Map your Battle Plan: Addendum
This is an addition to a five part series. To read the whole series go here.
There’s been a lot written about goals and goal setting, and some of it is pretty good. Some not so much. We’re not here to rehash what everyone else has already written. You know you need goals. You may have even tried your hand at setting some goals, but failed with them. This article is not about convincing you to do what you already know you need to do. This article is almost the opposite.
You are likely in two groups, those that have never tried to set goals, and those that did and failed. If you’re new to goal setting, this is the place for you. If you failed before, this is the place for you. If you are in the third group and came looking to refine your process, this is the place for you. If you believe goal setting is BS, not so much the place for you.
The problem with other places that talk about goals is they are either too vague to be of use, or too limiting. One size does not fit all. One approach will not work for everyone – in fact, some processes are a guaranteed fail for some people. In regards to goal setting we teach two, some would say, conflicting processes as part of the Reclaimed Goal Method. These processes can be used separately, hitting the end of the spectrum that works best for you, or together as we use them.
On the one end you have people who have so much going on that adding goals is like stoking the fire. How can you add goals and prioritize when you’re already doing 8 priority (meaning the most important) projects? Adding the standard goal setting process to this is like taking a bonfire and dropping napalm on it, the firestorm that follows only ends when everything – including you – are burned up. In such a case you actually need to pare down and sharpen the focus. Until less than a hundred years ago a priority was a singular term, today it’s a pluralized word. You can’t have 8 things that are all the #1 most important thing. For such situations we recommend our Sniper method. It’s time to bring your list of top most #1 projects down to a more manageable load. We’re going to pick off specific targets.
On the other end you have people who have no particular goal, and not really any priorities. They kind of drift through life, unfocused and unguided. They kind of wait around for their ship to come in, but they never sent one out. Whereas the other group are overloaded with direction, this group all but has none. The conventional goal setting methods don’t really work here, because ultimately there’s no real place to start. Goals here are often expressed as dreams and wishes, less like goals. A vague notion like wanting to lose weight, but no real goal to reach. For this group we recommend our Shotgun method. It’s time to broaden your view and your reach.
Everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum between these two poles between too broad of a focus to no focus. Few fall right in the middle, and for those that do we suggest the hybrid method (I like to refer to it as the Railgun Method). For everyone else, absolutely avoid at all costs the method of the opposite side of the spectrum. For someone with a broad list of priorities to use the Shotgun method will only add to the list of priorities and burn you up exponentially faster.
Whichever method you choose, determining the goals and setting them is only the start of the process. This is where most methods stop, leaving you to find your way to the end. It should be easy enough, they got you started, right? The start of the process is one of the simplest parts of the process. How you get there, how you execute your goal list, and how you finish are equally important. That’s why this part of the battle plan was left to the last. Without the rest of the process, making goals is just empty words.
Lock & Load
The Shotgun Method
For some goal setting needs to be refined and laser focused, for others a shotgun strategy is best. Ultimately for those that are drifting through life with no goals, and no idea what goals to set it’s a win to just get a goal set. But, you can do better than that. We provide here a broader structure for you to develop, plan, and set your goals. The core of this method is a modification of Zig Zigler’s Wheel of Life, and we have no shame in saying we borrowed very heavily from it.
First, you’ll need a sheet of paper, pen or pencil, and a quiet place to work. Don’t do this on a computer, actually feel the pen in your fingers, the paper under your palm, and the flow of the ink onto the page. You can put it on a computer later if you like, but start with paper.
On the page create 7 categories, with at least 4 spaces below each header, but no more than 11 (you’ll leave an empty space between each category so they don’t get meshed together). Now create each section with the following headings:
Intellectual or Growth
Now comes the work. Pick a category (doesn’t matter which one) and sit for a moment. Visualize yourself 5-10 years in the future. In that area of your life, what have you accomplished? What did you want to do? See yourself in that time, 5-10 years from now, and see the future you want to create. Now, write it down. What do you have to do to make that vision a reality? Did you see yourself on the stage, a world-class ballerina? Your goal then is to be that. How do you get there? What is required of you to make it happen? Write down at least three goals in this category, but no more than 10. If you are cranking out more than 10 in one area you’re not visualizing, your dreaming. Or you need to be on the Sniper Method to refine your focus.
