I know how frustrating it is to want something so badly, to work tirelessly towards it, and yet you still miss the mark.
At one point, I was chasing after a degree I didn’t like because I felt like I had to. I felt completely stuck in a career I desperately wanted out of. I was good at what I did, and looking on the outside, I was doing well in life. I had a nice apartment, got straight A’s in college and had a decent job.
But, I was miserable.
And the more I went down that road, the farther I drifted away from what I truly wanted to do. This made me feel stuck, empty and lost.
But, here I am a couple of years later, and I’ve started my own business, I live mostly debt-free and I’m finally doing something I love.
What I’ve learned throughout these experiences is that my goals and dreams are worth chasing after. And, how you create goals is the difference between staying stuck in limbo or moving forward.
With that being said, I decided to come up with a list of 11 goal setting mistakes to avoid so you can create a life you love!
(side note – this post contains some affiliate links which means that any purchase made through such links will award me a small percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. You can read my disclaimer for more information.)
1| Not writing goals down
This is one of the most common problems I see. I get it – handwriting things is really tedious and time consuming. But, writing your goals down is so important because it makes them more real and you’ll remember them better.
Whether it’s on a post-it note on your mirror, a napkin on your table or a spare notepad on your desk – the point is that you need to write them down somewhere.
Writing your goals down increases your likelihood of actually achieving them, so the best time to start this habit is now.
I use many different things for this.
- Google Calendar to plan out my month and year
- The Bloom daily planner to plan out my daily and weekly tasks
- The productivity planner to prioritize my most important daily tasks
- The Any.do app to set reminders for events, appointments, etc.
- My phone’s notes app for lists
You don’t have to use all of these but having multiple places to record your goals + plans does help you better remember them.
2| Setting too many goals
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of goal setting that you set way too many goals. But you only have so much time to achieve each goal, so prioritizing them is important.
Remember – quality is always better than quantity, especially when it comes to goal-setting. I only set 1 large SMART goal for the entire year and break it up by setting a couple of mini goals for each quarter.
This makes things sooo much easier and less stressful. Once you get used to this goal setting practice then you can set more, but I try not to set more than 3 maximum. Keep in mind that the more goals you have the harder it is to achieve any one of them.
Related read: How to set goals that you’ll actually achieve
3| Not using a task manager
As a go-getter, you’re probably used to juggling 20 tasks at once and having multiple tabs open in your mind. But there’s an easier way, my friends. Task managers are the answer and they are my go-to.
Task managers keep you on track and focused on achieving your goals. Without them, you’ll have a goal but no plan to accomplish it.
I use the productivity planner to ensure that I’m making daily strides toward my goals.
All three of these blend perfectly to plan out my life. Not only do I get way more done, but more importantly, I get closer to achieving my goals each day.
Related read: How to use task batching for maximum productivity
4| Setting goals that aren’t specific or measurable
It’s going to be reallllyyy hard to accomplish your goals if they are vague and immeasurable.
Examples of vague goals are: “be better with money,” “lose weight,” and “get good grades.” They’re all great goals to have, but without clarity and a concrete deadline, you have no way of knowing what it takes to achieve them, or how long.
The best goals are specific and measurable. Here are the same goals as above but changed to be more specific and measurable: “Payoff $10k of student loan debt by the end of the year,” “Lose 10lbs by June 1st,” and “Get straight A’s by the end of this semester.”
5| Not setting a deadline for your goals
As mentioned above, goals need to be specific and measurable. Setting a deadline is part of making your goals measurable. It holds you accountable and keeps you on track.
You’ll find that setting goals involves having a plan. Without a deadline you don’t really have a plan, just an idea, which isn’t very helpful.
So it’s important to make sure that each goal has a concrete deadline and that it’s on your calendar so you’ll be more motivated to actually go after it. Honor yourself and your calendar by sticking to that deadline.
6| Not being fully committed to your goals
Commitment is key to success.
If you don’t commit to your goals, you’ll never follow through with them.
Life happens – you become busy, emergencies pop up, etc. – which only makes it that much harder to go after what you want. So the stronger you commit to your goals and deadlines, the better chance you have at success.
There are a few things I do to stay committed to my goals. For one, I keep them in front of me. I use a monthly white board calendar and Google Calendar to see my monthly goals, then I look at my Bloom planner for weekly and daily goals. I also like to use the notes app on my phone to keep a master list of future goals I’d like to accomplish.
