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A 5-Step System for Breaking Goals Down Into Manageable Steps

How many times have you set yourself a thrilling goal only to fast forward 6 months to find yourself no closer to actually achieving it and ready to abandon it altogether? Don’t add this year’s big goals to the dusty pile in the back of your closet!  Here is a 5-step system anyone can use for breaking goals down and turning them into action plans with manageable steps.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

And a goal broken down into steps becomes a PLAN!

Learn the simple 5-step system for breaking any goal down into manageable steps

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Want to dive deeper? Get the workbook: As The Year Turns: A Year-End Reflection + Planning Workbook 

Make peace with 2020 and move into 2021 with grace and clarity! Transition mindfully from the old year to the new with this workbook designed to take you from frazzled in December to peaceful and focused in January! This workbook will help you dig deep, look mindfully at your journey over the past year, think about where you’re heading, and start the new year in alignment with your dream life!

Why Should You Divide Your Goals Into Steps?

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” —Orison Swett Marden

Big goals are important: they give us a vision to work towards and focus on and inspire us to keep pushing ourselves to accomplish amazing things.

I firmly believe that you can accomplish anything you want. But your big beautiful dreams aren’t going to become your reality unless YOU make them happen. And the fastest way to get there is to set goals and then actually FOLLOW THROUGH.

How many goals do you think are left lying in the dust every year? How many failed resolutions? Only 8% of people who set yearly goals actually achieve them.

Setting exciting goals is fun! But when it comes time to actually do the thing – when you are standing at the beginning of your journey, and measuring how far you have to go before you get there – then that shiny big goal gets INTIMIDATING and OVERWHELMING. 

What’s going to keep your goals from being added to the ever-growing pile of discarded dreams?

Breaking Your Goal Up Into Smaller Chunks Can Get You Closer to Achieving It

Here’s the secret to accomplishing big complicated goals: break them up! Breaking your goal up into smaller chunks is going to get you a lot closer to achieving it. It will help you plan, and keep you focused and moving consistently towards your goal.

Instead of looking at your goal as 1 big thing that you want to do, think about it as a series of smaller tasks. Each smaller goal that you accomplish will get you one step closer to your end-game.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

If you are ready to start smashing the goals that you are setting, here is a step-by-step plan you can follow to create and break down your yearly goals into manageable steps. Even the simple act of writing down your goals will drastically increase your odds of achieving them – now imagine what creating and writing down an entire plan will do to your success rate!

Mountain and foggy path

A 5-Step System for Breaking Goals Down Into Manageable Steps 

This system is focused specifically on setting and breaking down yearly goals, but you can easily adjust it easily to any other time frame that works for you. I like setting yearly goals because 

  1. it’s a common cycle we all plan around
  2. It’s long enough to actually get something significant done, but short enough to easily conceptualize in my head

Here are the 5 steps to breaking your yearly goals down into manageable steps and then actually achieving them:

  1. Make your goal specific
  2. Break your goal down into sub-goals
  3. Break each sub-goal down into task lists
  4. Plan for trouble 
  5. Keep on track

Pre-Work: How to Set Your Big Goals for the Year

If you don’t have a big goal in mind yet, here’s an easy way to come up with some! The first thing you want to do is think about the areas of your life in which you want to set goals.

  • Spirituality
  • Fun + Leisure
  • Personal Growth
  • Love + Family
  • Social + Friends
  • Career + Business
  • Money
  • Health
8 categories of your life

Pick your top 3 areas in which you would like to set goals. Then list out 2-4 goal ideas for each of those top 3 areas.

Now pick 1 goal from each of your 3 areas of focus. Pick one that feels aligned with your vision for life, and that also fits your timeline. So in this case, you want something that can realistically be done in a year, but that also feels challenging AND exciting.

Now you should have 3 big goals for your year. When you look at your goals you should feel excited and maybe a bit nervous. If they feel like a pipedream OR if they don’t excite you, go back and pick new ones. If you are not excited about your goals or if you don’t believe that you can achieve them, you’re not going to stick with them. Don’t move on until you are satisfied with your goals.

1. Make your goals specific

Take the goals that you have set and make them more specific. Then make them even more specific. The answer to the question “Did I accomplish my goal?” needs to be a clear and immediate yes or no. 

