We’re almost two full months into 2016. How are your New Year’s resolutions going?
A lot of people hate that question.
It’s fun to set goals, have dreams, and imagine yourself doing something new, different or better.
But action is hard.
Setting goals hardly scratches the surface of how to improve your life. Every goal comes with a list of tasks to achieve it, which take hours, days, weeks, months or years of time you don’t have.
So you set it aside. Maybe next year.
How to Achieve Big Goals by Doing Little Things
Our philosophy at The Penny Hoarder is “the little things matter.”
It goes for everything, from saving pennies to earning dollars, for taking small steps to achieving major life goals.
So we love the way writer Jon Westenberg tackles his life goals.
Westenberg created a “framework for getting places, accomplishing things and living in a way that makes me happy.”
He calls it a framework for investing in yourself. It’s a way to work toward your life goals — instead of just living life as it comes to you.
This method helps you break down everything you want to achieve in life into bite-sized pieces. Then it helps you actually do them, and measure your progress.
If your life lacks the structure you need to take action on your goals, this strategy could offer you some direction.
4 Steps to Start Achieving Your Goals
The system helps you sort your life goals into things you know how to do, the things you need to learn new skills to achieve and the things you have the skills to achieve, but need time to accomplish.
It makes your goals actionable, which we love!
Here are the steps Westenberg lays out:
1. Write a List of 100 Things
List the big and small goals you want to achieve in your lifetime.
Think of what you want to achieve this month, this year and 10, 20 or 30 years down the road.
2. Create a Skill Chart
For those goals you can’t yet achieve, what do you need to learn to accomplish them?
3. Take Immediate Action
What can you check off the list right now?
Completing something immediately will help you make progress and encourage you to keep working toward the bigger things.
4. Note the Things That Require Time
What do you have the skills for, but can’t immediately achieve?
Let’s look at some examples of how you might try this system for yourself:
Goal: Quit My Job and Become a Concert Violinist
Let’s say you’re in an entry-level job you’d like to leave someday to focus on being a concert violinist.
This falls into the “Skills” category — you’re not yet qualified to achieve that goal.
Instead of disregarding the goal, figure out the skills you’ll need to learn to do it.
Add “Become a Concert Violinist” to your Skills Chart, which will have a column each for:
- Skills you have to learn
What skills do you need to learn to become a violinist?
- read music
- play the violin
- follow a conductor
- play with an orchestra
And many more, I’m sure. (I’m no violinist; this is just an example.)
The Research column is for your notes.
In the Action column, note every step you need to take to learn each skill.
So, for “play the violin,” you may need to:
- Buy a violin.
- Sign up for music lessons.
- Buy a book on music theory.
- Practice one hour every day.
- Master “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Frere Jacques” and “Old MacDonald.”
Use the Progress column to note — honestly — how close you are to possessing the new skill.
Keep it updated!
Goal: Get Better at Saving Money
Your list will probably include plenty of things that require you to save money, but maybe you need to start by figuring out how to actually save.
This is a big, important goal. But it happens with small, simple changes.
This falls into the “Things I Can Do Immediately” category.
Here’s how to take immediate action to get better at saving money:
1. Set a due date to focus on this task
Planning milestones for how much you want to save and what you want to do with it may be long-term goals.
But you can say you want to take action to improve your savings habits by, say, this weekend.
2. Then Do It
Instead of watching cat videos on Saturday afternoon, research your options for saving money, and implement them.
- Install an auto-savings app on your phone, like Acorns.
- Contact your bank to learn about auto-savings options it offers
- Email your HR rep to ask how to direct a portion of your paycheck into a savings account
See? Immediate action.
Cross an item off your big list by Monday.
Goal: Throw Away or Sell Everything Cluttering the Garage
Let’s assume your garage is a disaster.
For some, a quick spring cleaning might do the trick.
But for you, it’s going to take days to wade through the walls of clutter and figure out what to do with everything.
This goes in the “Things I Need Time For” category.
You have all the skills and knowledge to achieve this goal. You just have to make the time to do it.
- Do it instead of watching another hour of Netflix tonight.
- Do it instead of checking Twitter in your downtime.
- Do it instead of brunch with “friends” you don’t like anymore.
The point is to cut out the pointless things that don’t add value to your life.
Start using it to make progress on these goals.
Your Turn: What 100 goals are on your list? Which of those can you take action on RIGHT NOW?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.