How to Set Goals that Stick

Last updated Feb 11, 2019 | Published on Feb 8, 2019 | Organizing, Tutorial

Knowing How to Set Goals Successfully is a Skill

But it’s a skill that can be learned and an activity that doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

The Purpose of this Post

In this post I document the process I use to turn my own dreams into reality.  This is how I take a dream or idea, turn it into a goal that can be measured, then make that goal happen. 

Now, I know that learning a new process can feel like a big undertaking, it’s kind of like eating an elephant.

It’s best done in pieces.

If you break something down that feels really big, before you know it, ta da! You’ve consumed the whole thing.

So that’s what I’ve done in this post. 

  • I’ve described my process for how to set goals and I’ve broken it down into step-by-step pieces. So you can absorb it one piece at a time.
  • I’ve also provided real-life examples from my own planning process. I learn faster when I have examples to guide me so mine are there to help. 

Think of this post as a roadmap. It’s the road that can turn your biggest dream into your everday life.

What could possibly be more fun than that?

Why did I write this?

What does ‘how to set goals’ have to do with home decor?

If you’re here, the chances are that you are interested in a lot more than home decor. You’re probably juggling a lot of balls and wondering every day how to get it all done. And having a hard time getting to the things you dream about most. 

I know, I chat with a lot of you every day. And getting everything done seems to be a widespread issue.

Although I’m at the stage of life where my commitments are less demanding than they once were, I still have lots to do. And I remember in my past life when there were other time-intensive responsibilities thrown in that demanded lots of attention. Which is where a lot of you are right now.

  • Raising children
  • Watching after parents
  • Managing a home and an outside job simultaneously
  • Managing family relationships
  • In many cases, managing side jobs or hobbies. Like an online business, shop, or social media accounts.

It’s hard to get something done that is outside of the daily minutiae. And let’s not bring up all the interruptions to your day and the unexpected that seems to spring up all the time. The family emergency, the burst water pipe, the unexpected bill. 

Do you ever feel like your day conspires against you?

Before you know it, the day is gone, it’s the next month and what have you done except make it through in one piece? Which, if we’re being honest, is sometimes a big win.

Knowing that, how can you possibly get to the big stuff when the little stuff demands so much attention?

Does this feel familiar?

Do you have dreams that you want to accomplish but life gets in the way?

Maybe you want to:

  • Start a blog
  • Launch an Etsy shop
  • Monetize your Instagram account
  • Remodel a room
  • Organize your house
  • You name it

If you have a dream that you want to make a reality, I promise that it is possible to learn how to set goals and get it done.

I know because I have done it.

You need a little information, discipline, and flexibility. And a plan.

You need to know how to set goals

Using this process, I have accomplished a lot. I’ve:

  • Raised a child while working full-time outside the home
  • Started and run a successful photography business for 16 years
  • Sold that business (not a small thing)
  • With my husband, completely remodeled our current home in a year
  • Designed & launched a blog
  • And those are just the highlights

How My Process May Help You

What has worked for me has an excellent chance of working for you.

Because learning how to set goals is not rocket science.

It does, however, take a little time and effort to do. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not magic.

So, if you’re looking for a magic pill you won’t find it here.

Give yourself an hour to read through this post initially and then at least a day’s time (which you can do over the course of several days) to work through the entire process until the end.

If you take the time to plan a little now, I promise that you’ll be that much closer to knowing how to set the goals you want.

And to making your dreams a reality.

I promise you that having a plan feels as good as de-cluttering. It clears the way and makes you feel like you can conquer the world.

  • You’ll be clear about what needs to be done.
  • You’ll also know what you’re not going to tackle right now.

And, if you’ve been watching Marie Kondo at all, you’ve seen evidence that there’s nothing like a little organization to make you feel like a whole new person.

So sharpen your pencil and get ready to be a little inspired and take action that will make a difference in your life.

Pinky promise.

How to Approach This

(My suggestion)

1. You should read through this whole post once. Skim if you must. I break things up so getting the main points should be easy to do. That will give you the gist of the process. If you’re confused about something, re-read it or drop me a note.

