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5 Steps to Achieve Your Goals

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Once you’ve set goals – see this post and this one – you need to turn your attention to what you must do. These 5 steps to achieve your goals will help you turn your goals into plans.

This – the plans, the steps, the “what do I do now” – is where the real magic of goal-setting begins. It’s also where the real work begins.

Turning Goals Into Plans

Up to now, everything has been easy. You’ve prayed, reflected, evaluated, dreamed, categorized, ranked, and finally chosen your goals. Those tasks were time-consuming, challenging, and valuable. But, as important as they are, nothing in your life has actually changed yet. To reach your goals, now you must get to work.

You must take your written goals and turn them into actual plans. That’s what we’ll walk through today.

This is the third in a series on goal setting. If you’ve missed the first two, read 4 Easy Steps for Goal-Setting and Great Steps in the Goal-Setting Process. You might also want to check out The First Step in Goal-Setting.

If you’ve gone through that process, you have created a few goals and written one simple sentence for each goal. Turning those goals into plans you will follow includes a few steps which are explained below.

Before you start, however, I just want to encourage you to stick with it. All this goal-setting and planning means nothing if you give up after two weeks. Change of any sort takes time. Remember why you want to reach your goals and enlist help to hold you accountable. It is worth it!

One Goal at a Time

turning goals into plans

No, I don’t mean you can only focus on achieving one goal at a time. What I do mean is that you need to work through this process of turning goals into plans by focusing on making plans for only one goal at a time. Then, when you have at least a skeleton plan in place for Goal #1, move on to Goal #2.

Since you are focusing on just one goal at a time, choose the one that is most important to you first. Choose the goal that

  • would most change your life.
  • would make you the happiest to achieve.
  • would still leave you feeling satisfied and accomplished, even if you didn’t meet any other goals this year.
  • would move you closest to your ideal life

Got your goal selected? Great – let’s get to work!

First Step to Achieve Your Goals: Be Prepared

Before you sit down to map out your plan, get your supplies. Nothing is more frustrating than having to jump up again and again for a pen that works, a calendar (or three), notepads, or your journal. If you’re a paper-and-pen girl, get all the things. If you’re a digital diva, have all the devices! If, like me, you’re a combination, everything you use and get to work

Supplies you might want:

  • Your list of goals
  • Paper for writing thoughts & scratching out rough ideas
  • Pen or pencil
  • Calendar – physical or digital
  • Family calendars, such as school, work, or holiday
  • Stickers, colored markers, or other planning tools that make you smile

Second Step to Achieve Your Goals: Ask Probing Questions

Answering questions you ask yourself helps you think through what reaching one goal will involve. Allow yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed. Good plans involve thought and thinking is ignited by questions. Also, remember – write down your answers! Don’t just answer in your head. You’ll forget your thoughts, but if you have them written down, it doesn’t matter.

The clearer you are on how you are going to reach your goal, the more likely you are to stick with your plan and achieve that goal. Abraham Lincoln said, “A goal well set is half achieved.” So, answer the questions below – and others if needed – and then map out your plan.

All the questions are here, but will also be discussed in detail as we go along.

Questions to Ask

  • What do I need to do to reach this goal? Be specific and brainstorm as much as possible
  • In what order should these steps be done?
  • Do any of these steps have a hard and fast due date?
  • How much time will each step take?
  • What other responsibilities do I need to consider in my planning?
  • What obstacles might I encounter? From myself? From others?
  • How will I regroup if I get off-track?
  • What supplies will I need to complete each step?
  • If I need to purchase something, what funds will I use?

Third Step to Achieve Your Goals: Know What Needs to Happen & When

For this step, you will focus only on the answers to these questions:

  • What steps will it take to reach this goal?
  • In what order should the steps be done?
  • Do any of these steps have a hard and fast due date?
  • How much time will each step take?
  • What other responsibilities do I need to consider in my planning?

Brainstorm How to Reach Your Goal

Without judging or discarding any thoughts, list as many “to-do items as you can think of that are necessary to reach your goal. Don’t worry about what order they need to be done, if some are not needed, or if some are actually the same thing stated in different ways. Just list everything you think of.

