“Life balance isn’t doing everything for an equal amount of time. It’s about doing the right things at the right time.”
I say this on stage all the time when I teach on life balance. But the principle is true for time management, goal setting, or anything in life. It’s so easy to get fixated on formulas and equality and “balance” that we miss a major factor that makes us successful: focus.
When you think about it, focus in one area is actually the opposite of balance. When you focus on something, you deliberately put more weight on one side of the scale. Instead of dividing your time equally (translation: diluting your effort, energy, and productivity), you’re going to focus on one major thing at a time.
This is what I do, and this is exactly how I set goals in my own life. Yes, I set big goals at the beginning of the year, but then I break them down into short-term goals based on the season I’m in.
What Are Short-Term Goals?
Short-term goals—or micro goals—are smaller goals with shorter time frames that will move you in the right direction toward a bigger goal.
For example, a few years ago, I had a goal of writing my first book. If you’ve ever written a book, you know that’s a big goal. The problem with big goals is that they’re intimidating and unapproachable.
That’s why I love short-term goals!
Instead of putting all your focus on the finish line—a published book—you intentionally focus on the mile markers along the way that will get you closer and closer to that finish line. The best part is: You’ll quickly notice that these smaller goals feel so much more attainable, so you’ll be more motivated to tackle them.
For example, if your goal was to write a 50,000-word book, and you had five months until the deadline, you’d set smaller goals, such as:
- Write 2,500 words a week (50,000 divided by 20 weeks)
- Write 500 words a day (if you’re only writing on weekdays)
Each short-term goal has a realistic target and a shorter time frame (one week or one day as opposed to five months). Can you see how that feels more achievable than saying, “I need to write 50,000 words in five months?”
The Benefits of Short-Term Goals
We already talked about one great benefit of setting short-term goals: It makes the big goal more attainable and less intimidating. Let’s touch on a few more:
- Short-term goals give you a detailed plan for reaching the big goal, so you’re setting yourself up to win!
- When things get hard, you’ll be able to remind yourself that this season and this goal is short term—it’s temporary.
- Short-term goals keep you motivated and excited. Every time you accomplish one, you’ll celebrate the win and a new fire will be lit beneath you to keep going!
How to Set Short-Term Goals
Whether you’re setting brand-new, short-term goals or reevaluating old ones, here are three steps to take that will increase your chances of actually achieving them:
1. Consider the season you’re in.
Like I mentioned earlier, I set goals that fit with the particular season I’m in more than I do a particular formula that applies all year long.
For example, for me, the fall is always crazy with travel and then slows down during the holiday season. The spring ramps up again with tons of travel and work projects, and then my summer scales back.
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This means I have big work goals in the fall and spring—and in those seasons, I give myself grace for things I miss out on with my kids. I get resourceful, let things go, and ask for help for things I can’t keep up with on my own, like housework or home-cooked meals.
In the winter and summer though, I take a ton of time off and take my foot off the gas at work. I make the most of every moment with my family, whether that’s touring giant gingerbread houses and drinking hot chocolate during Christmas or fishing off the dock and tubing behind the boat during summer. I work hard during the work seasons and play hard during the play seasons.
Some seasons are predictable, and others aren’t. The good news is: Short-term goals give us the freedom to adjust when unpredictable seasons come—and they will com.
When a spouse loses a job, an in-law moves in, or someone gets sick unexpectedly, you can give yourself grace. That doesn’t mean you give up on your goals completely. But because the goals were smaller and short-term, there’s more wiggle room. You can reevaluate and rewrite them so that they’re still realistic and achievable in this unexpected season.
At the end of the day, set goals that go with the flow, not against it.
2. Create strong goals.
Short-term goals might be smaller, but they should still have the same qualities as long-term goals. No matter what kind of goal you’re setting, they should:
Goals have to be specific, otherwise you don’t know what you’re aiming for. A simple exercise to make your goal more specific is to ask yourself, “How?”
For example, “I want to grow my business” is not as strong of a goal as “I want to grow my business by increasing orders.”
If your goal isn’t measurable, you won’t be able to track your progress toward that goal. Make your goal measurable by asking yourself, “By how much?”
Let’s add on to the example above: “I want to grow my business by increasing orders by 50%.”
Have a time limit.
If you don’t have a deadline, you’re never going to work on your goal! You’ll constantly push it back and procrastinate. That’s why having a time limit is crucial to your success.
Figure out your time limit by asking yourself, “By when?”
Continuing with our example, your goal would be something like: “I want to grow my business by increasing orders by 50% by March 31.”
3. Get them down on paper.
Now that your goals are smart goals, I want you to go old school and pull out a pen and paper and write them down. There’s something so powerful about getting your goals out of the battlefield of your mind (where fear, doubt and negativity can creep in) and onto paper where they can take on new life.
Write them down somewhere you’ll look often as a constant reminder of what you’re working towards.
Don’t miss this step—writing down your goals can be the difference between actually making your dream a reality and staying stuck in a place you hate.
Y’all, I’m telling you, creating short-term goals that flow with the season of life you’re in—rather than against it—will be transformational.
You’ll be more motivated, and you’ll be more successful when you set strong goals that are realistic and that are written down on paper. You’ll be able to find focus in particular areas of your life when they matter the most, and then switch gears to focus on something else when it naturally makes sense.
Remember, life balance isn’t doing everything for an equal amount of time. It’s about doing the right things at the right time.
Find More Time to Achieve Your Goals
And if you're tired of feeling like you never have enough time, I want you to read my book, Take Back Your Time. It will help you prioritize and say no to what doesn't matter, walk you through each of the things you do want to accomplish, and schedule everything perfectly into place. It's like having me as your personal time management coach.