Goal setting and planning

What about goal setting and planning has people hiding under a blanket, running to the hills or busting out the coloured markers and wall planners with giddiness? For the record, I’m one of those who show up with coloured pens, electronic and paper calendars and sticky notes galore.


However you feel about planning and setting goals, just as a vehicle’s GPS helps you end up where you intended, goals and plans can do the same for your life and career.  

Today’s blog post explores the two most significant impediments to goal setting and planning and a process to create great doable goals that complement your lifestyle. 

Whether you’re new to goal setting and planning or this is something you’ve made an active part of your life, you’ll enjoy this fresh approach to goal setting that doesn’t turn goals and plans into second jobs or energy and time suckers. 

Correctly set goals usually achieve their result. Let’s first talk about what can get in the way of practical goal setting. The two most significant impediments are poor planning and capacity mismatch.

Capacity mismatch 

For example, you want to grow an orchard within a year when you’ve only experienced several houseplants in your condo. Because of the steep learning curve, you will likely struggle to achieve your goal, which will cost you more than you anticipated in money, time and effort.  

While the above example is extreme, it illustrates the problem most people face with the setting, keeping and successfully concluding goals. When setting goals, it’s essential to allocate the time requirement appropriately to the goal and to match it with the required capacity. 

For example, if your goal is to use time blocking to manage your time better, even as you set up the time blocks in your calendar, allow a ramp-up period to adjust your mindset and habits to support your goal. If you don’t and aren’t disciplined enough, you will fail your plan because it will become overwhelming and a burden. If I want to start a new habit on January 1st, I start the process sometime in November or December. Doing this takes the pressure off the January 1st start date and allows me to increase my skills and mindset capacity to meet the goal. 

If you have ambitious goals, your capacity must be ambitious. For example, wanting to increase your income or revenue, you must do something different to bring in extra, and that’s often in the effort. If you want to renovate your home or a part of your home and you have a deadline, your actions must rise to meet the occasion. You may need to work on the project before and after other responsibilities, save up intentionally for the project, and step out of your comfort zone to enlist proper help. 

If you have a goal you haven’t yet met, look at it objectively and ask yourself whether your capacity matches the intent consistently and as needed. 

Poor planning

If you’ve achieved anything worthwhile, you know this experience: It probably took longer than you anticipated and needed more of you than budgeted. When looking at your goals, plan conservatively. Allow buffers of time, energy and money to account for the unplannable, like illness, shortages, and breakdowns.

Poor planning is a result of a natural process when setting goals. We naturally overestimate our capacity and underestimate our time. This somewhat warped sense of time is tied to a psychological need to maintain a high self-image. For this reason, we tend to imagine ourselves achieving more in less time than we can. How often have you woken up with ideas of what you will accomplish? How often have you gone to bed wondering where the day went? 

Another factor that comes into play with poor planning is a need for more preparation, including research. Many people like to wing it and figure it out as they go. While this attitude can lead to pleasant surprises, it often gets in the way of proper planning because much is left to chance. Poor planning is often evident once a project is underway and starts to fall apart. If you’re in such a position, take a step back, look at what’s happening and needs to be done, and get clear on what you can do about what you didn’t plan. Continuing to wing it is rarely the solution.

Now that we know the two most significant impediments to goal setting and achievement let’s move on to a process that creates goals that actually work by working on the big picture.

Big-picture planning

We often have big and short-term goals running through our minds at any given time. “I have to get an oil change” can run alongside “I need to cut the grass” and “I need to increase my RRSPs.” 

My suggestion with goal-setting is to write down everything you’d like to accomplish in a list of about 50 or more items. These are big and small personal and professional goals and what immediately comes to mind. You may add to this list as you like. This is because plans and priorities change as a natural progression of life. Something that matters now may no longer be a goal in a few months or years, and vice versa.

Next, I recommend picking three items from this list that you’d like to tackle for the year.

Pick goals that match your capacity. For example, if you decide you’d like to renovate your home, travel for a month to Africa, and hire several new teammates, you may end up with a capacity mismatch. Each of these goals requires capital, time, and effort; depending on your planning (or lack thereof), you may feel pulled in different directions that are not compatible. 

Also, keeping in mind the effects of poor planning, ensure your three goals are doable. For example, if you want to renovate your home but have never done so, create time to research extensively and save capital before you knock down walls. Set practical dates for you even as you challenge yourself to achieve your goal. This action requires that you know yourself well. 

Intuitive planning

When picking your goals, intuitively feel the likelihood of accomplishing them. If you have a significant weight loss goal and plan to travel extensively for pleasure, you may find that the goals don’t complement each other. Travelling for pleasure often results in weight gain, and maintaining a weight loss process will be stressful. You’re more likely to drop the ball.    

Once you select your three primary goals for the year, each month, break the goal down further into three steps. Each week, break the goal down even further, and every day as needed. This gets you into the practice of doing something every day in the direction of your dreams, building resilience and discipline. It helps you avoid the pitfall of poor planning and also increases your capacity to meet your goals’ requirements. 

The compound effect of planning

The common fear with choosing a few goals to focus on is that nothing else will be accomplished. I’ve found that by focusing on specific goals, others are achieved. For example, if making new friends is a goal on your more extensive list, by focusing on travel for the year, this goal is achieved. If losing weight is a goal and time-blocking is another, both are accomplished as a natural consequence. If raising profits is a goal and hiring a team member is another, both goals are complementary. 

We know more about the compound effect when it comes to investing money than we do about time, which is in our control. You increase your overall achievements by focusing on specific goals broken down into monthly, weekly, and daily activities (as needed). For example, when I set a goal to exercise three times a week and a second goal to maintain my home and garden, I achieve both goals by what I plan each week. The activities required to maintain my space double up as intentional, sustained physical movements. 

You’re forced to use your time intentionally by focusing on specific goals. When you pick three goals in any or all parts of your life (say, love, finances, and health) and review them each month, week and day, you’re more likely to meet them. You’re also more likely to move on to the others on your ever-evolving list. What’s also good about this approach is that it allows you to incorporate your goals into your everyday life, increasing the chances of success and holistic well-being.


Julia Katsivo Carter is the Founder of Successful & Smart Business Coaching. She transforms the mindsets of business owners to operate in a state of abundance. This enables them to expand their visions and operations, make the impact they desire, and finally put an end to playing small living within what they think they should do. Julia has over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and process development and several advanced coaching technique certifications. www.successfulandsmart.com

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