personal category includes health and fitness, creative projects, or other things for me and only me. My Professional category includes meetups, new business meetings, work projects, etc. And my Social category includes lunches with friends, chatting with my parents, happy hours, and more.

Use whichever categories work best for you. Maybe they’re more specific, like “Health,” “Home,” or even “Dating.” ;)

B: Set Measurable Goals
Under each of those categories I write down a few simple yet measurable goals. The amount varies each month, depending on how I’m feeling. For instance, under Personal maybe I write “run fifteen times,” then “attend three meetups,” under Professional, or “call my parents four times” under Social.

C: Write out Numbers
Next, I literally write the numbers out next to each specific goal. If I want to run fifteen times in the month, I numerically write out “1 2 3 4 5 … 14 15.” If the goal is to call my parents four times, I write “1 2 3 4.”

D: Mark it Off!
Now to do things and mark them off! Every time I run, for example, I cross off one of the numbers on my sheet. If I go to a meetup, another one gets checked off. The point is to cross off each and every number on the page. You get the idea.

I would re-evaluate your long-term goals at least annually, your annual goals twice per year, and your monthly goals each time you set them.

What worked for you last month? What didn’t? How do you feel now? What would you like to accomplish next month? Are your monthly goals still aligned with your long-term goals?


  • Keep the paper somewhere you can easily see and access it – I post mine on my wall above my desk.
  • For every number you DON’T cross off – maybe you only ran thirteen of fifteen times in the month – donate $5 to an organization you hate (ah!). That’ll get you going.
  • Or for every number you DO cross off, reserve a dollar for something you want. Bonus points if that something also helps you continue to achieve your goals, like new running shoes.
  • Try it with a buddy. Set your goals together at the start of each month then celebrate your successes together at the end.
  • Consider also setting weekly goals that align with your monthly goals (which feed into your annual, and so on).