For the past three years, I’ve set some simple, yet on-going goals for myself: increase my credit score, ride my bike more, save a set amount and be debt-free. And each year I’m unhappy about not reaching them completely, but pat myself on the back for making some progress. What I’m realizing is that my goals are on a continuum. They aren’t simple one-step goals that I can achieve in 12-months. Instead, I have to evaluate the progress I’ve made and go from there making adjustments to eventually meet the entire goal.

Our lives revolve around time so much so that we feel that the start of the New Year is the beginning of a new era in our lives. As much as I like setting new goals at the beginning of the year, I find that sometimes I start slacking off towards the middle because I lose hope that I won’t meet that goal by the year’s end.

Instead, I’ve decided to not set date or time related goals. So how will I measure my progress? In increments of achievement.

This might sound flaky; setting goals without an end date in sight. But the point is to acknowledge my successes without becoming discouraged and giving up. If anything, I need to decide how to monitor progress. Do I set an exact amount (which hasn’t work out very well in the past)? Or do I shoot for a percentage of improvement? I’m leaning towards a percentage of improvement – the more, the better. Yet, if I only improve by 5%, well that’s still okay.

Ultimately, I’d like to achieve being debt-free within the next 2 – 4 years (students loans being the brunt of my debt load). But there’s that time frame again. I’d also like to make more headway on retirement savings this coming year which is easier to monitor on a percent basis.

Either way, I’m shooting for high expectations, but still acknowledging any incremental progress.

Do you think this is a cop-out? Or, does this method work for on-going goals?

10 Comments

  1. Setting a big goal for a time a long way in the future is a surefire way to guarantee you won’t reach that goal, or that you’ll mess around getting there. I think when it’s a big goal you have to split it up into more manageable milestones. This will let you feel success along the way which will provide continued motivation as you can celebrate the mini-achievements. Plus, it gives you a measuring stick to your greater goal that you just don’t have when you’re looking at something many months or years away.

    • @Money Beagle – You have a point. Maybe if I break down the goal into smaller steps I’ll be more successful. I do need a way to measure my progress instead of just putting it off.

  2. Measuring your progress will be difficult without a timeframe. I need milestones to measure my progress. Try your method for 3 months and judge your progress.

    • @Krantcents – That’s a good point, too. Maybe I’ll reevaluate in 3 months and decide if I need to implement time frames again.

  3. I think each person has to find the method for them. Since you are more motivated by this continuum method, then it’s awesome for you! I am a deadline-motivated person, so I have to attach an end date or I just will allow myself forever to achieve something…

  4. I think setting a mix of continuum and finish line goals are good. You still need some motivation and the achievable, measurable goals will keep you going.

    • @Joe – I like the SMART goal method, but even when I tried it last year, it fell apart. I think I really need to break my goals down into smaller, more achievable steps. πŸ˜‰

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