2. Now go back to the first green box (1. Pick 3 Areas of Focus). Before you do, get whatever tools you need in front of you. Go through that step in detail and do the work.

3. Once you have finished that step, take a break and pat yourself on the back. You’ve accomplished something big! You are on your way!

4. Repeat that with the next step and continue until you have finished. Take breaks in between steps if you need them. This stuff stretches your brain.

In the process below, you will see green boxes like this. This is where I include excerpts from my own planning process. These are examples. I love examples when I read tutorials. I tend to learn more from them than almost anything else. So hopefully these will help clarify things as you go.

Ready? Let’s get started!

1. Pick 3 Areas of Focus

We’re going to be planning for the rest of 2019 so bear that in mind.

The following categories were taken from Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life. I think these cover anything you can think of.

Here’s what to do

Think about what you’d like to change in 2019.

Look over the following seven areas of focus. Pick three from this list that you want to focus on.

  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Personal
  • Career

Some examples:

  • If you want to improve your health, select Physical.
  • Do you plan on starting a budget of paying off a large bill? Select Financial.
  • Maybe you have a dream to launch a side business.  Select Career.

Caveat – you can pick more than three areas. But, I suggest you start there and then come back and add more if you feel you must.

Here are my own selections:

Gail’s 3 Picks

Physical, Personal & Work

Now it’s time to take each of those areas of focus and daydream a little…

2. Dream

You should have identified your three areas of focus. Now you need to spend a little time and envision the future.

Here’s what to do

  1. Pick one of your areas, say your health (physical).
  2. Envision what you want to be different about your health by the end of the year. Use all your senses to imagine how the change looks and feels.

Many people use a vision board to help this process.

I don’t do that, but it’s a great way to jog your brain. Pinterest is a useful place to go for that. Just create a board and post pictures there that describe where you want to be in that area of your life.

Whatever process you use, once you have a vision, write it down. Then repeat the process for your other areas of focus.

One of my Visions:

Gail’s Vision – Physical Area of Focus

This is how I envision my health by the end of 2019

It’s near the end of the year, and I’m in the best shape of my life. My doctor visits are all up to date. I’ve lost the extra weight I was carrying for a while, and once again I like what I see when I walk past a mirror. My energy level is up, I sleep well, and I feel strong.

I enjoyed my daily walks during the colder weather and riding my bike regularly when it was warmer. The 50 mile Seacoast Century bike ride in September was a breeze.

My healthy routines are a way of life. It’s not a problem if I stray from them now and then, I feel confident that I’ll always return to them. 

You can see that I’m visualizing in the present tense, as if the change has already happened. And I’m very descriptive.

This helps to put me in the right frame of mind.

By doing this, I not only believe that this change CAN happen, I’m also convinced it WILL happen. Because I can FEEL what it will be like once I am there.

So visualizing is an important step.

But you need to take it further to make your vision a reality…

3. Make it Measurable

Now that you’ve seen into the future, you need to turn your visions into GOALS.

Think of a goal as WHAT you are going to do.

They key to how to set goals successfully is to make them measurable. You want the road ahead to be crystal clear. You also want to be able to easily determine whether you actually accomplished what you set out to do.

Here’s what to do

Take each vision, make it an action and turn it into a statement you can measure. 

Here are my goals from the vision above that I created:

Gail’s Goals – Physical Area of Focus

Vision Summary: Get in Shape by the end of 2019


  • Lose 15 pounds by my birthday.
  • Get caught up on doctor visits.
  • Become flexible enough to flatten my hands on the floor from a standing position by Summer.
  • Be strong enough by Spring to ride a 10-15 mile bike ride 3-4 days per week.
  • Ride a 40-mile bike ride in the Fall.
  • Log 1500 miles on my bike total by the end of 2019.
  • Each of these goals supports my vision.
  • These goals are also measurable. It’s clear what needs to happen and it won’t be difficult to understand whether or not I accomplish these goals.

