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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Set Milestones to Progress Towards Your Goal

How to Set Milestones to Progress Towards Your Goal

When you define milestones for yourself, you build a ladder to your goals. The more rungs you add, the easier the climb.

Taking those steps can be challenging. But for those who haven’t done it before, the tougher challenge actually comes first: carving out the steps.

What do appropriate milestones look like, and how are they placed? Let’s start with a definition.

What Are Milestones?

According to Merriam-Webster, “milestone” has two definitions.[1] The first is literal: a rock used as a milepost. The second, “a significant point in development,” is what most people refer to when they talk about making progress toward a goal.

“A significant point” is what you make of it—if you’re learning to cook, making eggs over easy without breaking the yolks may be significant to you. If you’re a professional chef, making eggs might not even count as a warm-up.

How do you decide what’s significant?

By looking at your larger goal.

To the professional chef, the goal might be to master the full English breakfast so it can be added to the menu. The amateur may simply want to cook himself a quick meal before work.

That’s what makes setting milestones so tricky—you need to understand your start and endpoints to know which markers to set in the middle. And on top of that, you have to plot them on a timeline, stay motivated, track your progress, and learn from your mistakes.

How to Define Milestones for Yourself

Defining milestones for yourself can be a tall order. Here are ways you can do it.

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1. Define Your Endpoint

What do you actually want to accomplish? Is it securing a job in your field? Boosting your grade point average above 3.0?

Remember, goals come in many colors. They might be personal, financial, professional, social, emotional, or spiritual. There’s no “wrong” goal, just as long as you know your “why” and are committed to it.

2. Start Where You Are

To set milestones, it’s not enough to know where you want to end up—just as important is where you’re at now.

Looking at yourself objectively is tough. Think about it, and ask others for a gut check. If you’re not sure how your basketball skills stack up to people who eventually go pro, ask a trusted coach or teammate for their opinion.

3. Be ‘SMART’ About it

Once you know where you stand and where you want to be, you’re ready to plot some waypoints for yourself. Define milestones just as you do your big-picture goals—with the “SMART” system.

Milestones should be:

Specific

To be meaningful, milestones need to be carved out precisely.

If you’re trying to get fit, what does that mean to you? Would you like to lose a certain amount of weight? Build muscle? Overhaul your diet?

All of these might be milestones toward your goal.

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Again, if you aren’t sure, ask a professional. When I decided to get healthy for my kids, I knew I wasn’t aiming to be an Olympian. For some “normal dude” coaching, I reached out to a friend at IVRY Fitness.[2]

He helped me truly understand what specifically I needed to be my best self. I always tried to just jump on the Whole30 bandwagon or whatever was the hottest fitness goal at the time. He helped me understand that to achieve sustainability in your goals, they need to be targeted for you.

Measurable

To stay on track in my fitness regimen, my checkpoints had to be measurable. In some cases, this was a simple “yes or no”. One of my milestones, for example, was eating a real lunch every day.

In other cases, my milestones were numeric in nature. For the cardiovascular component, I set a daily step goal for myself. To build strength, I needed to gradually increase the amount of weight I was lifting. Making each of these measurable helped me know whether or not I’d met the milestone.

Achievable

Not all measurable and specific milestones make sense. There’s no way I was going to bench press 400 pounds the week after I set my health goals, for example. Trying to do too much too quickly would have discouraged me, not to mention the risk of injury.

For each milestone you’re considering, ask yourself: Is this a “stretch” milestone, an easy one, or a “goldilocks” one? Again, ask someone who knows you well if you’re not sure.

Relevant

Milestones have to make sense in the context of your larger goal to be worth setting. If you can’t explain how your milestone actually gets you closer to that goal, set a different one.

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For example, mental health is an important part of fitness. But because I wasn’t depressed, there’s no reason I’d define a milestone for myself like “see a counselor once a week.”

Time-Bounded

When do you expect to reach your milestone? Is it an hour away? A whole year? Any time horizon is fine, so long as it’s factored into the milestone you set. Remember that milestones must be achievable.

4. Take it One at a Time

If setting a dozen milestones at once is too daunting, try setting a new milestone only after achieving the last one. If you’re learning to swim, for instance, you might decide which stroke you want to learn next depending on how difficult you found the last one.

Doesn’t that make achieving your overall goal more difficult? Not necessarily. You just need to know the general arc. With the swimming example, your plan may be to learn a new stroke every other week. The specific strokes don’t matter until it’s time to practice them.

