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It’s January, and you know what that means. Everywhere you look, people are making resolutions and setting goals and talking about all the great things they’re going to do this year.
Unfortunately, most people will fall far short of the goals they set. Too many people set themselves up for failure before they ever begin, but if you know how to set good goals for yourself, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
In this post, we take a look at how you can improve your goal setting to give yourself the best chance of real growth and improvement in the coming year. Of course, these tips aren’t limited to January or blogging – you can use them to help yourself improve in any area of life.
1 | Make it a measurable goal.
Don’t just say, “I want to grow my blog,” or “I want to get better about promoting my site on Pinterest.” It’s not helpful, and it becomes really hard to figure out if you’re reaching the goal or not, and whether you should be doing more.
Maybe you buy and finish half of a Pinterest course in February, and you manage to pin steadily for a few weeks. Is that better than last year? Who knows? It’s tough to compare vague actions.
Growing your blog is more measurable thanks to Google Analytics, but it’s still a pretty terrible goal. “I want to double my blog traffic this year,” is an improvement, but it could be much better…
2 | Focus on the input rather than the result.
Results are great. We all want results, and it’s good to have results in mind – but in many cases, they’re not entirely within our control.
Take, for example, blog traffic. Suppose your goal this year is to double your traffic. To that end, you’re scheduling more Pinterest and Facebook posts, sending out more emails, increasing post frequency, and working on your SEO. For the first few months of the year, it’s looking like you’re on track to reach your goal.
Unfortunately, halfway through the year, there’s a Google update that wipes out 40% of your search traffic. Then, inexplicably, your Pinterest traffic drops. A month later, Facebook reduces organic reach and you lose another 10% of your total traffic.
All that time, you’ve been doing the right things, but you end the year at the same place you started. You had one goal, you worked your tail off, and you failed miserably.
Success takes time, but if you’re doing the work, it’s all but guaranteed you’ll eventually see some form of it. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick the timeline. Sometimes, the winds are working in our favor and everything just works out. Other times, it seems like everything that CAN go wrong DOES go wrong. During those times, we’re still doing the work and building new skills and resilience, but it can feel like huge failure.
You don’t necessarily have to abandon results-based goals, but I would encourage you to put the majority of your effort and focus into goals you can control.
- I will finish two posts each week for my blog.
- I will schedule 25 Pinterest posts/day.
- I will send one email newsletter each week.
- I will complete one product for my readers by the end of the year.
These are the kinds of goals that drive big results – but they focus on the things you can measure and control. You don’t have to worry about seasonality in traffic patterns and whether a November/December search downturn will leave you short of your goal.
You’re putting in the effort and doing the work – while recognizing that you don’t have any control over the algorithms of search engines and social networks. Even if you don’t manage to double your traffic, you’ll feel accomplished because you’re focused on all that you accomplished. Trust in the process.
3 | Connect your goal with an outcome.
Rather than making the outcome the goal, draw a line between your goal actions and the expected goal outcomes. Doubling traffic may not be the goal, but it’s still important to think of it as the desired outcome from your posting and promotional efforts. Judge yourself on the work you do to achieve the individual goals, but motivate yourself with the desired outcome.
Many people find it helpful to visualize themselves in the “outcome state”, imagining all the little details of what it would be like if you achieved what you hope to achieve. If you find that useful, go for it. It can be very motivating during those low periods when everything feels like an uphill battle.
4 | Be ambitious, but realistic.
Your goal should be challenging and motivating, but also realistic and achievable. If you’re working full-time and taking care of a family, it’s probably not realistic to write an in-depth blog post every single day. Kids will get sick, disasters will happen, and life will get messy.
When you set a goal that’s way outside your capabilities, you’ll feel frustrated and inadequate. Some part of you will know it’s not going to happen, and as a result, you won’t apply your full effort.
On the other hand, your goal shouldn’t be too easy. It needs to be a bit of a stretch, and it needs to be something that can excite you with its possibilities.
5 | Break it up and add time constraints.
Instead of saying, “I’m going to write 200 blog posts,” try, “I’m going to write 4 blog posts each week and hit 200 blog posts for the year (with an 8-post buffer).”
Instead of, “I’m going to launch and grow 2 new websites this year,” lay out a plan, then assign dates to all the little chunks.
Big tasks are overwhelming and hard to wrap your head around, but a process with clearly defined deadlines makes it infinitely easier to achieve your goals. It also makes it easier to ensure that the goals you’ve laid out are achievable within a reasonable timeline.
6 | Assess your present reality.
In “The Thin Green Line”, there’s a quote that will really hit home for some people. One of the people interviewed about wealth said, “Your goal does not match your current reality.”
It’s a common problem because it’s SO easy to imagine a future where things are great, but it’s much harder to actually chart the path between today’s reality and where you hope to be at some point in the future.
Even if you’ve set good goals, it’s a good idea to schedule an occasional self-assessment to figure out whether your current reality is the state that’s going to get you where you want to be. If your entire plan hinges on a change you’ll make in the future, be honest. You’re not on the right path.
7 | Keep it to yourself.
While it might seem like sharing your goals will make you more accountable, studies suggest that’s mostly untrue.
- Paul Gollwitzer of NYU published a 2009 study that suggested the simple act of sharing an “identity” goal would make you less likely to achieve it. When you share and get acknowledgement of what you’re doing, a part of your brain decides you’ve already achieved the desired outcome…and you’re less likely to work hard at the goal.
- Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago found that beginners are more likely to be discouraged and give up in the face of negative feedback. By sharing your goals, you’re opening yourself up to feedback you really don’t need in the early stages of your efforts (especially if you’re getting feedback from people who don’t know what they’re talking about in the first place).
- In some situations, accountability partners can actually decrease your motivation. A study by Michael Enzle and Sharon Anderson found that when test subjects were told they were being monitored for compliance or evaluation, intrinsic motivation decreased.
There are ways to work around the problems of motivation and goal-sharing, but for most people, it’s just easier to keep quiet and focus on the process. Why open yourself up to extra criticism unless it’s from someone who’s in a position to give really good advice or help you in some other way?
Whatever methods you use to get from point A to B in your blogging career, we wish you the best with your efforts. If you need a little extra help and motivation, sign up for our newsletter below.
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