To get anywhere in life, you need to have goals. Not just dreams, not just lofty ambitions, but specific, realistic, achievable goals. If you don’t know where you’re aiming and you lack purpose, you’re liable to end up anywhere… and it’ll probably be the wrong side of the tracks.

Write it down

One of the best ways I have found to clarify a goal is to get out pen and paper and actually write it down. I’m not trying to knock computer-related goal tracking. I’m sure there are some snazzy apps out there, but I’ve found that there’s just something about the physical act of writing down my goal that makes it become real to me.

When you write your goals down, they are no longer just fuzzy ideas; they are set-in-place goals that I’m committed to work toward.

Writing down your goal not only gives weight to the goal, but it also gives you a start date. And when you have a start date you are motivated to actually, you know, start. Plus, if you write down your goals, you are able to track your progress and be encouraged at the momentum you’re gaining in the right direction.

Three methods to keep you on track with your goals

  1. Create a list – How you write down your goals will vary from person-to-person. I prefer to type up my weekly, monthly, and yearly goal lists and then physically cross them off as I finish them. There’s something about putting a line through a goal to mark it as completed that gives me immense satisfaction.
  2. Design a spreadsheet – While typing up my goals and crossing them off is very motivating to me, other people (like my husband) find much more motivation by creating a sophisticated spreadsheet with various commands programmed in to track the percentage of progress for each goal. When we were saving to buy a house, this was especially motivating for my husband. He set up an Excel spreadsheet with our end house-savings goal and our monthly house-savings goals. Each month, he’d input how much we’d saved into the spreadsheet and it would automatically update our savings percentages. This gave him great satisfaction and motivation.
  3. Use sticky notes. If you’re a very visual person and need a lot of extra reminders, you might find it helpful to put specific goals on sticky notes and place them throughout the house where they will serve as a constant reminder to stay on track. Here is what this could look like in your home:
  • Trying to lose/gain five pounds? Put a sticky on the fridge to remind you to choose your foods wisely.
  • Training for your first 5K race? Put a sticky on your laptop reminding you to go run before you open your computer.
  • Trying to become more organized with your meal planning? Put a sticky on your bathroom mirror reminding you to take out meat to defrost while you’re brushing your teeth before bed.

Writing down your goals will not actually accomplish them, but this simple act will give you great momentum to get going in the right direction. So, as you begin this new year, instead of just dreaming up big ideas or fantasizing about your mammoth ambitions, take the first step to success by sitting down and writing out your goals today!

{Editor’s Note: Crystal Paine shared these very valuable suggestions on goal setting back in January of 2013. We wanted to make sure you could utilize her suggestions with the start of the new school year! You got this moms!}

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  1. Crystal, thank you so much! These are excellent ideas!

  2. Good ideas!I’m starting to write my goals. And I have a lot of them for this year.Thanks

  3. I literally *just* got done writing my own post on this same subject, and then this popped up in my reader! Thanks, this had some great thoughts and ideas that I didn’t include in my post!

  4. I’m with ya on that writing-down-on-paper thing. I’ve tried electronic but it just doesn’t work for me. There’s probably some kind of scientific explanation out there somewhere! But regardless, I still can’t let go of my paper. 🙂

  5. I made my goals more SMART this year and I’ve typed them up. Paying off debt is one of our goals. I have been seriously thinking of making a thermometer with the amount of our first credit card to color red as we pay it off. I think it would be motivating to see it in front of me as we go without fun but unnecessary things in 2013. I do want to be better about making monthly and weekly goals, too.

  6. I am a visual person, I guess. I have found many free printables on Pinterest.com that are keeping me on task even in the small things. I have a “Daily Plan of Action” with morning, afternoon, and bedtime routines, goals for the day, meals recorded (not meal planning) and a notes section for anything that I forgot. All with perfect little boxes for checking off!

  7. We missed you at boot camp this year:)! I love to run too and have done a few 5k’s after turning 40 with three little ones…you can do it, so rewarding!!