10 Smart and Surprising Goal-Setting Tips to Achieve Your Goals | by Emma-Louise

Happy Client Using Goal Setting Tips at Desk

I love goal-setting. But sometimes I think we  take it far too seriously. Goal-setting is a process, and the best goals change and flex with time, and as we change. For more success with your goals, I hope you enjoy these unusual goal-setting tips!

Here are 10 Smart and Surprising Goal-Setting Tips!

1) See Procrastination as a GIFT

All too often procrastination is seen as a 'bad' thing. Which of course it can be, especially if we procrastinate over something important or a task that has a firm deadline.

But what if you saw your procrastination as a GIFT? Or at least a message. Because we usually procrastinate for very good reasons! Perhaps you're:

  • Tired
  • Feeling unwell
  • Lacking the information you need to move forwards
  • Feeling frustrated or unmotivated (is it harder, taking longer, are there more obstacles than you expected?)
  • Avoiding an action that is way outside your comfort zone...

ACTION: Instead of judging yourself for procrastinating, take a pause and look for the GIFT: what's underneath your procrastination? And then take care of whatever you find.

You may need to let go of expectations, take care of yourself, ask for help, reduce the task or extend your deadline. But once you do that, then you can find a way to move forwards freely.

2) Understanding WHY is More Important than Being SMART!

Why - question mark on island

Your goal can be as SMART* as you like, but that doesn't make it inspiring!

For every big goal, it's important to identify the outcomes you're looking for.

Try asking yourself:

  • Why bother doing this?
  • What outcomes am I looking for? What will 'come out' once this goal is complete?
  • What are the benefits to me? To those around me?
  • How will my life be different when this is complete?

Then once you have your strong WHY, you'll stay motivated even when the going gets tough.

When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.

* SMART = Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound

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3) Go SLOW to Achieve MORE

Snail goes slow between rocks and achieves more

When it's always "Go, go, go!" we get tired, lose focus and motivation, miss potential new ideas and are more likely to make mistakes. So we usually achieve more when we slow down.

4 Big Ways Rushing Negatively Impacts us:

  1. Rushing feels unpleasant and increases our stress levels. This is tiring and when it becomes a way of life leads to burnout.
  2. We all know that rushing leads to more mistakes and negatively affects the quality of our work. We skip over a double-check of website links or miss a spelling mistake. And how many times have you been rushing and dropped something, clicked the wrong button (delete instead of save!) or accidentally closed a browser window at a crucial point?
  3. It's also hard to be creative when we're hurrying: creativity needs space to allow ideas to cross-fertilise or for that important idea or solution to bubble up from our subconscious.
  4. Rushing turns pleasures into chores! How many times has something you enjoy (or at least don't mind) doing become a grind because you've been hassled: "Come on, hurry up, this needs to get this done!"

So rushing is stressful, less productive and exhausting! Whereas slowing down means more enjoyment and more energy - we're more relaxed, more creative, can keep going longer and get more done.

While you'll feel compelled to charge forward it's often a gentle step back that will reveal to you where you are and what you truly seek. Rasheed Ogunlaru

Give slow a go!

4) Believe in YOU & NEVER Give Up...

Coach writing Goal Setting Tips Believe in yourself

When working towards our goals, set-backs are unavoidable. And it's your determination and perseverance that will see you through life's inevitable obstacles and roadblocks.

To persevere we have to believe in ourselves - that our goals are achievable and that WE can do it!

The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. Amelia Earhart

So, work on believing you CAN do it and don't give up, BUT:

...And 5) Also Know When to LET GO

Two signs saying choice in opposite directions

While it's essential to persevere through our challenges and roadblocks, sometimes we need to let go and come back again tomorrow, next month or next year.

Pay attention to yourself. Learn when to let go, take a break or change your direction - it may be just what you need to come back refreshed and energised.

ACTION: When you feel like you're banging your head against a brick wall, try asking yourself some of these questions:

  • How could I let go a little and create some space around this?
  • Do I need to take a short break, go for a walk, come back tomorrow?
  • Is this goal still valid? If it's this hard, would I be better off doing something else altogether?
  • Do I need to adjust the timescales?
  • Perhaps the "solution" or path is wrong - is there a totally different direction I could come at this from?

Employ the power of positive quitting. Most of us view quitting as something negative, but it's not. 'Winners never quit,' we're told, when, in reality, winners quit all the time: choosing to stop doing things that aren't creating the results they desire. When you quit all the things that aren't working for you, when you quit tolerating all the negative things that hold you back, you'll create a positive 'charge' in your life as well as create the space in your life for more positive experiences. Jim Allen

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6) Start With What Matters MOST!

Money in jar Big Rocks first!

In this busy world where most of us have more to do than hours in the day, how will you achieve your goals if you don't prioritise and make space for them?

All too often we begin our day by perusing email, clearing up our small tasks or taking care of other people's requests. But are you getting what you really want done?

It's easy to fill our time with smaller, less important tasks - and then wonder where the time went. Instead, just like the Big Rocks principle, when we work on our Big Rocks (what matters most) first, the rest of the day (the less important pebbles and sand) has to fit in around our priorities.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Our big goals - those that make the biggest difference in our lives - challenge us to stretch outside our comfort zones. So, it's easy to see how we're easily tempted to distract ourselves with easier, less important tasks. But by identifying and working on what matters most, first, we have clarity - and this makes it easy to focus.

ACTION: Take a few minutes EVERY morning to review your goals - and plan your priorities for the day. Then work FIRST on what matters MOST. Make this a habit in the year ahead and I guarantee you will amaze yourself!