The second thing I do to stay committed is by saying “no” to other opportunities that come up. This is how I see it – saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else.
So saying “yes” to other people’s plans means saying “no” to the appointments you’ve set with yourself that move you closer to your end goal.
Now I’m not saying to ditch every single plan with your friends, but in order to stick to your plans and have somewhat of a social life, you need to schedule time in your calendar for social time so you’re well prepared ahead of time.
And if you can’t fit both into your schedule, then you might need to take a rain check with your friends until you get availability.
7| Not creating an action plan
A goal without a plan is only a wish. An idea. Not something that’s attainable.
That’s why it’s important to not only make sure your plans are specific and measurable, but that you have written on your calendar (as deadlines) all of the action steps it would take to achieve that goal.
Also make sure to do the same for possible obstacles that may get in your way as well.
This is going to take some time, but I promise that it’s well worth it! What this looks like for me is spending a Saturday morning in my pj’s writing out my action plan.
8| Seeking perfection
Perfectionism is the greatest killer of productivity (and that’s coming from a recovering perfectionist).
I discovered I was a perfectionist when it would take me way longer than most people to accomplish the simplest task because I spent so much time trying to get every minor detail perfect.
But, after listening to a few episodes of Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School Podcast, I realized that as an entrepreneur I can’t afford the time to be a perfectionist. Only 10% of what I produce will be received well, so to ensure I have a good success rate, I need to be consistently creating and promoting content.
So when I heard Brooke say to produce B- work, I had a lot of resistance at first. But I quickly realized that in order to produce enough to be successful, I have to lower my high standards. And since following Brooke’s advice, my productivity is through the roof!
9| Not reviewing + revising goals regularly
You should dedicate time at the end of each week – an hour at least – to evaluate your progress.
Ask yourself questions like “what worked?” “what didn’t work?” and “what can I work on to make next week better?” This will help you see the bigger picture and get a realistic view of your goals.
You need to be flexible to adjust your goals because life will throw curve balls your way. The key is to review and revise your plan as your circumstances change. That way you don’t fall off course.
10| Letting fear of failure stop you
Failure is inevitable. But having a plan in place acts as a safety net for when you do fail.
You can’t let fear hold you back from achieving your goals. You must use failure as fuel to persevere.
I heard a great quote the other day – “the only way out is through.”
In other words, the only way out of any situation is to push through it. This is how you come out on top.
If every person who is successful completely stopped what they were doing the first time they failed, we wouldn’t have many of the amazing technologies we have now.
I like to think of it this way – Even if you fail a hundred times, at least you’re still progressing than if you just quit. I just “missed a goal” not too long ago and instead of being upset and stressed about it, I took it as a learning experience and as a challenge to do better next time.
11| Saying “I don’t know”
It’s easy to stay stuck in indecision.
Indecision keeps us in a safe spot where we don’t have to deal with our thoughts and emotions. All you have to do is say “I don’t know” and move on.
But, if you want to move forward in life, you must get good at making decisions (and I’m talking to myself here too).
I’m not going to lie, I have my moments where I’m so close to booking a flight to the Bahamas, sipping a mimosa by the beach and forgetting about my problems. Maybe you can relate?
You want to escape the overwhelm and stress that comes with making tough decisions, and if you could, you’d have someone else make them for you.
I used to be like that too, but decision-making is a skill I’m much better at now, and being able to make quick decisions has gotten me really far in life.
One of the biggest things that holds people back from making decisions is that they have this belief that there are right and wrong decisions.
But in reality there are no right or wrong decisions – either way decisions propel us forward no matter what it is. It’s when you don’t make a decision that you aren’t moving forward.
So, whenever you’re stuck in indecision, I suggest writing down all of the decisions you have to make, giving yourself a strict deadline to make one decision and committing to it no matter what.
As I said before, I’ve become pretty good at making decisions over the years. I don’t get emotional – I’m relaxed, I’m focused, I make my decision and move on. Working this way makes me much more productive and provides me the clarity I need to go after my goals.
It’s no secret that life isn’t a straight-forward path. There are many twists and turns along the way. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns, we go in a completely different direction or we end up staying stuck completely. There’s a lot of scenarios that can play out, but what I want you to know is this: You have more control over your life than you think, and goals are the secret sauce to get you where you want to go.
So, don’t be afraid to test the waters, try new things, set your goals, fail many times and pivot if you have to because life is too short to play the waiting game. Set perfection aside and just get started on your passions, using goals to guide you as you reach your end results. Your future self will thank you.
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