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How to Set Quarterly Goals

So you’re convinced that quarterly goals are the way to make measurable progress toward your objectives in life.

Now how do you decide what those goals should be?

And what are the keys to writing goals you’ll accomplish each quarter?

Here are five steps to choosing, writing and pursuing quarterly goals.

1. Gather ideas

I don’t pull my goal ideas out of thin air. I do a journaling exercise to get clarity on where I am and want to go. I also have a mindmap of life areas so I have a visual overview of what needs attention.

Another approach is to list out your biggest pain points currently. You could tackle a big, disorganized mess that keeps you from concentrating. Or you could improve your diet so you have more energy.

You might have five or more ideas at this point. But everything we know about new goals and habits tells us that we have to start small.

2. Narrow it down

Start with one goal. The most productive people pick a max of 3 things to work on. They know there is overhead for goal seeking, and we have a hard time focusing on more than three things. 

You could pick one thing from an area of your life each quarter to create balance (e.g., health, finances, relationships). You could also create them according to your different roles (parent, boss, developer, artist).

The key to narrowing down your goals is to understand how much you can achieve in one quarter. Think about when you will be working toward the goal: on your work time, a few hours a week, or a few minutes a day.

Depending on the time you have available, you could: launch a new website, establish a workout ritual, or pack lunches 80% of the time.

Consider what else is going on during this quarter. Do you have a big vacation coming up or are you expecting a disruptive life event? Reduce the number and scope of goals accordingly.

The sweet spot for quarterly goals is ambitious enough that you must get started now, and clear enough that you know how to take action.

3. Get specific

Where do you want to be on this goal in three months? Write that down, and include how you will measure the success of the goal.

For example, I want to keep in touch with my 10 favorite friends and relatives. By the end of the quarter, I want to have contacted each person at least once. For those who live nearby, I want to make the effort to meet up in person. I can measure that by writing down my 10 people, and marking them off as I go.

Now consider whether the goal depends on your action only.  Meaning that you can achieve it without depending on other people or circumstances.

I can’t control whether someone will have time to hang out with me, but I can control whether I reach out and try to arrange a time.

You know you can work out three times per week. You don’t know for sure how many pounds you can lose or gain.

You know how many sales calls you can make. You don’t know how many people will say yes.

4. Write your goals down

People who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. One good place to write your goals is a goal planner.

In addition to inside a journal or a file on your computer, you could also put your goals on sticky notes where you’ll see them daily.

5. Review Your Goals Daily

Look at your goals every morning if you can, or at the very least once a week. Put it on your calendar or in your to-do system and make it a habit. Make sure you prioritize taking a step toward one of your goals before doing other, less important work.

You’ll want to check in periodically to make sure you’re on track. Remember, quarterly goals should be ambitious enough that you have to take some action in week one. Weekly review time is a good opportunity to see how you did for the last week and see if you need to adjust course.

Celebrate small wins along the way to stay motivated. In just 13 weeks, you’ll make more progress than you thought possible.