How super successful people set goals

Picture this: you set a well thought out goal. Whether, for the workplace or your personal life,  you’re excited about it.  As you begin working toward it, you pick up momentum and build related habits along the way, eventually gliding seemingly effortlessly to the finish line. We all set, (occasionally) achieve and pivot away from our goals, but some people seem to hit every goal they set for themselves with an ease most of us only dream of.

Good news: setting and achieving goals is not reserved for those more ambitious, wealthier, or better connected than you. With the right strategies, setting and seeing through a goal can be a fun (and totally achievable) personal challenge that anyone can take on.

The key here is to have a very simplified way of setting, focusing and executing your goals. We spoke to a handful of successful CEOs and founders to get a glimpse into how they set their own goals. These simple tricks are bound to take your goal-setting and habit-creating skills to the next level.

Schedule ‘Strategic Time’

“Busy CEOs will unanimously agree: time is the commodity they wish they had more of,” says Shawn Johal, Entrepreneur & Business Growth Coach. “As a current CEO and business growth coach to other CEOs, one of my key hacks for goal-setting is a habit: scheduling one uninterrupted hour every day for Strategic Time.”

Scheduling time to work your goals into your calendar and make them visible to whoever has access ensures everyone on your team understands this time is non-negotiable. No distractions, no interruptions — just pure focus.

“Strategy does not have to be left as a quarterly or annual topic; being purposeful about Strategic Time allows me to spend more time working on and refining big-picture ideas and vision. The first step for accomplishing goals is to be purposeful about setting goals – and that starts with making them a priority in your schedule!” says Johal.

Take time to reflect

“I don’t set any goals straight away,” explains Brett Helling, CEO of Ridester. “I take time to reflect on my progress over the previous year. Then assess whether I’ve spent enough time on what really matters and what I want to achieve in the next year.  I think more about the legacy and the impact I want to make.”

Helling suggests breaking down your goals into monthly and weekly achievements to shoot for, working toward those smaller, more achievable goals will help you stay motivated while eventually reaching your destination.

Reverse engineer your plan

“Include short term and long-term goals when you’re planning for the future,” adds Helling. “Break it down and think about what you need to accomplish in the first week, the first month and the first year. Also, envision your business in the next five years and work your way backwards to see how you need to get there.”

Consider a checklist

“Use a simple checklist to write the top three action items that will help you achieve your monthly goals,” suggests Globafly CEO Mariya Palanjian. “As you can see on this daily to-do list, you can write your monthly goals each day so you stay focused and think of all the resources/action items necessary to accomplish the goal.”

Don’t be afraid of a Plan B

“I hate to say it, but every career goal should include a Plan B,” says Helling. “You need to know what you are going to do when your original plan fails. Having a Plan B will assist you in making confident decisions and stay level-headed if things go astray.”

Stay balanced

“When strategizing goals and developing a framework for scaffolding the habits on which skyscrapers of success can be built, I remind CEOs of the importance of attending to growth in all spheres of their lives:  business, finance, leadership, family, social relationships, physical health, intellect, and spirituality,” explains Dr. Joy Lere, a psychologist who practices at the intersection of behavior and business. “Neglect of important facets of a person’s identity, functioning, and life when goal mapping can, in the long run, limit the outcome of the finest laid plans.”

Don’t bother with KPIs

“I’ve recently changed my goal setting to not include metrics based KPIs,” says Phil Strazzulla is the Founder and CEO of SelectSoftware, “This is based on advice from Jason Friedman, who runs Basecamp, and made me realize most metrics-driven KPIs will leave you feeling like you haven’t hit your goals.” 

Instead of focusing on metrics and KPIs, simply focus on doing work to further work on the goal you’re chasing. This way, you’re able to see the small milestones as wins rather than being beholden to KPIs that tend to swing for reasons outside of your control.