You probably know how to set goals. However, you likely also wonder what you need to do after setting goals to make sure you achieve them.
The first thing to do after you set goals is to create a plan of action to achieve them. Then, begin working on your goals. Finally, track your goals and review your progress weekly so you can adjust as needed to keep yourself consistent. So you set goals, then make an action plan, act, and then track your goals.
I’ve been working on this 4-step system for the last two decades. I call it the 4-4-4 Goal Setting System and across nearly 20 years of work, I’ve engineered it to help you reach your biggest dreams.
Today we’ll just be going over steps 2-4 of the system because this is all about what to do after you’ve already set your goals, which is step 1.
Let’s jump right in!
1. Create a Plan to Achieve Your Goals
So you’ve established some great ambition that you want to accomplish. Maybe it’s running a marathon, getting married, becoming resilient, or something else. Whatever you’re working on, you’re going to need a plan if you want to see this exciting dream come to fruition.
Your plan comes in two basic components to start with:
- Action steps
Action steps include the daily activities that you’ll commit to in order to achieve your goals.
Outcomes are what you’re working to accomplish by doing your action steps. Think of them as weekly milestones that are the smaller components of a bigger goal.
Let’s look at an example. One of my current goals is to get to 12% body fat.
My action steps include daily exercise, healthy eating, and resting regularly. For exercise, I’m working on fat-burning workouts like incline treadmill walks.
The outcome I hope to achieve each week is to lose 0.5% of body fat. Now I just have to do the math so I can know when I’ll be at my bigger goal of 12% body fat if I can do this consistently each week.
Finding your outcomes is a matter of taking your larger goal and breaking it down into smaller, weekly chunks.
To establish your action steps, ask yourself “What action, if I completed every day for a year, would nearly inevitably lead me to achieve my goal?”
With these two components of your plan, you’re ready for the most important step in the whole process.
2. Start Working On Your Goals
This is the part that a lot of people get wrong. It doesn’t take much effort to set goals and make plans. You can do it in 15 minutes.
But consistent action is what separates those who achieve their goals and those who don’t.
Without putting in the work, nothing will happen. With persistent effort though, nearly anything is possible.
Therefore, once you have your goals and plans you must do everything in your power to stick to your action steps every day. This is the only way to truly achieve your goals. All else may fail but if you nail this step, you’ll make it.
The best way I’ve found to do this is by challenging yourself to see how many days in a row you can complete your action steps.
The first time I did this was with a challenge called 75 Hard in which you commit to five critical tasks for 75 days straight. You can learn more about it here.
That challenge is all about mental toughness and physical fitness. But the more important lesson I learned from this is how to make my own personal growth challenge. And you can do it too.
The next quarter after I finished 75 Hard the first time, I established my own five critical tasks. I had one in each of the main four areas of life plus one supplemental task to support my efforts.
Then, I copied the tab that I had used to track my progress with 75 Hard in my goal-setting spreadsheet and modified it so I could track my own daily tasks. I went for 84 days, instead of just 75 because that’s when I set goals.
12 weeks later I had completed all of my tasks for 84 days in a row. The progress I saw in all areas of life was remarkable.
The reason this works so well is because it removes the question “Do I want to work on my goals?” by utilizing a streak to keep you consistent.
When the desire to quit comes up on a tough day, and trust me, it does, you remember that you’ve been at it for 30 or 40 days in a row and you don’t want to lose that streak so you stick with it.
Even if that means you have to run outside in the rain at midnight.
The simple recipe to set up your own challenge includes these components:
- Five critical tasks
- 30 minutes on each task per day
- Every day for 12 weeks or 84 days in a row
If you feel like 12 weeks is too much for where you’re at in life right now, start with just four weeks instead.
No matter what you do, just start. You’ll only see progress once you do.
3. Track Your Progress and Review Your Goals Weekly
In 2015 researchers completed a review of 138 studies on tracking goals that included a total of nearly 20,000 participants.
They concluded that when you track your goals, you are more likely to achieve those goals. And you can increase that likelihood by reviewing your progress more frequently.
That’s why the final step after you set goals is to set up a system to track them daily and weekly. Your daily tracking is all about whether or not you completed your action steps and weekly you’ll check if you accomplished your outcomes.
There are many ways you can do this. First, set up a time to review your progress each week. Sunday morning or afternoon is best because it’s the beginning of the week.
Then, you need a place to record your goals. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Pen & paper
- Notes on your phone
There are pros and cons to each of these and you’ll have to try each out to figure out what works best for you.
For instance, I’m not a big fan of apps because they often just let you track habits instead of writing about how you’re doing and making improvements to the system.
My favorite way to track goals is spreadsheets because they are so versatile. They can be a bit complicated, but they don’t have to be. You can set up a simple goal-tracking spreadsheet in just five minutes by:
- Listing out all the dates on the left column
- Putting each of your goals across the top row
- Writing “Yes” or “No” in the cell for each goal for each day
You can then create a new tab in the same spreadsheet for your weekly review. Use the first column for questions to ask yourself each week as you check in on your progress. Some of the questions might include:
- How did I do last week? What went well?
- What do I want to do better this week?
- Did I complete my action steps? If not, how can I modify them to be more realistic?
- Did I complete my outcomes? If not, how can I change my action steps to make sure that I do?
Whatever tracking method you decide on, make sure it’s something simple so you can stay consistent. If a spreadsheet feels too overwhelming, try just recording progress on a note on your phone.
You can always change later if that’s not working or if you feel like you can take on something that has more features.
In summary, after you set goals, you need to:
- Make a plan to work on your goals that includes action steps and outcomes.
- Start working on your goals and challenge yourself to see how many days in a row you can stick to them.
- Set up a tracking system and review your progress weekly.