It can be difficult to figure out what you need to do today to reach your long-term goals. So, like any major task or project, I break it down! Seriously, I never just put “write article” on my to-do list or “clean house”. No, no! I break the task down into as many small pieces possible. Then, it’s in smaller, more mangle chunks that are less overwhelming. (Plus, more things to cross off with satisfaction once they’re complete!)
I bring the same logic to goal setting! Thinking about a long-term goal (5+ years out) can be daunting. It might be hard to picture completing that goal. And, it’s probably even more difficult to think about what you can do today, this week, and this month that will propel you in the direction of that goal.
That’s why you’ve got to break it down! But, first, you have to identify your vision!
Identify a clear vision for the future.
Vision is, simply, who you want to be and what you want to achieve. It’s your dream! It’s what you see when you picture the future you! When you’re excited about your vision and can clearly see it in your mind, setting long-term goals becomes a bit easier.
To get clear about your vision, give yourself the freedom to dream and brainstorm about all that you hope to accomplish in your life. Then, think about what you will be like and what your day-to-day life might be like when you reach those goals. Doodle, journal, write a story or poem – get this vision out of your mind and on paper. (The more specific you can be, the better!)
Write out your long term goals.
Once you’ve solidified your vision, you can set long-term goals. Based on your vision of the future, try to come up with 3-6 major, long-term goals. These could be buying a house, getting a PhD, writing a book, starting a small business . . . any of those farther-out goals that you have accomplished when you picture the future you.
When you are developing your goals, be sure they contain adequate detail. Be as specific as possible including a deadline and how the goal will be measured. Plus, make sure it relates to your vision! Saying “I want to be rich” is not a well-thought-out goal. Saying, rather, “I want to earn one million dollars by the time I am 40 through investments and entrepreneurial endeavors” is a bit more specific. (Still a lot to flesh out with smaller goals along the way, but a good long-term goal!)
Once you have your long-term goals developed, you can start to backwards!
Break down your long-term goals into mid- & short-term goals.
I define long-term goals as needing 5 or more years to be accomplished. Mid-term goals can be accomplished in a year or less. And, short-term goals can be achieved in 1-3 months.
For every long-term goal, picture at least 5 mid-term goals under it. For each mid-term goal, there are several short-term goals. Finally, under short-term goals are action steps you need to take to accomplish those goals. You might picture a pyramid with the long-term goal at the top and each tier of shorter, supporting goals under it. (And, like that, one big goal is now 50+ little ones and suddenly looking a lot more manageable!)
Here’s an example! If my long-term goal is to write a bestselling book, one of my first mid-term goals on the way there could be to research and create a very rough draft. Four short-term goals that could fall under that mid-term goals might be: conduct interviews, create a literature review, write an outline, and pen rough draft.
When you work backwards like this, you’ve taken one massive to-do (your long-term goal) and broken it down into lots of smaller tasks. Creating mid and short-term goals that align with your long-term goal make each step more manageable.
Focus your excitement on your vision but your action on the short-term!
While you look to the future with excitement, focus your energy on working to accomplish short-term goals in this 1-3 month period. Don’t forget to reflect and assess along the way – plans can modify and change even if the long-term goal stays the same.
I’ve shared the extra quick & dirty version of how I break down goals! For some supplemental information in the form of worksheet downloads & longer lessons, head over to my site and checkout my workbook, GOAL DIGGER: A Guide to Approaching Your Future with Intention. If you’re interested in purchasing workbook, use code “MILLENNIAL” to save 40% off your digital download.