Last September I started setting monthly goals for myself. I had just moved to Chicago, was waiting to hear back about a job (which I have now), and nothing to really look forward to once I had finished the entire “Danny Phantom” series. So I went to Walgreens, bought a mini whiteboard and set about writing my five goals for September. If I finished all the goals, I could treat myself to something.

That first September, I had five goals to reach. By the end of October, I knew I should keep it at three goals minimum. For nearly an entire year, I’ve kept up with setting goals at the beginning of every month (accomplishing every goal is another thing). As another way to hold myself accountable, I’ve decided to start posting them on this blog. Nothing like a little public announcement to shame me into completing my goals.

So how do I make my list of monthly goals?

Simple: Sit down toward the end of each month and think about what you want to accomplish in the next month. You can have one goal, two goals, five goals — keep in mind quality over quantity. You know what works best for you, so stick with that.

What kind of goals should I set?

Ask yourself if there are any projects that you’ve wanted to start but just haven’t gotten around to. Maybe you want to try knitting a scarf before winter sets in. Or maybe you want to clean out your room and donate anything you don’t use anymore to Goodwill. If you’re a writer, your goal in November could be to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Are there any foods you want to cut out of your diet? Maybe you’re drinking too much caffeine and you want to cut down to drinking pop once a week. Maybe you want to try your hand at vegetarianism for 30 days. You could try to drink one cup of tea — black, green or herbal — a day. If you want to try out a new fitness regime, you could get a one-month membership to a neighborhood gym or take yoga classes twice a week.

Is there anything you do a lot of that you want to cut out of your life? Maybe you’ve been thinking of giving up your Facebook, but aren’t ready to commit yet. Maybe you spend too many hours binge-watching shows on Netflix. To save money, you could give up eating out or buying coffee at your favorite coffee place on the way to work.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to what goals you want to set.

What if I can’t think of any goals?

Setting goals can be tough. Maybe you have a lot of goals in mind but don’t know how to narrow it down. If that’s the case, then write down all the goals you want to accomplish. Figure out which ones you’re most excited for and add those to this month. Keep that list around for the next month.

Or maybe you have one or two big goals in mind, but you need more than a month to accomplish them. If that’s the case, figure out if there are multiple steps to the goal. For example, you want to clean out your apartment/house and donate items to Goodwill. Tackle a different room every month.

If you can’t think of any goals — and I mean you keep drawing a blank, especially after a couple days of brainstorm — then the best route might be to pick a couple of “silly” goals. Are there any movies you’ve been meaning to watch but just haven’t? Maybe there’s a new CD you’ve been meaning to buy. Keep it simple and easy.

If worse comes to worse, ask friends and co-workers if they have any ideas. Two or more minds can be better than one at times. It never hurts to Google ideas or troll social media for ideas.

Is there a certain formula for what goals to set?

Not really. Personally, I like to have a least one fun/silly goal. Then if worse comes to worst, I’ll be able to accomplish that. I also like to stick to one “give up” goal. If all your goals are giving something up for 30 days, that’s not going to be fun or productive.

What happens when I complete all my goals? 

I’ve got three words for you: Treat. Yo’. Self. 

Parks & Rec Treat Yo' Self 2011
The episode that changed my life.

You’ve worked hard to complete whatever goals you set out at the beginning of the month. You deserve something. I always pick out my reward when I’m writing up my goals so I know what I’m working toward. It can be as simple taking yourself out to dinner or going to see a movie. In the past, I’ve treated myself to a trip to one of Chicago’s many museums and bought myself a new bottle of nail polish. If you’d rather save money, plan a picnic to a neighborhood park or a at-home spa day. Maybe it’s bake a pan of brownies and eat more batter than you should. Go crazy — buy a Batman suit. You deserve it.

Are there any rules?

Nope. The rules for setting your goals are what you want. For me, I know not to set more than three goals and that I should treat myself if I accomplish all the goals I set out at the beginning of the month. This is all about improving yourself and where you want to be at the end of 30 days or next year or in five years.

So what are my September goals?
  1. Reach 40 books read and reviewed.
  2. No Netflix.
  3. Update professional website and LinkedIn account.

Treat Yo’ Self: A day of binge-watching “The X-Files.”

Do you have any goal-setting tips? Share below!

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One thought on “Setting Goals, One Month at a Time

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