Why Small Goals Are Better Than Big Goals

“What’s your roadmap for the next four quarters?”

“What’s your five-year plan?”

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”

Questions like these can be scary and overwhelming. They have their place of course, but they’re no way to look at everyday life. It would be debilitating to think in five-year segments all the time.

Big goals — like earning your MBA, being promoted to junior vice president or making 600 sales in a year — are great to have, but they won’t get you through the week.

Sometimes, small is better.

When you reduce your big goals into bite-sized mini-goals, you’re more likely to accomplish them. Try these five small and manageable tips for creating goals you can actually reach.

  1. Do the math. Take a big goal and break it down into smaller numerical chunks. For example, take that scenario above of making 600 sales in a year and divide it by 12 months. Then divide 12 months by 52 weeks and voilà! You now have a manageable goal of making 12 to 13 sales every week.
  1. Write a recipe. Identify the small steps that lead to hitting your big goals. Then, work on conquering each step, one at a time. If becoming the manager of your department means you need to be certified in a certain software, then sign up for a training class, study for the exam and take it.
  1. Do it now. Big goals have big, distant deadlines. Choose some things you can do now, and cross them off your list. Often, these are the things we don’t want to do like making appointments, filling out paperwork, studying for long hours or building presentations. Set little goals for things you can do this week, like “Schedule meetings with my mentor for January through July.” In this example, just scheduling the meetings can help you stay on track for the next six months.
  1. Keep track. In whatever form works best for you, track the progress you’re making, especially if it’s a difficult-to-observe goal. If you don’t write down every positive interaction you have with a customer, six months will go by and you’ll only be able to guess if you’ve improved customer service. A tracked goal is a goal you can reach.
  1. Treat yourself. Establish some mile-markers and get a treat when you hit them. Celebrating small wins along the way will help take the stress out of trying to reach a big goal. But remember, this is treat yourself, not buy-a-new-car-before-you-get-the-raise. Treats are things like taking a half day off, getting that new leather phone cover you saw online or getting a caramel latte every day this week.

Whatever your big, wonderful goals are, make things easier on yourself by thinking about them – and working toward them – in small increments. And before you know it, big things will happen.

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