4. Brainstorm

Now it’s time to brainstorm all your activities.

Goals don’t just happen by themselves. There are a lot of activities behind them. Think of the activities as the ‘HOW’ behind the goal.

Here’s how to do it

For each goal, identify every activity that needs to happen to make that goal a reality.


For instance, here’s how I’m going to lose 15 pounds (the first goal above):

  • Watch what I eat.
  • Move more.
  • Drink more water.

(I’m summarizing here, see the box below for details)

Getting those things done makes the bigger goal (lose weight) happen.


You can use a paper and pencil, sticky pads, or a word processor and write everything down as you think of things. They all work.

But I have a better way.

For brainstorming activities, I use a tool called a mind map. Since I’m a visual person, it works incredibly well for me and gives me great freedom to brainstorm and capture ideas. Plus it’s fun.

What a mind map is

A mind map is merely a way to map out a topic visually. It starts with one or more central topics then repeatedly branches out, breaking down information into a hierarchy (see example below).

Why I like it

First, as I mentioned, it’s visual. It’s also flexible. You can add branches and move them around. You can dive down and look view the details. Or you can survey the big picture all at once.

How to create one

You can either write it down using an old-fashioned pencil and paper or whiteboard. Or you can use the online tool I use: Coggle (it’s free!)

What to do

Again, Coggle allows you to do this digitally, or you can do this manually

  • Summarize your Vision for a given category and put it in a circle in the middle of your paper.
  • Draw branches coming out from the circle, one for each goal that supports that vision.
  • For each branch, add sub-branches for every activity that needs to happen to make that goal happen.
  • Sometimes branches have branches. That’s ok.
  • Things will sometimes show up more than once on multiple branches. That’s ok.

Mindmap Example

See the green box below for my mind-map example.

I have a mind map for all of my areas of focus together in one place. But, it’s pretty busy. So, for simplicity’s sake, I broke out just one of my focus areas below.

Do you HAVE to use a mind map?

Again, no, it’s not necessary. Because the purpose of this step is to identify ALL the activities that need to happen. The method you use is not important.

Just that you do it.

My mind map example:

Gail’s Mind Map – Get Back into Shape

how to set goalsThe bottom line is that I have identified the following activities that need to happen to get back into shape this year:

  • Manage 1200-1400 calories per day
  • Track my calories, water intake and exercise daily with MyNetDiary
  • Drink 64 ounces or more of water per day
  • Daily walk 2-3 miles per day 4-5 times weekly until Spring.
  • Ride a minimum of 66 miles per week on average May – September.
  • Ride a 20-mile bike ride 3-4 days per week starting in April/May.
  • Add strength training 2-3 days per week starting in May.
  • Add a stretching routine 3 times weekly starting in March.
  • Make appointments with my general physician, dentist and eye doctor.

5. Prioritize

If you’re here, you have a list of activities, probably a long list. You should have activities for each of your areas of focus.

Be aware that this is the spot where a lot of people get lost or stop. Don’t let that be you!

They wonder what’s most important (there are just so many!) and can’t figure out where to go from here.


That’s where we go next.

How to do it

There are more complicated ways to do this, but I suggest you keep things simple.

Go through this exercise for the activities within each area of focus. I have activities for Physical, Career, and Personal (see below). 

  1. Take the activities pertaining to one area of focus.
  2. Determine which ones have the most significant impact on your vision and goals.
    • To do this, give each activity a number from 1-10.
    • The number 1 represents the least impact to your vision & goal.
    • The number 10 represents the most impact to your vision & goals.
    • You can assign any number between 1 and 10.
    • Whatever number you assign is purely subjective, it’s your own best guess.
  3. Once every activity has a number, rank them with the highest numbers first.
  4. Pick the activities at the very top of your list. They are your priorities.
  5. Repeat this process for the next two areas of focus until you have all your priorities defined.

My Priorities:

Gail’s Priorities – Physical Area of Focus

My vision summary: Get back into shape this year

Here are the activities I identified in the previous step. I’ve added my take on a number for each and ranked them from highest to lowest per the instructions above.