Once you have a minimum of 3 items in that category, repeat the process with another area, and then another, and another, until you have made it through all of them.
Some notes on the categories. Career is what you do to bring in money. Your job, side hustles, etc. If it’s bringing you in money that’s not from an investment, it goes in Career. Similarly, if you are looking at training that will advance an item in your career it goes in Career. Career is what brings in the money, Financial is what you do with it. There is absolutely no goal worth setting or a future of any significance if Finances are not included in it. Unless your goal is to work until you die. Intellectual is what fuels your brain. Learning a new language, experiencing new worlds via books (TV does not count), taking a community college course on cooking, just because. Spiritual is what fuels the soul. The most common goals here are to learn to meditate and/or to attend church more often. But for you it may include a vacation to see the breathtaking awesomeness of the Sahara. Pack plenty of water.
After you have made it through all 7 areas of life, take short break. When you come back, look at the list. Pick any category and prioritize the goals you set. Which one is most important, and which one can wait a bit. Which need other goals to be finished before they can be realized? Now, get a new sheet of paper. Pick a category and start with your highest priority there. Take whatever you wrote and turn it into a S.M.A.R.T. goal. If you don’t know what that is, Google it. Your goal must be actionable. A very common goal that is an automatic dead end is “lose weight”. It’s by far the most common New Years’ Resolution. And, as long as by the end of the year you are a pound less than you started the year, you met that goal. But it got you nowhere. Make each of your ideas in the category into a true goal. Once finished move to another category and repeat the process. Go through each category until it is finished, and finish all the categories.
That’s a lot of stuff on that paper, isn’t it?
Don’t worry, you’re not doing it all, because you’re not done. Go through each category, each goal, and select any that can be put into your Daily Grind. Write those on the back of the page. Common ones for this are losing weight (something that you work at over the long haul, but needs no real planning after you start) and learning a new language.
Next, select any goals that can be completed in a week. There’s a good chance you have at least one. Do that goal now. Clear it off the list, get an easy win and be done with it.
Now, for the hard part. Yes, that other stuff was easier than this step. Go through all your goals in each category and pick 5 of them. If you settle for 3 or 4, that’s fine, it’s a start. If you push it to 6 you are pushing it, but can probably manage it. Absolutely no more than 6, but 5 is the magic number. They should not all be in the same category, pull from at least 3 areas of life.
These are your goals.
All those others, except what is going into the Daily Grind, is on hold. They will wait their turn to see realization in the due course of time. For the goals you are currently working on, pick one to start with. Break it down to small actionable tasks. If the goal is a yearlong task, what must you do by the 6 month mark to accomplish it? What must you do this quarter (3 months)? This month? This week? After you’ve figured it all out, do the same to the other goals. You will now take your first goal and sit down with a calendar and put the tasks you must do now on the calendar, in week-long blocks, starting in a week. Put nothing from this first task on this week, this week is already claimed. Focus only on the week, but do have a mind on future tasks. If it’s not one the calendar, it’ won’t get done. (If you are not currently checking your calendar regularly and using it to plan your day, start. Today.)
For this first week you will start by creating and implementing your Daily Grind. Each day evaluate and adjust the Grind until you get it worked out, then you can move on. Starting out you will do just one goal, focusing only on it and maintaining your Daily Grind. After 1-2 weeks you can add another goal, again focusing on the Daily Grind, the first goal, and this new goal. You continue with this process, slowly ramping up and adding goals every 1-2 weeks until you have all 5 active and on the calendar.
At some point you will finish a goal. Celebrate. Continue with the other 4, but for that 5th goal take a week off. After that week take a little time to reassess your full list, and what you’ve done the last week. You may find that some goals are no longer relevant. Others may now be more important. During your review you may decide that you got a lot of progress with just the 4 goals to work on and determine to hold off on adding a new one. This is fine. Do not be afraid to adjust and alter the method to your needs. In fact, I insist on it. Just be sure not to overwhelm yourself with too many goals and too much going on. The average person can normally only manage 5 large goals at a time. If you are ready to add in another goal, do so as you did with the ones currently active.
The Sniper Method
The core of this method is reportedly from Warren Buffett. I don’t know for sure if it actually is, but it is the base that we built our own method from, but with some key changes. This method of goal setting is meant to refine your view and narrow your focus for when you are overloaded with too much to do.
