Goal Setting: Categorize and Prioritize Your Life Goals - dummies

Goal Setting: Categorize and Prioritize Your Life Goals

By Dirk Zeller

Creating categories for your goals and establishing timeframes to achieve them sharpens your focus and increases your intensity, which can reduce the time required to achieve your goals. It also allows you to quickly and easily see whether your time investment to the various areas of your life as well as the size and difficulty of your goals are appropriately balanced.

The objective isn’t to spread an equal number and depth of goals among the six categories; the aim is to identify whether one or two of the categories is light compared to the others and to determine whether you need to pay more attention to those areas of your life to develop them. In the end, the purpose is to create a well-rounded system of goals that addresses your whole person and that you’ll have the motivation to actually work toward.

Categorize your goals

After you assign a timeframe to each of your 50 goals, your next step is to assign a category to each one. Typically, your goals fall into one of six categories:

C = Career goals

H = Health goals

F = Family goals

M = Money/financial goals

S = Spiritual goals

P = Personal goals

When determining which category each goal falls under, you’ll find that some goals fall naturally in one specific category. A goal to get be promoted to supervisor at work, for example, is an easy C. Other goals, however, aren’t so easy to peg. Going back to school to earn an MBA may be a C for career, but it also may be a P for personal. Place the goal in whichever category you most closely associate with it, or feel free to place some goals in multiple categories.

Draft a list of the 50 goals you want to achieve in the next ten years. Then go back through your list of 50 goals and write the appropriate category letter next to each one. After you label each goal with a category, count the total number of goals you have for each category and record those numbers in the following chart. Then assess the spread of your goals across those categories to see whether they’re well balanced. Are you light on health goals? Should you pay more attention to your spiritual life?

Balance goals
Balance your goals across categories with this chart.

Assign a timeframe to each goal

You can have anything you want; you just can’t have it all at once and all right now. Just because you establish a goal to lose 20 pounds doesn’t mean you’ll wake up tomorrow with 20 pounds missing from your body. Realizing your goal involves a process that requires specific activity and time.

Remember that your fabulous 50 list names goals that you want to accomplish within the next 10 years. That said, you may want to see some of them come to fruition much earlier. Some may be immediate — just a year away. Others may require you to first achieve some intermediate goals. For instance, say your goal is to double your income within 3 years. You know you’re unlikely to receive anywhere close to a 100-percent raise at your current job, so you start exploring other options: a new job that pays more and has a fast-track career path, a second job, freelance or contract projects that you can do on your off-hours, or a real-estate investment that brings in rental income.

Go back through your list of 50 goals and write a 1, 3, 5, or 10 next to each goal to indicate whether you want to achieve that goal within 1, 3, 5, or 10 years.

When you start thinking about the time you need to attain your goals, make sure you’re being reasonable. Whether or not the timeframe for your goals is reasonable depends entirely on your situation. To help you stay on track, follow these steps:

  1. Consider the timeframe you’d ideally like to accomplish this goal. Would you be happy if you accomplished it one year or even three years later than your ideal, or are you intent on accomplishing it by a certain time?
  2. Assess the complexity of the goal.
  3. Determine what new knowledge or other resources you may need to accomplish the goal.
  4. Consider what timeframe someone else needed to accomplish a similar goal.

After you label each goal with a timeframe, tally up the number of goals you have for each time slot and record those totals in the following table. Then assess the spread of your goals across those timeframes to see whether they’re well balanced.

Goals timeframe
Use this table to tally your goals for each timeframe.

Especially when finances are involved, keep in mind that you should enjoy the process of working toward your goals. Although planning for the future is important, you’re guaranteed only the present. You don’t want to rob yourself of all enjoyment now. Better to live a balanced life while you implement your plan and adjust it as needed when circumstances throw you for a loop.