5. Write it Down

When you set a milestone, write it down. Not only does doing so help you further define the milestone — remember the SMART system—but it also makes you more likely to achieve it.

Milestones really are goals nestled within larger goals, and research shows writing down goals makes you 42% more likely to reach them.[3]

6. Be Flexible

Try as you might, you won’t meet every milestone you set for yourself. Don’t punish yourself. Learn from your mistake, and set another—and hopefully more achievable—milestone.

Do you need to scrap other milestones down the road because you failed to meet one? Not necessarily, but you may need to delay them.

If you didn’t pass your driver’s test, you probably need to push back practicing merging onto the highway. To ace your test, you may need to first reach a new milestone of memorizing road signs.

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7. Reward Yourself Along the Way

Rewards aren’t just for reaching your big-picture goals. Motivate yourself to keep setting milestones by giving yourself small gifts along the way.

Be careful, however, that they aren’t too small. Just as you wouldn’t give a friend or client a cheap gift, nor should you give yourself one.

John Ruhlin, a gifting expert I know, recommends this rule:[4])

Give yourself something you’d never normally buy but would love to own.

Obviously, don’t go out and buy yourself a new car because you hit your step goal. But a high-end, personalized water bottle might be just the ticket.

8. Give Yourself Breaks

Another way people demotivate themselves is by working themselves into the ground just to reach that next milestone. They beat themselves up, for example, because the nice dinner they enjoyed on vacation blew their calorie budget.

Life is bigger than any one milestone. If you have something to celebrate, indulge a little. If life deals you a setback, realize it may take some time to get back on track. What’s important is that you keep a positive attitude.

9. Get an Accountability Partner

If you’re struggling to set and stick to your milestones, don’t give up; get a partner. Make sure it’s someone who will be firm but fair with you, like a family member or a close friend.

Don’t insist that the accountability partner progress through your milestones with you. Everyone has their own goals to achieve. Do, however, ask him or her to hold you accountable. Suggest some light consequences in case you aren’t progressing toward your goal like you’d hoped.

Even if you can’t get an accountability partner, you can use one of your calendar apps to set daily goals that reminds you of each goal. At the end of the week, go through your calendar and track which goals you accomplished.

Final Thoughts

Some people already find goal setting difficult, so what more if they have to set milestones? To define milestones also means to progress toward your larger goals. Defining milestones on your own may not be easy at first, but you can start with these 9 tips until you get used to it.

More Tips on Setting and Achieving Milestones

Featured photo credit: Ante Hamersmit via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

How To Focus on the Positive To Achieve Your Goal In Life 9 Simple Ways to Delegate Tasks and Get More Done 10 Ways to Find Your Focus When You’re Stressed Out 3 Biggest Time-Management Myths to Stop Believing How to Set Milestones to Progress Towards Your Goal

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

There are times in your life when you will have to define a path to achieve your goals. These are moments to decide how you will push through to finish strong.

Will you give up or give it all that it takes? Will you bring all your energy and skills to bear or provide an excuse? The only person that possesses the power to choose your response is you.

It may sound impossible anytime you hear the phrase “finish strong.” This is because your natural tendency would be to settle for the status quo or accept fate, and when you are facing life’s biggest challenges, you may face the temptation to quit or compromise your standards.

The story of Tyrone Muggsy Bogues will inspire you. He lived in abject poverty while his father languished in prison. He was hit by a stray bullet at age five and grew up to be 1.6m tall[1].

All these challenges did not deter him from becoming the shortest player in the history of the National Basketball Association. Tyrone had 6858 points, 1369 steals, and 6726 assists all through his NBA. career. Just like Tyrone, you should not allow life challenges to stop you down from finishing strong.

Here are some fun facts to buttress why you need to push through the end:

  • Most of the points scored in football occur a few minutes before the game ends.
  • The last seconds in a race determines who wins as every runner wants to give the most effort.
  • You work harder when there are deadlines to meet.

Here’s more proof of why the finish is highly significant. People rate the quality of life higher when it ends better, not minding if it was short. This is often called the James Dean Effect[2].

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These five proven steps will enable you to finish strong if you already have goals you want to accomplish.

1. Write Your Goals Down

A study revealed that people who write their goals down have an eighty percent chance of finishing strong[3]. You can create a Goal Journal or adopt the S.M.A.R.T goal technique.

