Long Term Goals —\> Short Term Actions

I’m a fairly visionary person, and as a result I tend to gravitate toward goals. Nothing feels better than setting a lofty goal and attempting to reach it, right? (Except maybe achieving it :))

But that’s where things get goofy.

I have a difficult time taking a goal, whether it be for the month, quarter, or year, and actually achieving it. So much changes on the way there most of the time. Then I feel bad about not achieving something I said I wanted to do and I feel like a failure.

I’ve tried a variety of ways to act on my goals, from weekly action plans to trying to focus on the habits needed to get there. Nothing quite has stuck!

So a few questions for you today:

  • How have you found success in setting and achieving goals?
  • How do you make your goals actionable day-to-day?

I’d be interested in finding out what works for you all.

I’m answering this assuming you are referring to important / big goals and not “I’d really like to sort my bookshelf alphabetically” type goals.

The simple answer is you don’t actually want or need to achieve those goals. You’d like to achieve them, or it would be nice, or your life would be easier, etc. That isn’t the same. You aren’t willing to give up comfort or better put, you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable to achieve them.

Generally, being motivated by pain, or loss, or a negative will fuel the achievement of big goals. Very few people are able to sustain things purely from the aspirational.

Even in the War of Art by Steven Pressfield (great book, stop now and listen to the audiobook if you haven’t read it), his concept of resistance and overcoming it, is moving away from the pain of not doing a task.

In addition, you need to change your internal vocabulary from “I want to accomplish x” to “I will accomplish X” or better yet “I am accomplishing X”.

On the practical side:

  • Write down your goal - I will achieve x by y.
  • Everyday, when you sit down to journal or start work in the morning, pull that goal out and stare at it. Read it slowly over and over for 5 minutes. Set a timer. Not joking. If you can’t do this step, you aren’t going to keep going when it actually gets hard. Think about that.
  • prioritize it in your week. Whether it is 90 minutes 3 days per week, or an hour every morning, put it in your calendar. Respect it. If your boss puts a meeting in your calendar or gives you a due date, do you ignore it? Why do your wants and needs matter less than your boss?
  • find somebody to keep you accountable if you lack the discipline to do it yourself. Preferably someone who has a mean streak.
  • build systems to achieve things. “how to fail at almost everything and still win big” by Scott Adams has a very simple introduction into systems based thinking if you aren’t familiar with it. The 12 week year is similar, but a bit more obtuse in the definition.

**Edit to add: Stop telling people about your goals. Unless, they are your accountability friend / enemy, keep it to yourself. Telling people your goals is to get validation and that dopamine hit feels like you accomplished the goal just a little bit. It also creates the negative reaction when you do need to pivot away from something and have to “fail” in front of everyone. Pro-tip: Your spouse isn’t your accountability partner.


Sometimes s**t happens and life takes control over our carefully designed plans. Sometimes we just gotta go with the flow. Ain’t nuthin’ we can do 'bout that…

I can barely envision year long goals. I know I have a general direction and create projects that will generally point me in the direction I need to go. It’s one step at a time.

But I do try to have at least one goal activated (at least one Big Rock project for each Area of Responsibility) and I try to schedule at least 5 hours to work on a project (one hour per workday for the week). I’m happy if I can get the entire 5 hours. Sometimes I might go over that 5 hours.

I do have multiple projects running but some projects will take the forefront over others. I’m trying out 5 hours because I might have 4 Big Rock projects which will require 20 hours. Right now, I’m struggling with the 5 hour rule and might drop it to 4 hours per week per Big Rock project. I’ll see if that’s manageable.

Writing one blog post a week will take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on the topic. So I’m still playing with the total number of hours I am spending for Big Rock. I have to devote time to Admin/Maintenance work as well as interruptions. I’d say Admin/Maintenance work and Daily Life Interruptions will consume up to 80% of my time. But if I can stay disciplined to 20% of my time to my Big Rocks/Goals, I think I’m making progress.

I don’t want too many active Big Rock/Goals projects at any one time. So it’s gotta be 1 to 3 Big Rocks per Area of Responsibility (home, family, work). Sometimes I might have to postpone a personal project to take on a big work project like the Christmas retail campaign. So I’ll have to feel the tides to see where I can focus my attention.

I also make sure to celebrate the times when I can hit my 5 hours per week for each Big Rock project. This is assuming I do one hour per day from Monday to Friday. This week, it’ll be at the local frozen yogurt shop with the family!

In summary, measuring the hours or the progress in a goal is important. Then reward yourself mightily for Herculean efforts!

LOL… I never really liked having an accountability partner. It felt like I was boasting too much or sounding like I was a crybaby and needed a hug from someone for failing. Or asking someone to kick me in the pants like a drill sergeant for utterly failing.

I admire those who have the guts to discuss their work publicly. But I don’t know if I can do that. I guess it takes a certain kind of personality to do the public accountability thing.


As someone who’s been an accountibility buddy and has had one, it’s a hard balance. I think they have their place but you need to be bought it.

That being said, I think one of the troubles I have with goals is not properly scoping them. I want long term goals (professional speaker) but then I need to make sure that I make time for them. That’s a hard thing for me at times.

The one thing that helps is breaking goals down into strategies and then tactics. And making sure the tactics are shortest possible time unit. Like practicing speaking 30 minutes a day sort of thing. Or smaller if you can.

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Me too. I work very well at either long-term vision or short term execution, not both.

This is where I tend to want to take too much stuff on at once. It’s hard to just pick one because there are so many things broken or that need improvement. And I often feel like everything outside of my day job is time constricted.

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