Work SMARTer, Not Harder: How to Succeed in Goal-Setting

“Everyday I say to myself, today I will begin.” Saint Gregory the Great


Like many other busy people and chronic overachievers, the most common question I get asked – behind “When do you sleep?” – is “How do you manage to do it all?”

The answer is simpler than you might think: I plan ahead. I map out my long-term and short-term goals, make lists, set deadlines, block out segments of time with color-coded Google Calendars, and set reminders on my phone.

That may sound overwhelming to those of you who are just starting to monitor your time and productivity, so here is my step-by-step goal-setting process...

Making A Roadmap

First, I visually map out my (lifetime, three-year, one-year, and one-month) goals. Ask yourself, “If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?” Write every single thing that comes to mind and be as specific as possible. You do not need to be realistic or justify your dreams. Just write. I’ve been using Passion Planners for years, and they helped me develop a habit of constantly brainstorming and reevaluating my goals for myself and my businesses. You can download a free printable of the Passion Roadmap here, or you can draw your own map on a blank sheet of paper. I personally like using poster boards or 11x17 printer paper, so that I have more space and can hang up my goals somewhere I can see them.

Breaking Down My Goals Into Actionable Tasks

Next, I look at each goal in my roadmap and turn them into to-dos with deadlines. It is far easier and less overwhelming to accomplish the larger goal you originally set if it is divided into smaller, more attainable, actionable tasks. For example, if my goal is to establish a Pinterest presence for my e-commerce business in the next three months, my tasks would look like “Create four starter boards with content,” “Integrate Shop feature,” “Grow Pinterest Business Page to 500 followers,” “Push two Promoted Pins,” and “Reach out to five social media influencers for collaborations.” At this step, it’s especially important that each of your tasks is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound).

Specific: Provide a clear description of what needs to be achieved.

Measurable: Include a metric with a target that indicates success. Numbers should be your best friend.

Attainable: Set a challenging target, but keep it realistic.

Realistic: Keep your task consistent with your larger goal.

Time-Bound: Set a date for when your task needs to be achieved.

In a team setting, I delegate these tasks out and follow up with team members on their progress later. For the tasks I personally undertake, I block off hours of work in my Google Calendar, with dates and times, and set reminders with alarms. This way I make time for everything I need to do to accomplish my goal in the time frame that I want it and simultaneously work on my long-term and short-term goals.

Finding An Accountability Partner

Finally, pick someone who is doing what you want to do or who is doing something similar. “Meet” with them regularly (in-person, on the phone, or over video call), share your goals, achievements, and challenges with them, and check in with them about how they’re doing. Trust me on this: No one succeeds alone, and you are not the exception to this rule. If you need further convincing, Edmund Mitchell of Lumi Box and “The Show” Podcast has a great video on why you need accountability partners! Catholic Women in Business also offers a private discussion forum on Facebook, mastermind groups, and a one-on-one mentorship program as a resource to you.

Samantha Yee is a national Catholic speaker, writer, and poet. A Bay Area native and alum of UC Berkeley, Sam grew up in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley and is largely influenced by the innovation and creativity of the burgeoning tech industry. When she was 10, she taught herself to code, started her first business (an online T-shirt shop), and was instantly hooked; the rest, as they say, is history. Sam consults for churches, nonprofits, and businesses around the United States and the world. Her favorite projects include running a Pinterest marketing campaign for Walmart, giving a talk at Google, being interviewed on CBS News, editing Br. Anthony Freeman’s book, and writing a play for the Missionaries of Charity. Sam currently spends most of her days discipling married couples and creating resources and curriculum for family faith formation as a parish missionary in Anchorage, Alaska.