  • Manage 1200-1400 calories per day (10)
  • Daily walk 2-3 miles per day 4-5 times weekly until Spring. (9)
  • Make appointments with my general physician, dentist and eye doctor. (9)
  • Track my calories, water intake and exercise daily with MyNetDiary (8)

Gail’s Priorities – Personal Area of Focus

My vision summary: Manage Critical and Upcoming $ Items (things that are going to cost us money)

  • Obtain quotes for the heating system (10)
  • Finish paperwork for taxes (10)
  • Plan Easter decor (8)

Gail’s Priorities – Career Area of Focus

My vision summary: Monetize my Blog

  • Get Pinterest up & running (10)
  • Network with other bloggers (9)
  • Fix broken links (9)
  • Finish Follower to Fan Instagram course (8)
  • SEO old pages (8)
  • Add Shop my House and Show my Insta pages to blog (8)
  • Add new Home Decor page to blog (8)
  • Finish Copy Cure course (8)

What happens to all those activities that you didn’t pick as priorities?

We’re going to come back to them in the next step.

If you have all your priorities it’s time to move on…


6. Schedule

Even if you get as far as prioritizing, if you don’t schedule activities, you may not get them done. Things don’t happen because you wish them, they happen because you plan them. 

So, let’s plan!

At a minimum, you need to schedule out your top priorities. But, I suggest that you schedule out more than that. Keep reading…

How to do this

A. Get prepared

Pull together any tools that you’ll need before you start so they are close at hand. You are going to need the following:

  1. A place to log your schedule. Some alternatives and options:
    • A formal planner
    • Plain pen and paper
    • Sticky notes
    • White board
    • Poster-sized calendars you can purchase at your local office supply store
  2. A list of critical life & already scheduled events happening during 2019
  3. Your estimate of how long your planned activities will take to get done
    • Hint: things take longer to complete than we usually estimate. Best to overestimate than underestimate the time required.

B. Start with the next 3 months

  1. Block out the following on your calendar:
    • All upcoming events that will take up your time.
    • Time during the day that you know will be taken up by daily activities
  2. Schedule all your priorities, one area of focus, one goal and one activity at a time, into the first available day/week/month on your calendar
    • Sticky notes, if you are using a hard copy calendar or planner, are helpful 
    • As you introduce new priorities, move things around as necessary

C. Schedule everything else

Expand your calendar to the rest of the year & schedule your remaining activities. These are the ones that you didn’t consider your top priorities.

  • The closer in you are in the calendar, the more specific your activities will/should be
  • The further out you are, the more general or high-level your activities will/should be


Don’t pack your schedule so that there’s no room to breathe. Make it realistic and do-able.

Benefits to scheduling all your activities

You can stop at B (above) and revisit the rest of your activities as you move ahead. That’s an alternative. But there are benefits to at least slotting major activities in your calendar throughout the year. This does the following:

  • Gives you a ‘bird’s eye view’ of your whole year
  • Minimizes surprises down the road
  • Allows you to better plan as potential events arise in the future
  • Keeps you from being distracted by the activities you aren’t going to do right away. You don’t think about things if they are scheduled. This allows you to better focus on the more critical, close-in priorities.

My 3-month schedule:

Gail’s Schedule, February – April

I reviewed my digital calendar where I keep events and appointments and made a note of a few essential facts:

  • My niece and her daughter are visiting in February
  • We have a possible vacation coming up in May that I’ll need to plan for
  • A few other minor events are upcoming that I will need to work around.
  • I need time during the day and week for ongoing tasks.

