What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? A dream is often a blurred vision, missing one key element: a plan. Together with a coherent plan and a progress tracker, a dream can become an achievable goal. This is where a proper goal setting worksheet comes into play.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso
You may have come across the term “smart goal”. This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Once these elements are combined, any goal becomes a practical to-do as opposed to an abstract concept.
To make your life easier, I’ve devised a template on which you can build your smart goals worksheet. This goal setting workbook covers the ins and out of your planning as well as a highly efficient progress tracker.
The ultimate goal setting worksheet
Any fruitful goal setting template has 4 major components. You start your project with a vision. This vision can be a dream or a simple idea – preceding the practical part.
Once the goal is defined, start by breaking it down into smaller steps before integrating these steps into a clear goal planning worksheet. Finally, keeping track of the progress along the way will ensure that nothing is neglected.
The start: a vision
We all have ideas in our heads. Becoming fluent in a new language, increasing our income, or learning new skills are common wishes and often very attainable.
The challenge generally revolves around our motivation. Once we believe that our goals are ambitious but realistic, we obtain the proper incentive to prioritize our vision. This will enable us to concentrate our efforts and energy on one goal at a time.
How do we go from mental prioritization to material action? We need a concrete road map.
It all starts with envisioning the final result and adding a deadline. Adding a deadline is a crucial step toward transforming the vision from an abstract idea into a clear-cut plan.
For example, the vision could include being fluent in Spanish 6 months from now. Having clearly defined the target, we can move on to the practical part and divide the main objective into different stages.
The continuation: dividing the vision
Once the final result and the timeline are set out, we need to break the goal down into smaller steps. This will create a blueprint and enable us to build on small wins. It will also guarantee constant follow-ups and reduce the risk of neglecting our goals on a daily basis.
Personally, I favor a two-fold breakdown of the plan. This involves splitting the plan into minor and major steps. While the major steps will constitute important milestones, the minor targets will offer evaluation bases in the short term.
Let’s go back to our Spanish example. If you want to become fluent in 6 months, you’ll have to study every day, read, and eventually travel to a native speaking country to practice.
The “minor” steps would, in this instance, be Duolingo lessons or small textbook exercises that you can do every day.
The “major” steps would be a three-week language course in Mexico or a certificate from a language school. These major action points will be identified as the ones that yield the most results. Try to characterize the most essential steps in your goal setting worksheet and aim at dedicating more time and energy to these areas.1
By adding dates to the small and big steps of your goal, you will have easy and more difficult wins to aim for. This will help you stay on track on a daily basis.
The planning: creating a step plan and a goal setting worksheet
Here is my template for a goal setting worksheet. This covers the most important parts of any goal and also contains a progress tracker.
Note that the progress case is the largest column on this template. This stems from the necessity to chronicle small and significant strides on a regular basis.
By adding even the smallest of achievements, you’ll realize that a big goal is nothing more than a long-term accumulation of small deeds. This understanding will also render the overall journey less intimidating, decreasing the risk of procrastination.
The contingency plan: calculating the cost and foreseeing potential hurdles
Another major component of any goal setting workbook is a contingency solution for any foreseeable obstacle.
I say “foreseeable” to underline the fact that it is clearly impossible to plan and preview everything. Lots of things happen by coincidence or luck and these obviously cannot be added to your goal setting template
Many hindrances are, however, foreseeable and thereby avoidable. Let’s take the example of climbing a mountain. Your goal is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya early next year. You’ve given yourself a year to train and you track your progress consistently. Problems that could arise include illness or health issues – potentially delaying your training progress.
The solution would be either to postpone the deadline or to increase your training schedule in the weeks and months after the recovery in order to retain the original completion date.
Another essential calculation concerns the cost. Be sure to add both the monetary cost and the required time to your smart goals worksheet. This will tame your expectations in terms of how much money your endeavor will require and how much time you’ll spend pursuing your quest.
The execution: keeping track of your progress
When it comes to executing your plan, two things are key. First, you have to check your progress very regularly. This will help you build habits and these habits will have a long-lasting impact.
Consequently, keeping track and developing habits will be worth much more than trying to achieve big things in the short term.2 Habits count because once you master them, they will stick.
“When one has much to put in them, a day has a thousand pockets.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Secondly, thanks to your plan’s division into smaller parts, every day can serve as a benchmark toward the achievement of your goal. I would suggest keeping track on a daily basis while some people prefer weekly follow-ups.
As brilliantly stated by Nietzsche, try to fill the pockets of your day with good habits and goal-furthering actions.
In this context, habits and daily follow-ups are the bread and butter of any goal planning template. To enter into more concrete territory, here is an example of a filled-out goal setting workbook with the plan to run a marathon.
Please keep in mind that this example is purely expositional and not based on professional marathon planning. I should, nonetheless, stress that I have run a marathon in the past and that I did use a very similar approach.
Useful links on the ultimate goal setting worksheet
- more in the section “Work”
- read 12 ways to further personal growth in your 20s
- more under the topic “Productivity”
Recommendable books in addition to my goal setting template