To begin, pull out a sheet of paper and a pen or a pencil. Do this on paper, not a computer. On the page write down all the things you want to accomplish in your life. At least 25. Nothing is off the table. Don’t limit the list because you don’t have the time or money, or you have no training in it. If you want to be a world-class ballerina and have never stepped foot in a dance studio, doesn’t matter, put it on the list. For many of you you’ll have no problem jotting down 10-15 items without effort. For some you’ll stall out around 20. Keep processing the goals until you reach at least 25. Often that last few are deep in your heart, long desired items that have been held back in your mind that can now finally come out. However, for some the last few are like: “I don’t know, go on a vacation or something”.
Now, you are going to organize this mess you just dumped on the paper. Pull out another piece of paper. The first step is to look over the list and find anything that can be accomplished in a week. For example, “fix my bike so I can get back into riding” isn’t a lengthy goal like world-class ballerina. Anything that can be done in a week goes at the top of the new page. Doesn’t matter in what order, just put them at the top.
Next, identify anything that can be put into your Daily Grind. The classic goal here is “lose weight”. It’s something that you hack away at over time, but don’t need to put a lot of direct work into. It’s perfect for the Daily Grind. Put those items on the back of the new page for safe keeping for now.
If you have more than 15 items in the week tasks and the Daily Grind, you need to stop here and go to the Shotgun Method. OR redo your list, you set the bar too low. Now, on the front of the page, leave a space between your first list of items to finish in a week, and your new list. Take all the items left on your old list and prioritize them 1-25 (or however many you have left). You can only have one #1 highest priority. I know, society says otherwise, but they’re wrong. You can only walk in one direction at a time. Once you have your list prioritized, write it down on the new page. After your first 5 goals, draw a line to separate the first 5 from the rest.
Now, everything at the top of the page that can be done in a week, do them. Only work on two at a time, no more. If one of them is held pending the next step (waiting on someone to reply to an email, waiting for the next time you are able to visit the hardware store, etc.) bring another on the list up and clear it off. If you break the goal down and realize it can’t be done in a week after all, move it to the other list where it should fit by priority. Clear that list off. No exceptions. Clearing this list in this method may actually take longer than a week, but each goal should not. Once that part of the list is cleared out we move on to the main list.
The top 5 goals above the line are now your life. These are your goals – your ONLY goals. Everything below the line is not what you work on when you have time, it is what you will NOT do. Any time spent on items below the line is time you’ve stolen from the top 5. Some of you may now be panicking a little because #6 or #7 were important goals, and how can you ignore them? This may be a time to reprioritize your list.
A caveat here: it may be that an item below the line may get cleared because of an item above the line, or from a random event that came up in your life. This is fine. For example, in my own life a goal I had was to achieve my next grading in iaido (a Japanese sword martial art). A goal below the line was to travel to Japan. As it so happens to grade in my style of iaido requires going to Japan to do it. The people who can grade me are there, so there I must go. A top 5 goal inadvertently clears off a lower goal. It’s okay in this case to use the grading trip and extend my time there to see more of Japan. So, just because it’s below the line doesn’t mean you go out of your way to avoid it. But you don’t put effort into it.
From here, take your top 5 and break them down to smaller steps to achieve. Turn them into S.M.A.R.T. goals, with actionable steps. If you don’t know what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is, Google it. Once you broke it down to smaller, actionable steps, put them on the calendar and begin.
Once you have accomplished a goal, or if one is on a long-term (6 month + ) hold move to the next on the list. You may need to skip goal #6 for goal #7 if #6 will take a considerable amount of time and #7 can be cleared while the other goal is on hold.
I suggest that each time you clear a goal you review the list. You may find you need to reprioritize your lower goals and move a different one up. It happens that life changes, and sometimes those changes impact the importance of a goal. For example, a goal to take your girl/boyfriend on a trip to Brazil, where they had always wanted to go (hopefully you do, too), that had been sitting at #7 waiting on you may not be as important if the two of you are on a hiatus in your relationship. Or, may need to jump higher on the list if you’re looking at getting married as it would make for a great honeymoon. And it would clear an item off your list. Likewise, you may find that you may need to add new items to the list.