So, here’s where I scheduled my initial priorities:


Monetize my Blog

  • Get Pinterest up & running – February all month
  • Network with other bloggers – February second half
  • Fix broken links – by Feb 10
  • Finish Follower to Fan Instagram course – by Feb 20
  • SEO old pages – March
  • Add Shop my House and Show my Insta as major pages – end February into March
  • Build a new Home Decor page to site – March
  • Finish Copy Cure course – end March into April

Get Back into Shape

  • Track calories daily – underway through the end of April
  • Maintain a daily walk schedule – underway and on the schedule 3-5 times per week through April
  • Schedule doctor appointments – by mid-February

Home Priorities

  • Obtain quotes for the heating system – by Feb 10
  • Finish gathering paperwork for taxes – by mid-February
  • Plan Easter decor – March

You can see that I don’t always have specific dates. This works for me. And I do use a calendar and sticky notes but I thought a list might be more legible for purposes of this tutorial.

I keep things fairly loose so that I don’t have every hour of the day taken up. I know that ‘stuff happens’ and want to make allowances for that.

I don’t have it listed here, but my next step was to go back and schedule everything else, which I have done. I now have a good idea of when and where I will attack all the critical things on my list throughout the year. And I know the things I probably won’t have time to tackle.

What happens when new things crop up?

I haven’t thought of everything, I’ll be the first to admit. And, activities will crop up in the future that may be unexpected and even critical. When this happens, I’ll go back to my mind map and my priority list. I’ll update them and shift things around on my schedule if it’s needed.

What’s next?

Track things to make sure they are getting done. It’s the last step…

7. Track

If you’ve gotten this far, you have identified your goals, the activities that support them and you’ve prioritized and scheduled at least the most critical ones.

You’re almost home free!

But, now you need to make sure you are track things to hold yourself accountable and be sure that you’re making progress.

Besides, who doesn’t love to check things off?

My Suggestion

Establish daily, weekly & monthly goals.

How this works for me

Daily Goals

I do a quick check every morning of what I need to get done that day. It’s just a quick check of my weekly goals and my to do list. I physically write down the goals. Today that’s one a piece of paper. Now that I have my handy planner, that’s where I make not of my daily goals.

Daily To-Do’s

  • For years I have used a mobile app called Things to capture all my nitty daily to-do’s.
  • With my new planner, how I use the app may change a little but it’s great for capturing all the tasks  that crop up during the day that require reminders. People I need to call, Stories I need to create and post, details that I don’t want to lose.


  • Today, I create an Instagram Story on Sunday with an update on the previous week’s goals.
  • Then on Monday, I create a Story with the current week’s goals.
  • I print out the goals and keep the list front and center on my desk (see the picture below)
  • In the future, I’ll continue to use Stories to hold myself accountable. But, I’ll also start to use my brand new Weekly Sticky Notepad from Cultivate What Matters. It’s prettier and has a sticky back so I can keep it anywhere I like.

Here’s my handy little board on my desk where I keep my weekly goals. The little board is too cute and was a Target Dollar Spot find!

HINT – if you find that a goal keeps slipping from week to week, take a hard look to be sure it’s still a priority. If so, just keep writing it down until you get ‘er done. Yes, this happens to me sometimes. If you follow me on Instagram you know.

how to set goals


  • Today, I write monthly goals down on a piece of paper at the beginning of every month and keep them on my desk.
  • I’ll be moving all my scheduled activities into my brand new PowerSheets Planner. When I do, all my goals will be together in one pretty place and portable to boot. Woohoo! That’s where I’ll manage and track all my monthly goals and results.

That’s it. You’re done.

You should have visions, goals, activities, priorities and a schedule/plan.

Does it feel complicated? I promise if you go through the process it will take time, but it will become more natural as you continue to use this process. And it will help you GET THINGS DONE. 


Keys to succeeding:

  • Spend time in the beginning and do the work.
  • Adjust your plan and schedule as you need to.
  • If you get pulled away from your intended plans because life happened, adjust. Move things out but don’t abandon them.
  • Discipline yourself to track your goals at a minimum on a weekly basis.


Did I miss something? Did you get stuck somewhere? Got questions? Did you love it? Hate it? I’d love to hear. Drop a comment below or send me a message right here.

How about you?

Got a great planning tip? Did you use my process in your own planning? I love to hear about it!

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Thanks SO much for reading!

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