Why you should write down your goals

Writing down goals

Writing down goalsI’ve shared before about “How to set your New Years Goals and make sure you achieve them!”. I mentioned in that blog post about how I find writing goals down helps me to achieve those goals.

I thought I’d share with you how I create and track my goals on an on going basis in the hope you might find it useful to help your own goal setting.

Write everything down

Firstly, I write everything down – I’ve long since learnt not to try and keep goals just in my head. The act of writing down my goals helps me to feel more committed to achieving them.

Here’s a list of the different types of lists I keep for those written goals.

The Life Plan

  • Life Plan – I keep a Word document, broken down into specific areas (Professional, Health and Wellness, Friends and Family, Financial, Personal, Contribution) with each area containing a list of Commitments – i.e. What I want to achieve (“I will spend more time with my friends and family”), an Execution Plan – i.e. the steps I’ll take to achieve this goal (“I will invite friends and family around for dinner at least once per month”) and Key Measurements i.e. A check on whether I’m achieving the goal or not (“Did I invite friends and family around for dinner at least once per month”?”).

This Life Plan is more a “high-level” view of my personal and professional goals on an on-going basis, which I review and tweak once per quarter (there’s a calendar reminder set for me to do this quarterly so I don’t forget) and includes a “Bucket List” – all those “someday” things I’d like to do, but don’t have an immediate time-scale or plan for. For me it contains things like “Take a trip to Japan”, “Fly in a Hot Air Balloon” and the like. Interestingly, I’ve noticed since I’ve been keeping a written “Bucket List” as opposed to just keeping those ideas in my head that I seem to be ticking items off that bucket list more frequently than before, after doing them spontaneously over time.

The quarterly review of my Life Plan means I’m conscious of what I’m doing well, and reminds me to step things up on those goals I’ve not been giving attention to.

The Task List

  • Task List – Everything that needs to be done on a day-to-day basis goes into Microsoft Outlook Remember The Milk. I like RTM for it’s simplicity, but you might use Microsoft Outlook or, if you want to share your tasks with others, AllThings. Often, these tasks are routine daily jobs such as telephone calls to make and errands to run, but they also contain project tasks – individual “slices” of much larger tasks from my Life Plan above (remember the “Salami” technique I mentioned for breaking down big goals?) Thanks to my Smartphone, I’m connected to Remember The Milk (RTM) from just about anywhere – so reviewing information I’ve entered becomes easy.

Because I’m a fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, I use GTD for Outlook from Netcentrics find that customising the RTM with specific categories works best for me. I have categories like “@Errands” to remind me of little jobs that need to be done, “@Calls” so I have a list of Telephone Calls I need to make, and can make them in batches, and “@Home” – stuff I need to do around the house. You’ll need to find whatever the categories that work for you, but again, the key is to “write down” this information somewhere so that it’s out of your head and on a list. It’s surprising how much energy you waste repeatedly subconsciously telling yourself to “remember to do that”. Once it’s out of your head and on paper, that nagging voice quietens down.

The To-Do List

  • Daily “To Do” List – Every day I take a minute or two to think about what I need to do for the day, and then write 2-3 important things down on my “Things to do today” paper notepad, sat on my work desk. These are the 2-3 things that, if I got NOTHING else done today, I’d feel satisfied and productive having achieved those things.

I then follow the “Worst First” mantra – avoiding e-mail, Facebook and Twitter until I’ve got the first item on that list done and dusted. However many distractions I get for the rest of the day, I’ve at least done something productive already!

Pen and PaperOld Fashioned Pen and Paper

  • Paper Notepads – Electronic Gadgets such as Smartphones are good for staying connected, but there’s nothing as quick as writing something down with pen and paper. I find the act of getting the idea/note/to-do out of my head and on to paper reduces my stress levels. I therefore keep notepads just about everywhere I ever am. On my work desk. In the living room. In the Kitchen. In the study, and even by my bedside. If you’re like me and can’t get to sleep because something is on your mind – try keeping a pad by your bed and writing it down. It’s amazing how well this works to help you relax.

Weekly Sweep

Importantly, at least once a week I do a “sweep” of all these various notepads and make sure that they are transferred into RTM, AllThings, Outlook or whichever system you use. Otherwise, those written tasks may get overlooked for my Daily “To Do” list.


You’ve probably got your own method of saying organised and recording your goals – both big and small – but whatever method you use, writing goals down is the first step to successfully achieving them on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

I’m always learning new techniques – so if you have any to share, please do get in touch by leaving a comment below or reaching out to me via Twitter or e-mail!

photo credit: Skakerman via photopin cc

photo credit: rfduck via photopin cc


  • tubblog2011-01-05 12:01:40

    Robert - you'll be pleased to know I started using OneNote in anger in 2010, and promise to continue to do so. :-)

  • directorcia2011-01-05 01:33:33

    Dude, Chuck the Word documents and use OneNote! Thanks Robert Crane www.ciaops.com

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