Don’t forget, your goals have to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

While it might look like an additional task to write down your goals instead of storing them in your memory, there are more sides to it.

Two things happen when you write something down:

You are documenting the goals on paper, which makes it easier to assess and audit in the future. Neurologists believe you will recollect visual cues more compared to non-visual cues.

Furthermore, you are encoding those goals as they travel to your brain’s hippocampus, where analysis takes place. From that point, sorting happens. Some goals are stored in your long-term memory while others are discarded. Writing facilitates the encoding process, so write down those goals!

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2. Break Your Goals Into Milestones

Breaking down goals into small bites will help you celebrate your small victories. You need that momentum to finish strong.

For instance, if you are writing a book, you can:

  • Write the book concept or blurb
  • Conduct keyword and content research
  • Create an outline
  • Write the content
  • Edit and proofread
  • Format and publish
  • Market the book

Establishing milestones provides you a clear format that will help you not burn out when working on your goals. Moreover, milestones are those actions you need to take to finish strong.

A study conducted by Gail Matthews shows that those who write their goals have a 33% chance of actualizing them compared to those who only have their goals in their brain[4].

3. Build Momentum

As I stated earlier, you need momentum to finish strong. You can gain momentum when you meet each of the milestones. In his book, Darren Hardy recommends consistency as a sure way to generate all the momentum[5].

How do you build momentum by being consistent? Hardy recommends five actionable steps:

Establish a Morning Regimen

According to Hardy, you may find it hard to take charge of your mid-day, but you can determine how you start the day and end it. Therefore, design your rise-and-shine routine. Do your Most-Important-Task (M.I.T.) in the morning.

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Morning routine to finish strong

    Create an Evening Schedule

    Hardy defines this period as when you cash out on your day. It is a moment to assess if you have accomplished all you wanted to that day. You can ask yourself these questions:

    • Which items do I need to carry over to the next day’s M.I.T. list?
    • What item on my to-do list is still relevant?
    • Which of the tasks do I need to cancel?

    Restructure Your Routine

    It can be boring doing the same thing over a long period. Therefore, inject some excitement into your plan. Visit the park, prepare new food, or take a short, online course. Shaking up your routine will naturally assist you in building momentum.

    Keep a Log of New Habits

    Track new behaviors and log the number of times you perform them. That way, you can compare your goals with the outcome.

    Avoid Negative Self-Talk

    What you say affects how you finish your goals. Positive self-talk is a time-tested method to set goals and follow through. Any time you doubt your ability to finish strong, respond with positive affirmations.

    Do not bow to negative pressure to give up. Control your thoughts, and do not permit external forces, such as fears and doubts, to control them. Here are ten positive affirmations to help you finish strong.

    5. Find a Mentor or an Accountability Partner

    You need all the support you can find to stay the course. A lot of successful individuals attribute their success to the influence of a mentor or an accountability partner.

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    The right mentor will offer you insight, advice, and connections to help you finish strong. A mentor’s role is to guide you on self-reflection and help you ask self-discovery questions.

    Here are ways to maximize mentorship:

    • Be curious: Ask questions that provoke deeper thoughts.
    • Be honest: Feel free to share your challenges and be open to feedback.
    • Be punctual: Be timely and stick to appointments.
    • Be specific: Establish what you want from the relationship.
    • Be respectful: Respect should be mutual. You should respect the boundaries set by your mentor, and your mentor should do the same.

    You can read more on How To Get The Best Out Of Mentorship.

    Bonus Tip: Engage the Self-Awareness Technique (S.A.T.) to Finish Strong

    It is not enough to be an enthusiastic starter; you must also be an optimistic finisher. What is self-awareness? Self-awareness is getting in touch with how you feel and think. It could also mean connecting to your core values and beliefs to live a life that aligns with them.

    Self-awareness can help you figure out your strengths so you can focus on them. It also helps you discover your weaknesses. The moment you accept what you can’t achieve, you will bring together all of your strengths to achieve what you can.

    An HBR report confirmed that when you have a clear picture of yourself, you can be more confident and unleash your creativity. You will also build long-lasting relationships and communicate better[6].

    Final Thoughts

    As you assess the aspects of your life, you need to finish strong, take time to study your past achievements, and apply the lessons to the last phase of your present pursuit.

    Always remember, you have all it takes to finish what you started.

    More Tips on Completing Your Goals

    Featured photo credit: Ethan Hoover via unsplash.com

    Reference

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