I find the best way to do this is on scratch paper or notepads. There’s something about the physical act of writing that seems to get the creative juices flowing better than typing on a computer does.

When you’re done, take a 15-minute break, go for a walk, or do something else physical (housework? lawn care?) Then come back, read your list, and add anything else that occurs to you.

For example, if your goal is to preserve enough food to last your family at least nine months, you might list these steps:

  • Plant a garden.
  • Join a local farm co-op.
  • Buy a large freezer.
  • Learn about canning, making pickles, and making jams.
  • Preserve veggies on the same day they are harvested.
  • Determine how much of each vegetable, fruit, jam, or pickle your family will need for nine months.
  • Buy necessary supplies for canning and freezing.

Note, these were written in the order they occurred to me and may need to be re-ordered. Some steps may also need to be broken down into more steps.

For example, “plant a garden” might include these steps:

  • Research planting a garden
  • Research what to plant and when to start seeds or transplant seedlings
  • Till the soil
  • Prepare the soil by adding nutrients as needed
  • Buy seeds or seedlings at the right time
  • Build a fence around the garden to protect the garden from deer and rabbits

By now, you should be getting the idea – be as specific as possible in brainstorming your steps. And don’t worry about the order.

Put Your Ideas in Order

First, you will want to re-read your answers. Again. Add to the list if you need to. You want this list to be as complete as possible.

Once you’re happy with your list, put the steps in the order they should be accomplished and assign each step, or mini-goal, a due date.

Using the example above, a possible order could be:

  • Plant a garden.
    • Research what to plant and when to start seeds or transplant seedlings
    • Research planting a garden
    • Till the soil
    • Prepare the soil by adding nutrients as needed
    • Buy seeds or seedlings at the right time
  • Learn about canning, making pickles, and making jams.
  • Determine how much of each vegetable, fruit, jam, or pickle your family will need for nine months.
  • Build a fence around the garden to protect the garden from deer and rabbits
  • Buy necessary supplies for canning and freezing.
  • Preserve veggies on the same day they are harvested.
  • Buy a large freezer.
  • Join a local farm co-op.

You could even decide some steps are not needed. Or at least, that some need to be postponed. In the example above, you may choose to put off buying a freezer or joining a coop.

Or you could choose to set a goal for your first gardening year of just learning as much as possible. And put the preserving goal two or three years in the future.

Assign Due Dates

Back to the original goal of preserving nine months of food. If the growing season is over in your area by mid-October, then that would be a natural due date to achieve your big goal of preserving enough food for nine months. Working backward from there, you would give due dates to every step on the way to that big goal.

Every step on your list should have a due date. But DON’T obsess about the dates. Almost anything that is more than 3 or 4 weeks away can probably be shifted a little if necessary. Stretch that to 6 weeks at the most.

Then treat the closer due dates as immovable. Maybe if you’re in the hospital – or a family member is – you can shift your due date. Or something equally serious.

Because this is the thing about life: there is NEVER a good time to work on your goals. Life will always be throwing you curve balls. You have to learn to prioritize and adjust “on the fly” or you’ll never make progress.

What that looks like in real life is different for everyone. But here’s an example:

  • You have a hard due date of February 1 for finishing your research on which freezer to buy because I want to get one during President’s Day sales.
  • The last week of January showed up with an ice storm that kept the kids home and you with less free time and flexibility.
  • Because you know your due date is coming up, you pivot from your “research while the kids are in school” to “it’s movie marathon day” with the Shrek movies. And do your research on the couch while the kids are snacking in the tent-made-of-sheets and watching the green ogre find true love.
turning goals into plans

Life happened and you adjusted. The due date is still met. Yes, it’s an easy fix and a simple example, but the principle is sound. Just commit to meeting those dates, no matter how many times you have to pivot.

