The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist (Free Printable)

You can’t get anywhere without clear, specific goals. Here’s the ultimate guide to writing crystal-clear goals that will help you improve any area of your life: career, financial, physical.

 

13 Tips to Making Awesome, S.M.A.R.T.-er Goals

Get crystal-clear and start crushing your goals with this checklist.

 
 
 
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  1. Is it your goal—not someone else’s goal or expectation?
  2. Does it have a strong, emotional “why”? In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart.
  3. Is it specific?
  4. Is it measurable? For example, $100 each month for 12 months or 3 workouts a week. Anything that’s tracked usually grows.
  5. Is it attainable? Reach and dream, but understand what you really need to do or have to achieve your goals.
  6. Is it relevant to your values or a bigger vision? This goes back to your “why”.
  7. Does it have a deadline? Giving yourself a deadline helps you reverse engineer your goal into smaller, easier-to-comprehend pieces. For example, if you want to save $1,000 in 6 months in a vacation sinking fund, then you need to save $167 at a minimum each month. Also, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Time management is largely psychological. We naturally pace ourselves to finish a project in the nick of time, for example, clean the whole apartment in 90 minutes. So giving yourself a deadline could subconsciously make you complete your goal on time.
  8. Is it written on paper or typed? You become 42% more likely to achieve goals just by writing them down on a regular basis, according to a psychology study from Dominican University.
  9. Is it somewhere you can see it every day?
  10. Did you share it with another person? An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found you have a 65% chance of completing a goal of you committing to someone.
  11. Did you list specific tasks you must complete to achieve the goal?
  12. BONUS: Is it written in the present tense? In No Excuses, Brian Tracy writes: “Write them down in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them.” For example, replace “I will earn $100,000 a year by 2021.” with “I earn $100,000 a year by December 31, 2020.” These goals activate the law of expectation and law of attraction, Tracy states. He believes your subconscious mind is only activated by goals that are stated in the personal, positive and pretense tense—the “3 P’s.”
  13. BONUS: Did you list potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them? In Exponential Living, Sheri Riley writes “Preparation is the key to getting through the NOs, and getting through the NOs is the key to victory. Preparation equals expectation. To prepare is to have a plan. That means thinking about the obstacles you might face ahead of time, and having contingency steps ready to implement when those obstacles arise. You will face obstacles; the key is to not let those obstacles come as a shock to you. … if you mentally prepare for obstacles and have a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll be able to remain engaged.”

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9 Reasons Why Your Budget Sucks + How to Fix It

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Budgets are bae! There is no way I could crush debt or save thousands without them. Once I tossed out the negative connotation of a budget, figured out my budgeting style and actually put one in place, my debt payoff kicked into high gear.

Through practice, I’ve learned that you can’t just slap numbers on a spreadsheet and go on about your day. You have to craft each month’s budget with care. If you can’t stick to your budget, see if any of these pain points hit home and try out the solutions to relieve the stress.

1. It’s not tailor-made for you.

Ladies, think of how you feel wearing that dress that fits every curve the right way. That dress that makes your ass look fabulous. Yeah, that one! You never get tired of it.

Well, that’s how your budget should feel. It should fit just right for you—not Suze Orman, not your mama, not that boss lady you follow on Instagram. These folks may offer you great tips and tools, but you have to use this budget, so make sure it’s your own.

Solution: Find a style that fits you and include budget lines you’d actually track.

There’s a variety of budgeting methods:

  • the 50-30-20 budget (50% needs, 30% wants, 20% savings)
  • the 80-20 budget (20% savings, 80% everything else)
  • the anti-budget (My favorite. No percentages. Income – Core Expenses = Everything Else is left for guilt-free spending. Click here for details and a free printable.)
  • the zero-sum budget (Accounted Income – Accounted Expenses = $0. It doesn’t mean you spend every dime and have $0 before your next pay period. It just means every dollar has a job in your budget. You can have money left over. All budgets could be a zero-sum budget.)

The budgets that look like spreadsheets on steroids give me the hives. I’m not gonna use a line item for “hair accessories.” That’s too granular, and I hate being micro-managed.

I like the anti-budget because you simply subtract savings, giving and essential expenses from your take-home pay. What’s leftover, a.k.a. the monthly nut, is yours to spend on whatever you want (hair accessories). And you don’t have to track every penny because you know bills, savings and giving are already taking care of. When that leftover money runs out, it just runs out. But that’s too loosey-goosy for me. I need a few more categories to track my spending.

I use a hybrid that allows me to track the details I want to track and nothing more. A line-item like “hair accessories” just goes into a bucket called “Entertainment and Everything Else.” It works for me. Find what works for you.

2. Your budget isn’t aligned with your values and goals.

Heck! You may not even have values and goals. We probably all have budgets we created a few years ago that never quite stuck. Why didn’t it work out? Maybe it’s because you didn’t have a strong enough reason or vision to stick to the plan. Start with your values and the rest will fall into place.

Find 8 more ways to fix your budget.

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How to Use Trackers to Get Out of Debt and Save

Paying off tens of thousands of dollars in debt is no walk in the park. Thankfully, I’ve found a surprising, yet sure-fire way to keep me motivated—coloring.

I’ve used coloring pages and charts for saving, paying off credit cards and eliminating college loans. There’s no way I could reach my goals without visual trackers. Here’s why I love them so much.

Visuals make the impossible possible.

For my daunting savings goal of $10,000, I made a chart with 10 gray money bags. Every time I saved $1,000, I colored a money bag gold. 

The chart helped me clearly see how my small efforts were feeding into the bigger picture. It was exhilarating to save 20 percent, then 50 percent and then 80 percent. Every time I was feeling low, the chart allowed me to see how far I’d come and helped me stay motivated.

in 2008, Heidi Ifland Nash, creator of Debt Free Charts, made basic charts with several lines to help her pay off credit cards and a HELOC. The rows represented a portion of the debt balance. Nash and her husband would color each row as they got closer to debt freedom. 

“I needed something to see—not just in numbers—how far we had come and how far we had to go,” Nash writes in an email. “Before I made that first chart, it felt like attacking a mountain with a toothpick. But with the chart, I could actually see the progress. It didn’t feel like throwing money into a black hole anymore. It felt like winning a game.”

The couple paid off nearly $65,000 in three years, Nash says.

Find out more reasons why visual matter.

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