Eventually, if you are diligent and work through the process, you may come to the point where you are pretty far down the list. When you reach the point that you have 10 or less goals below the line, it’s time to redo the entire thing. Take out a new piece of paper and go through the entire process again. And do not be surprised that, as you go through the process again, items currently on your old list are no longer of enough interest to make it to the new list.
Now, you have your goals, prioritized and ordered. You know what to do, and how to get there, and you’ve narrowed your focus from a nuclear bomb to a sniper round. It’s now time to move those items on the back of the page and work them into your Daily Grind.
If you are new to goal setting, turn back now. This is not for you. Utilize one of the above methods first.
A railgun is a weapon that works on a very simple principle: take a projectile and launch it at insane speeds. A lead slug the size of a finger traveling at 3,000 m/s has enough kinetic energy to make your house not exist. It’s an incredibly powerful, and accurate weapon. And we’re using it for your goals by combining and modifying the Shotgun and Sniper methods.
In general, the two methods are done the same. You sit down with a piece of paper and you just start pouring out goals. Big, small, intermediate. Money and time are not limiting factors, nothing is left off the paper. If you really get into this, you’ll have a long list.
Take your list and group the goals into four types: those that can be done in a week, those that should be in the Daily Grind, short term goals (can be completed in less than 3 years max.), and long term goals (longer than 3 years to accomplish). Goals that you really can’t decide if they are short or long term go in long term unless it’s “get out of debt” – if done right it will take far less time than you think.
Weeklong or less goals we do now, just like in the other methods. We don’t move on the rest until they are done. You may find you have more Daily Grind goals than you have time. Keep a full list of them. Not everything in the Grind stays there. For example, one of my goals is to learn Japanese (to elementary level, and then conversational level), and in my grind I spend 10-15 minutes each night studying Japanese. When I reach the first level I’ll take a break and remove it from my grind, making room for something else. This is part of the course correcting process outlined already. So now we just have short term and long term goals.
Short Range Shotgun
Take all your short term goals and put them into the 7 categories of the Shotgun: Family, Social, Career, Financial, Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical (I break family down into marriage, daughter, and extended family, as they are important enough to get separate consideration). Then prioritize each list in each category. And one more step, prioritize the categories. Not how you’ll feel about them in a year or three, but right now, at this moment. Marriage going south? Family should be high priority. If it’s not, put “see a divorce lawyer” on your weeklong goal list. If it’s not worth saving, be done with it.
Now that we have priorities on top of priorities, we can begin. Take one, no more than two items from the top four categories. These are the goals you will focus on, and no more. That’s 4-8 goals max. After doing this you may decide to redo the process, as you just discovered items not on the new list should be. That’s fine, be sure it’s the list it should be. Everything not on the list doesn’t exist. We don’t touch it, don’t consider it, don’t acknowledge it’s presence. Only those goals we’ve chosen and no more. And absolutely no more than two goals per category. If you’re chasing 8 goals in Career (like many people try to do), you will likely never accomplish any well.
When you get close to finishing a goal, prep another in the que.
Long Term Sniper
With our long-term goals we’re going to do something different. Take all your long-term goals and prioritize them. If the list is longer than 25, that’s fine. As long as it’s longer than 10. Long-term goals tend to be a mixed bag: either they are start and stop goals as you wait on other people or certain times, or are things that really should be in the grind. Some, however, fit that middle ground. And some are long-term goals because it’s can’t happen yet (a 16 year old with the goal to sample all the wines in Napa will have to wait a bit). This last type needs to be lower on the list.
With our list prioritized, we’re going to take a moment and see just how we are feeling, and take true stock of our situation. If you picked a lot of short-term goals or are feeling a little overwhelmed by the process, draw a line after the second goal. If you went with a low number of short-term goals, draw a line after the third goal. That which is above the line we work on, that which is below doesn’t exist. Take your two or three long-term goals, and break them down and work them into your system. Between short-term and long-term you should have no more than 10 goals.
With the Shotgun method you may be working on 20 different goals. They are of different aspects of your life and different lengths of time. With the Sniper method you have 5 to keep a high focus on. With either of these methods it’s a mixed bag on if they are short and long term goals. The Railgun method caps you at no more than 10, and they cover the spectrum in time and areas of your life. However, to use it well takes a fair amount of work and planning (especially at the beginning). It’s very powerful, if you know how to use it right. If not, you just might blow yourself up.
Choose your weapon well.