Everyone has a different goal system that works for them. Personally, I’ve found that using a quarterly goal system works best (and I’ve tried a lot!). Quarterly goal periods- 3 months at a time- allow habits to truly build and substantial achievements to be made. But, 3 months isn’t so long that I lose motivation. Businesses track their goals quarterly, why should personal goals be treated any different?
With October right around the corner, I’m going through my final goals of 2016 (!! time really does fly!). Here’s why I encourage a quarterly personal goal system and the exact system I use to achieve my goals.
Why use a quarterly goal system?
It’s not too short
The goals you can achieve and the habits you can build in 3 months are meaningful. The truth about weekly and monthly goals is that though you may achieve them for a week or a month, that’s still a short time frame to make a permanent change. You can reach a goal in 30 days, but that can often not be a good enough sample for how you can make that change last.
It’s not too long
Annual goals (New Year’s resolutions) are easy to lose focus on and can become irrelevant. Particularly as millennials, a lot can change in a year and goals can (and should!) shift to conform with what’s best for you. Annual goals are exciting to make because you have an entire year to achieve them. Your goals can be huge! But, it can be difficult to take that goal in bite sized pieces and figure out how to really achieve it.
It’s in sync with seasons
The fun part about using a quarterly goal system is that your goal reflection and creation is done in sync with new seasons. There’s nothing like a change in the weather to inspire you. If you live in a part of the world with 4 noticeably different seasons, recharging your goals in tandem with those seasons gives you a true feeling of new beginnings.
What sorts of goals work best with this?
All goals! How many goals you can handle will depend on how much of a commitment or sacrifice those goals are. It’s important not to overload yourself with goals. I have found that the most beneficial part of this goal system is that it allows you to really focus on a couple goals and habits for just a few months. Focusing on a couple closely makes it much more likely you’ll achieve your goals than trying to complete multiple transformations simultaneously. But, that’s still enough time to build upon even difficult habits to form.
Each quarter, I usually set 6 goals. I set a goal to achieve and a habit to form in these three categories:
- Professional (if you’re in college, substitute this with academic)
A goal to achieve is usually something I want to get done within that specific quarter, but don’t feel the need to carry on forever. In other words, it’s a one-time goal. It has a specific outcome in mind that I can reach within 3 months.
A habit to form is something I want to focus on doing weekly or even daily during those three months to the point where it’s part of my routine. In contrast to a goal, it’s something I want to continually carry on.
- Build a personal website this quarter (my tutorial here)
- Lead a volunteer project (post on that here)
- Stretch for 20 minutes every day
- Practice a language 3 hours per week
- Save $2,000 this quarter to invest
- Pay off a given credit card this quarter
- Only eat out for one meal a day
- Walk or bike to work 2 times a week
- Break my personal sales record this quarter
- Update my LinkedIn and social media presence (more on that here)
- Get to work on time every single day this quarter
- Get my inbox to zero once a week
How I keep track of my goals is perhaps the most important element in ensuring that I achieve them. I’ve tried many systems to see what works best. I love to-do lists and bullet journals, but in writing them, I find that I end up spending more time organizing my tasks than completing them. I can’t write down my habit every single day on my to-do list! But, I need to record my progress. If I don’t have the satisfaction of feeling like I’m working toward my goal every day, it’s not as motivating.
Quarterly goal planning date
Four times a year, prior to every new quarter, I plan out my next quarter. I don’t treat it like a chore, but I also don’t treat it like an optional date. Rather, I treat it like a business lunch where I wine and dine myself with my laptop at a nice restaurant. I look forward to it every quarter! At my business lunch (with myself), I complete the following guide and spreadsheet. Once I’m done, I don’t have to do much else in the next quarter to track my goals and can solely focus on goal execution. No daily to-do lists, weekly check-ins, bullet journals, or daily alerts. This is much more efficient#win.
My quarterly goal workbook
First, I begin with my quarterly goal workbook. In this, I identify what my 6 goals are and specifically what I need to get done to achieve them. Whether that’s practicing something every day, working overtime, or a variety of tasks, I find that identifying the exact building blocks helps me understand where to go next.
Once I have my goals outlined and tasks assigned to each, I enter them in my tracking spreadsheet. To keep track of the progress of my goals throughout the quarter, I use two spreadsheet templates. One is for my goals, the other is for my habits. Each goal has its own tab, like this:
In my workbook above, I’ve already outlined the specific tasks I need to complete to accomplish the goal. So, I just plug those tasks into my spreadsheet and check them off “Yes” as I go. I even have a bar in the top right next to the goal that tracks what percentage of the way I am done thanks to my fancy excel formula. I love how motivated it keeps me!
My spreadsheet has 12 tasks. This can be one for each week of the quarter, or simply 12 in general (like below). Get yours below with the formula all set in. All you need to do is enter your tasks and push “yes”!
This one was really the game changer for me. Habits are something that you need to basically work on every day to really build properly. It can be hard to hold yourself accountable for a task every single day. Plus, if you’re quite to-do list oriented like I am, you best accomplish things when crossing them off that list. But you don’t want to put your small daily habits on your to-do list every day. Who has time for that?!
Enter this spreadsheet. It has a calendar for the quarter that tracks your habit building. Simply enter your target habit, and then each day you perform that habit, put an “X” on your spreadsheet. That’s it! My favorite part is that each day when I do that habit, I can see that I’m getting closer to reaching my goals.
I love this because it reminds me that each little step is a step forward. That’s what goals are all about! Get yours below with the formula all set in. All you need to do is enter your daily “x” for completion!
Lastly, go ahead and put a couple reminders in your calendar. If you feel that you want to be reminded weekly to check in and see how you’re doing, go ahead. But, with this spreadsheet system, I don’t usually find I need those reminders. Instead, I set two reminders:
- Half way point (six weeks) to make sure I’m on track; and
- Two weeks prior to the end of the quarter so I can schedule a lunch date to review my prior goals and review the upcoming quarter.
This may seem like a decent amount of work, but it’s all upfront work. Once it’s done, my goal systems are in place, and I don’t have to remake to-do lists daily to make sure my goals are getting done.
Are you ready to start cranking out your goals? Get everything I use for mine when you sign up below. You’ll get my workbook and my spreadsheet with the formulas all filled in. All you need to do is decide your goals, and the materials will keep you accountable! You deserve to let the superstar in you shine.