My Goal Journaling Strategy

This strategy describes a very simple system for simultaneously setting goals and keeping a short daily journal.

Generally speaking, both setting goals and keeping a daily diary are nearly impossible to keep up for most people. I've designed this simple system so that I can do both and I've been able to (mostly) stick to it for the last 4 years.

Copy this goals template

The concept is simple. I first create a new note on my phone and paste in this template:

http://pastebin.com/xukrCvSh.

Define all goals for the year

At the top I add in my yearly goals broken down by category (e.g., business, personal, places to eat, etc.) and add one goal per line.

Business:
- meet 5 new clients
- hire one new employee
- win one award
- write 2 blog posts a month
- create content for FrontEndSchool.com

Personal:
- travel to Japan
- buy new computer speakers
- buy new sliverware

Restaurants to eat at:
- Buddakan
- The Breslin (suckling pig)

The beginning of the note is usually longer each year as I learn how to manage more goals.

Assign monthly goals

Next I break down each month with a heading.

January goal: eat at Buddakhan
1/1
1/2
1/3
1/4
...

This allows me to pull from my list on top what goals I think I should be able to complete in one month. It's this process of breaking down lofty goals into more granular pieces which gives me a good idea of where this year is headed. Also, this helps when goals are based on a scheduled rate (e.g., X restaurants/month).

Set smaller weekly goals

Next I break down the weeks so I can set smaller goals.

January goal: Eat at Buddakan, Finish all FES content for course 1
week 1: Write "Goal Setting Strategies" post
1/1
1/2
1/3
1/4
...

Record one major daily event

Each day I record the most significant thing that happened that day on one line. This forces me to 1) really focus on what's important, 2) keep the note clean looking for when I look back and review my history, and 3) be aware of whether I am progressing towards my weekly and monthly goals.

January goal: Eat at Buddakan
week 1: Write "Goal Setting Strategies" post
1/1 Watched Sherlock BBC show
1/2 pediatrician appt.
1/3 FES content
1/4 lunch at Parish Hall
...

Summary

Following this process is un-intimidating enough to prevent you from giving up. Like I said I've kept it up for 4 years already. The simplicity of the design allows me to comfortably skip a day (or even a week) and still be able to come back later and remember what I did each day. Also, the phone is always in your pocket, by your bedside, etc. so you don't have the excuse that it's too much effort to open a physical journal or sit in front of a computer. I find myself filling out the journal at night in bed most times when I'm thinking about what I did that day and what I'm going to do tomorrow.

Because I don't keep it updated every-single-day, I have changed my behavior by leaving clues for myself via things like checking into FourSquare more, being more active on Twitter, and scheduling things on Google Calendar religiously. This way I can retrace my steps when I can't remember what happened on a particular day.

One final note is that I didn't anticipate the value I get from looking back at my year and realizing how far I've progressed. You would be surprised at how fast you forget the events in your life, but when you write them down you effectively get to live them over each time to you look back.

Here's the full 2013 Goals Template with month and week headings : http://pastebin.com/eGHrq4aP

I hope some people find this helpful. Please leave a comment if you have a simple strategy for managing your goals.

  1. Tuncay says:

    Thanks for sharing your technique. I have lots of small todo lists, they are unorganised and most of them lost in the dusty pages of Notes app:) I appreciate that you’ve been using for 4 years.

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