Improve Your Focus By Setting Monthly Goals
At the end of every year, I write a recap of the past year, with some goals for the new year. I’ve been doing this for 7 years now, and it’s been amazing to look back on. Writing this post starts mid-year when I start keeping track of what I’ve done that year, and inspired a mindfulness article I wrote on the subject.
New Years Resolutions are Now Monthly Goals
In 2016 I started writing goals for the next month and evaluating goals for the previous month.
This has a tremendous advantage in that you get better at creating goals and adapting to them. Rather than 1 chance to practice every year, you now have 12 chances a year.
The constant reevaluation of my goals also meant faster adaptation when I set a poor goal. Setting a new year’s resolution to do something every day, only to break it during the first week can be tremendously demotivating.
So what does a monthly goal-setting document look like? These can be in any format that allows reflection and planning, but here are a few things that have worked for me.
Reflect on the Previous Month
The first step is to get a handle on how you did last month. If this is your first month setting monthly goals, you can skip this step. If you have new year’s resolutions, you could use those instead for now.
I do this to close the loop prior to planning the new month. For this, I’ll pull up my post from the previous month and look it over with a few things in mind.
- How did I do on my agreements from the previous month?
- How did I do on my goals?
- Did I keep up with my todo list?
- Do I need to review any mindfulness goals?
My process for reflecting has been to highlight items in green that I feel were accomplished, things in red that wasn’t and yellow for those that were incomplete. Copying your goals into Evernote makes finding and highlighting these easy.
Plan for the New Month
Previously, all of my monthly plans were in Evernote, but I’ve started doing them here instead. All you really need is a blank editor to start filling out your goals, so Medium, Evernote or even Google Docs work great.
What do I want to have done by the end of the month?
If you imagine it’s now one month from now? What is the state of the world that you have control over? Based on this outcome, write any goals you’d need to complete to get there. This is the core idea that you want to work on for the next month. Whenever you’re not sure what you should work towards, this is what it should be.
Find your top goals
This can be extremely tough when you have a long list. One exercise that’s worked for me is doing a complete brain dump of everything I can think of, then prioritizing them. From this list, I’ll pick out one or two things and make goals around them. Anything else isn’t a high enough priority for a monthly goal.
What do I want to do better at?
I like to have some goals that I can accomplish, and some things that are more emotional. Here are a few examples of these:
- Be more available for my friends
- Express more gratitude
- Say “thanks for your understanding” rather than “sorry”
This one is much more about setting mindsets that I want to train me on during the next month.
Create new mindfulness goals
If you made any mindfulness goals, this is a great time to make new ones. Read my article on mindfulness goals if you’d like to know more about this.
Create new agreements with yourself
The term agreement may sound formal, which is intentional. When making goals, you could set a level at “try”, “hope”, “want” or“do my best”. Making an agreement with yourself to do this is far above all of these. When I agree to meet someone somewhere or do something for someone, I live by that word. This agreement with myself should be no different.
Create Tasks For Your Goals
The next step after creating these goals is to break them down into some specific tasks that you want to work on this week. I prefer to use Todoist and set 7 days of tasks every Sunday. Every Sunday when I create these tasks, I’ll open up my monthly task list and use that for guidance.
The major advantage of doing it this way for me comes down to focus. When creating the tasks I want to do, understanding what my main single, driving goal is for the month helps out.
Write Your Goals For the Next Month
Now is a great time to try writing your goals. Even if you’re reading this part of the way through a month, try this exercise out with the idea that you can start it immediately and evaluate it after the next full month.
If you do end up writing some monthly goals, I’d love to read them. What goals did you set?