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7) Time Management IS Self-Care

Arm with watch managing time

Time is a precious and limited resource. With so much to do, if we don't learn to manage our time well we end up stressed and without time for our goals - or those who matter most.

Instead of thinking of time management as a chore, or a tool to get more done, try thinking of time management as an act of self-care.

By investing in managing your time and learning what works for you - you are literally taking care of your self.

So what does good time management look like?

  • It means planning and allowing enough time to work on things at a comfortable pace - and taking breaks.
  • You make the time to prioritise your activities so you don't run yourself out of time.
  • It means knowing and avoiding your unique time-wasters, and working on what's important before it becomes urgent (aka The Eisenhower Principle*).
  • And it also means planning for the important things in your personal life - whether it's action on a personal goal, picking up the kids, remembering a birthday or a dentist visit.

If a goal is worth having, it's worth blocking out the time in your day-to-day life necessary to achieve it. Jill Koenig

Importantly time management is not just for work - it's taking care of yourself, managing your time effectively to achieve what matters most to you AND enjoying the process of getting there.

ACTION: Where could you create some more healthy time management habits and structures to take care of your self better?

You may also like this exercise: Daily Success Habits Tool

* For more on the "Eisenhower Principle" read: The Urgent Important Matrix (what and how)

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8) Face the Truth & Then FIND a Way!

One Yellow Door in a series of doors for Goal Setting Tips

Are you willing to do what it takes? There are few shortcuts in life - and when it comes to our goals sometimes it's tough going.

When a goal requires us to do something really big and challenging, and we're struggling to move it forwards, we may need to face some truths. Perhaps:

  • You thought you could do it alone, and now you need to ask for help.
  • You need to gain a new skill (eg. learn a new language, learn to touch-type, learn to swim!) before you even start towards your goal.
  • You need to face the truth that this goal really scares you - and you need some support to break through a comfort zone.
  • You've realised your original timescales were wayyyyy too optimistic and need to move the date out.
  • You just don't have the time in your life right now and this is a 10 year, not a 5 year goal...

Avoiding the truth leaves us feeling bad and doesn't move us forward.

Try asking yourself:

  • Where do I fall short? (what skills, knowledge or support do you lack?)
  • How am I being unrealistic? (think lifestyle, hours in the day, expectations)
  • What truths do I need to face to get this done?
  • Now that I understand what's getting in the way:
    • How do I need to adjust this goal, my expectations or my action plan?
    • What are my next steps?

Until we acknowledge our shortcomings and challenges, we can't come up with solutions. But once we face the truth we can do whatever is needed and then FIND a way!

Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others... Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth. Katherine Mansfield

9) ALWAYS Learn - No Matter What!

Oops Post-it

When we have the attitude of ALWAYS learning, it doesn't matter whether we 'achieve' our actions and goals or not - because we're always growing!

It's that old adage of the journey being the destination.

Perhaps the process of achieving your goal will ultimately change you and turn out to be more valuable than achieving the goal itself. Or not. But if we make a point of always learning along the way, then we're going to be a constantly improving human being!

The real value of setting and achieving goals lies not in the rewards you receive, but in the person you become as a result of reaching your goals. Robin Sharma

So whether it's self-knowledge, developing your skills, learning from your mistakes or gaining new information - be sure you're always learning so you can grow!

ACTION: Whether your goals are coming along nicely or you're struggling to get moving, be sure to keep a growth mindset and ask, "What have I learned?"

You may also like: 7 Ways to Unlock the Power of the Growth Mindset by Sarah Evans MCC

10) REMEMBER that your Goals are there to INSPIRE you!

Excited Client with Goal Setting Tips

Last but not least: yes, it's important to take action and achieve our goals. But when you procrastinate, feel overwhelmed or things don't go to plan, don't beat yourself up!

Instead remember that the purpose of goals is to inspire you - to work towards, get excited about, to help you create a life you love.

So any time you're beating yourself up for not achieving - STOP! Don't abuse your goals - that's not what they're for 🙂

Instead ask yourself:

  • Am I on the right track?
  • Am I moving forwards?

If so, congratulations. Now keep going!

PS. If your goals genuinely don't excite or inspire you - you may want to get some new goals...

I would encourage you to set really high goals. Set goals that, when you set them, you think they’re impossible. But then every day you can work towards them, and anything is possible, so keep working hard and follow your dreams. Katie Ledecky

Like this? Try our Vision & Goal-Setting Toolkit:

And for even more goal-setting inspiration to share with your clients, check out these products:

Inspirational, brandable quotes all about goals from a diverse range of sources—and a set of social media graphics about goal-setting (including 5 infographics). Design and content all fully editable in Canva!

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The INFOGRAPHIC which summarises this article: 10 Smart & Unusual Goal-Setting Tips to Get Things Done!

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Happy Client Using Goal-Setting Tips at their Desk by wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock

Image of Question Mark on Island by qimono via Pixabay

Image of Coach writing Believe in You by geralt via Pixabay

Image of Snail as goal-setting tips achieving more by going slow by Maryam62 via Pixabay

Image of Money in jar with stacks of coins by nattanan23 via Pixabay

Image of Two signs saying choice in opposite directions by geralt via Pixabay

Image of arm with cup of coffee and glasses by Engin_Akyurt via Pixabay

Image of Series of doors with one yellow door by qimono via Pixabay

Image of Excited Client in Blue Shirt by RobinHiggins via Pixabay

Image of Oops Post-it by Jessica45 via Pixabay

Image of Client Arm with Watch by fancycrave1 via Pixabay


    • mturcott

      Thank you, Renzie! So glad you liked these fun goal-setting tips!
      Warmly, Mary


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