As a mom, goal-setting can feel a bit beyond my reach. Some days I’m lucky if I remember to take the trash to the curb. My goals would appear in my head for a day or a week, and vanish just as quickly, forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily life. It wasn’t until I started adopting a few new techniques that I managed to not only set goals but stick to them and even achieve them, which surprised me. With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite goal-setting tips to help you achieve your goals, even as a busy mom.
When it comes to goals, you want to remember one word — SMART. In this case, I’m not referring to your intelligence but rather an acronym: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-driven, five things that every goal needs to be. We’ll take a closer look at each of these criteria in a moment, but when it comes to goals if you don’t remember anything else I mention on this list, remember to always make SMART goals.
It’s easy to make broad goals.
“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”
“I want to run a marathon.”
“I need to Marie Kondo my garage.”
Those are just three that popped up off the top of my head. They’re all possible but they’re all also very broad, making them more difficult to start and harder to achieve. Make your goals specific. Instead of saying “I’m going to run a marathon,” start with “I will start following a detailed training program to learn to run safely and effectively.” Running a marathon can still be your ultimate goal, but that doesn’t help you figure out how you’re going to reach it. Be specific.
Make Them Measurable
For the rest of these points, we’ll stick with the marathon goal I mentioned earlier. The next letter in SMART is M for measurable. Don’t just say “I’m going to run a marathon.” That’s not something you can measure. Say, “My goal is to run three times a week, increasing the distance every other week until I reach marathon distance.” This goal gives you something that you can plan and measure.
Ensure They’re Achievable
Try not to set goals that are totally unrealistic. If you want to run a marathon, but you haven’t run any appreciable distance since high school, you’re not setting goals — you’re trying to overwork yourself. If you want to run a marathon and plan to start with 5k races and work your way up, that’s totally achievable. Reach for the stars if you want, but do it in small steps that you can reach, rather than massive Everest-style mountains that you’re not able to climb.
If you want to run a marathon, you probably know what you need to do to achieve that goal. Start training, run a few times a week and invest in some good running shoes. This step requires a bit of introspect. Take a look at your strengths and weaknesses. You know, better than anyone else, what you’re capable of and whether the goals you’re setting are realistic for you and your capabilities.
Set a Time Limit
Finally, set a time limit in which you’ll reach your goals, and to make it timely, give yourself a goal date — something that’s both realistic and achievable. Running a marathon in four weeks isn’t possible — at least not in a healthy way — but training for one in 6 months is totally possible.
Write It All Down
Don’t expect to keep all of your goals in your head. Write it down and use it as an excuse to stay organized. Organization in one aspect of your life, like your goals, helps you to cope with the rampant disorganization that you will likely encounter in the rest of your life — especially if you have small children at home. Keep a planner with your goal timeline, or put it onto your calendar — on the wall or in Google, your choice. Writing it down helps to make it real.
Tie It to An Emotion
Emotions are powerful things. When you’re setting a goal, try to tie it to an emotion. How will you feel once you’ve accomplished your goal? Use that emotional tie when you’re feeling discouraged or ready to throw in the towel as an anchor that pulls you forward toward eventually achieving that goal.
Break It Up
Remember what we said about reaching for the stars, but doing it in small steps? If your goal is to climb Mount Everest, you don’t start with the biggest mountain on the horizon. Break your goal up into baby steps. They’ll be easier to reach and that feeling of accomplishment — caused by a rush of dopamine, that feel-good chemical in your brain —you get when you check the next step off your to-do list will encourage you to continue.
Make Yourself a Priority
As a parent, it’s easy to put yourself — and your goals — on hold while you take care of your kids or spouse. If you’re setting a goal, make sure you include a rule that says you can make yourself a priority in your pursuit of that goal. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. In reality, it makes you a better parent. Don’t be ashamed of pursuing your goals.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Don’t just keep your goal to yourself. Tell people about it. This is an accountability tool because if you tell someone that you’re working toward a goal, they’re going to ask you about it. If you’re not making any progress, that conversation could be the push you need to get moving again. Hold yourself accountable too.
When you reach one of your goals, treat yourself! You can pick a big reward once you reach your ultimate goal but make sure you’re rewarding yourself along the way. Finishing one step gives you a rush of dopamine — and getting a reward does the same, encouraging you to continue the behaviour.
Bonus: Don’t Give Up
Finally, don’t give up. It’s hard to set goals even when you don’t have kids and a spouse relying on you. Take some time to work toward your own goals. You’ll end up happier and more satisfied with your life, and that in turn will make you a better parent.