So say your goal was to work on your relationship with yourself. This is really vague. Do you mean

  • I want to get to know myself better
  • I want to be more confident
  • I want to root out habitual negative thought patterns
  • I want to start therapy
  • Something else entirely

Say you meant “I want to be more confident.” Do you want to feel more confident? Do you struggle with social anxiety? Do you want to defend your boundaries? Do you want other people to perceive you as confident? What does being confident mean to you? If you think of a confident person, what does that mean? How do you know that a person is confident? What would you do if you were as confident as you want to be?

For your actual goal, you would want to pick something that you can measure. Maybe like:

  • Perform on stage
  • Give a public speech
  • Show up on social media as myself, with my face
  • Develop strategies that work for me to use when I start feeling overwhelmed and unsure in certain situations

You get the idea. You want your goals to be:

  1. Specific AND
  2. Measurable

2. Break Your Goal Down Into Sub-Goals

The next step is to break your goal down into sub-goals. What needs to happen in order for you to accomplish your larger goal? Think of your goal like a cake and your sub goals are the things you need to do in order to end up with that cake. And don’t forget, there are probably multiple ways to get there. Are you going to buy a cake or are you going to bake it? They require diferent strategies.

When I am looking at my yearly goals, I like to break them down into quarters, and then break each quarter down into individual months. So it looks like this:

Visual of how to break down yearly goals

Then I have 12 (or sometimes less) small goals that will add up to create my big goal. And doing it this way creates an accountability schedule for myself, so that I know if I’m on track or not. 

You can also break the goal down into the steps need to be accomplished in order for the big goal to happen. Then assign those steps as monthly goals (or bi-monthly or whatever works better for your schedule)

3. Make Task Lists for Each Sub-Goal

Now you need to make task lists for each of your monthly sub-goals. Write down everything that you need to do in order for that monthly goal to happen. Every single small thing.

And this is where you want to get GRANULAR. The more specific you can get with the individual tasks, the easier it will be for you. If something is a two-parter – break it up into two tasks. Make them as easy as possible for you to complete. The easier you can make it for yourself, the better, right?

I actually prefer to do this only a couple of months ahead. I won’t plan down to this level for the whole year at once, because I know that I will need to adjust things as I go. I’ll break down my monthly goals into more detail as I get closer to them.

Once you have all of your tasks for the month, assign them to individual weeks. Figure out which tasks you are going to complete each week of the month and put them into whatever calendar or task management system you use.

4. Plan for Trouble

Don’t forget to plan for potential problems and roadbloacks! Something is going to come up or you will lose momentum or you will get to a task that you will need help with. Look though your task lists and mark the ones that could potentially trip you up. Identify where you will need extra help or support.

  • Where could you go or who could you ask for help?
  • What extra resources will you need?
  • Do you have someone who can hold you accountable when you start to slip?

5. Keep on Track

So you have this amazing plan that you’ve worked really hard on. Now you have to actually follow through! You have to follow your plan and do the things.

So get your tasks done each week. Cross em off, one by one. At the end of each month, reevaluate your goals and upcoming tasks. Notice where you’re starting to slip and prioritize those things.

And you know what? When you stick with it, you will accomplish your VERY BIG GOAL just by consistently working and ticking off the small steps.

Because that’s how big mountains are always climbed. Step by step.

5 Step system for actually accomplishing your goals

Breaking Goals Down So You Can Actually Achieve Them

Even the biggest goals can be accomplished when you break them down and then start crossing things off your to-do list.

Just follow the process!

  1. Make your goal specific
  2. Break your goal down into sub-goals
  3. Break each sub-goal down into task lists
  4. Plan for trouble 
  5. Keep on track

Check Out the Rest of the Series!

This‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ sixth ‌week‌ ‌of‌ ‌our‌ ‌8-week‌ ‌series about setting yourself up for your best ‌year ever! ‌This‌ ‌week‌ ‌is‌ ‌about‌ ‌setting goals and then breaking them down into sub-tasks so that you can actually accomplish them.

You‌ ‌can‌ ‌check‌ ‌out‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌posts‌ ‌here:‌ ‌

Are you ready to create your best year yet?

Get the workbook: As the Year Turns: Year-End Reflection + Planning Workbook

Get the workbook!

Additional Resources

How to Build Self-Discipline and Mental Toughness

Intentional Living: A 3-Step Introduction

Powerful Daily Affirmations to Transform Your Life

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