Other times you might have to pivot, that don’t involve weather, could include:

  • a child getting sick and you being up all night
  • your husband’s factory going on strike and having reduced income
  • a car accident leaving you with only one vehicle to drive
  • your washing machine finally gave up the ghost and needs to be replaced – putting the freezer purchase on the back burner. What will you do instead? Pressure canning? Get a dehydrator?
  • technological issues that drive you crazy and throw you off course (one of my most frequent “pivot” moments)

Sometimes your due dates will truly be immovable. In those cases, aim to complete the step well ahead of the due date. Examples of these include:

  • you want to enroll in a sewing class that begins October 1
  • you want to attend a homeschooling conference at the cheapest (early registration) price
  • your church is having a class on apologetics for parents that you think is critical – but class size is limited – so you sign up as soon as possible

Two key rules for due dates:

  • Pivot only when absolutely necessary.
  • If a due date is truly immovable, complete that step as early as possible.

Use Your Calendar. And INK.

Using your steps and due dates, get out your calendar and start penciling them in. I say “penciling” because, as you are writing you may discover that you put a due date for step 5 on the same day as your family returns from vacation. That might need to be adjusted.

Because some tweaking is usually necessary, I do this calendaring on paper. In pencil. With an eraser handy.

However, once the tweaking is done, my 6-week due dates go into my digital calendar AND my paper planner. In ink. Where I can see them all the time. When necessary, I set up reminders in my digital calendar.

What About All Those Other Questions?

Well, the planning work is done. Everything is planned out and on your calendar. There are just a few more things you need to do to set yourself up for success. And that’s where the last few questions come in. As a reminder, here they are:

  • What obstacles might I encounter? From myself? From others?
  • How will I regroup if I get off-track?
  • What supplies will I need to complete each step?
  • If I need to purchase something, what funds will I use?

How Will You Handle Obstacles?

It doesn’t matter what your goal is, you will face obstacles. From yourself and from others. Here are just a few obstacles you might encounter along with some ideas for handling them.

From Yourself

  • Bad attitude and negative thinking.
    • Have reminders posted around your home to encourage yourself.
  • Laziness – be honest with yourself!
    • Use your phone alarms and timers frequently – set two or three when necessary.
  • Allergy season draining your energy.
    • Stock up on your meds before allergy season hits and eat healthier & drink more water.
  • Overcommitments to other people.
    • Learn to say no.
  • Disorganization
    • Get and use a planner.

From Others

  • Required overtime at work.
    • Pivot your due dates and work time, turning off TV & social media to work on goals.
  • Holiday sweets & birthday cakes.
    • Tell everyone in advance that you WILL NOT be eating any sweets – no matter what the occasion. If anyone tries to get you to cave, ask them why they would want you to fail in meeting your goal.
  • Lack of encouragement or support
    • Pray for encouraging friends – and then start talking to new people. Remember: to have a friend, be a friend.
  • Naysayers “You’ll never do that.”
    • Walk away and say out loud to yourself “Yes I will.”

Do You Need Special Equipment or Tools?

If your answer to this question is ‘yes,’ then you need to plan on how, when, and with what you will acquire those items. In our gardening example, a tiller might be needed but could be rented for just one day.

But if your goal is to master photography with a DSLR camera, you might have to buy a DSLR camera first. You will probably need it fairly soon, so begin putting out feelers to friends or acquaintances who might have one they don’t use. Begin looking at online marketplaces or resale shops. Or – if you have the funds – shopping around on different sites, looking for the best price and the features you want.

Will this purchase be with the money you already have? Or can you barter for a friend’s old camera? Will you set a goal of saving X for three months before you purchase so you can get the best possible camera at the highest price you can afford?

Only you – and your husband if you’re married – can answer these questions. Don’t just assume the only way to get what you need is to buy new. Explore other options.

Time to Get to Work


You have worked through the entire goal-setting process. You started with creating a vision in 4 Easy Steps for Goal-Setitng. Then you moved on to taking your dreams and turning them into just a few goals to focus on in the goal-setting process. Finally, you have worked on turning your goals into plans today.

Now you have a plan. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. But first, go have a cup of tea (or coffee) and savor your success in getting this far!

turning goals into plans
Are you craving change this year? You can have it by making goals and then turning those goals into plans. Get started today!
Turning your goals into plans
Goals and how to turn them into plans
Turning your goals into plans

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