One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals

Don't make this mistake when goalsettingI love to set goals.

I’ve been that way for my entire life.

Whether or not I actually reach those goals is another story, although I’m always being reminded of the importance of acting on your goals (which is why I write stuff like the Massive Action Checklist and Are You An Action Figure?).

I’m okay with setting more goals than I achieve (well, to a degree) because I figure that I still accomplish a lot in spite of hitting only a fraction of the goals I set.

But in the last year or so I’ve started to notice something else and it could be the key to unlocking a better level of achievement in my goals. I’ve also learned that other people face the same challenge too. (Whew!) In fact, my friend Warren Wooden of PLR Internet Marketing mentioned this very same thing in the recent interview I did with him for the third anniversary of his business.

Here’s the mistake most people (including me and Warren) make when goal setting:

Goals of varying timeframes are set but they don’t tie together.

You might set daily and weekly and monthly and quarterly and yearly goals… but the goals you work on for your daily goals might not contribute to your weekly goals, and the goals you work on for your monthly goals might not work on for your quarterly goals.

So instead of focusing on just a few projects, you end up spreading yourself too thin. You work for a bit on project X goals to meet your daily goals and then you work for a bit on project Y goals to meet your weekly goals and then your project Z goals to meet your monthly goals. Working on one goal will not contribute to a larger goal.

It sucks because you increase your workload, spread your focus dangerously thin, decrease your productivity, and then fail to achieve more goals.


Start at the high level and work backwards: Set some big-ass goals — perhaps goals for your professional life (for example). Let’s say that you create a series goals for your career and you expect your professional life to last the next 30 years at which point you plan to retire.

Now you can break these goals down into three 10-year goals. But it’s important to note this: Instead of creating new goals, just create smaller versions of that over-arching goal. For example, maybe you want to retire with an annual passive cash flow of a million dollars in thirty years. So you divide that into three 10-year goals. Maybe you have the goal of earning a $333,000 annual passive cash flow by the end of the first decade and $666,000 annual passive by the end of the second decade. Whatever. These are just examples.

Okay, now that you have those 10 years goals hammered out, make them smaller. Again, don’t create new goals. Instead, create smaller versions of these goals. So your first decade of working toward an annual passive cash flow of $333,000 might mean trying to add $33,000 each year for the next 10 years — $33,000 in the first year, $66,000 in the second year and so on.

Now that you have annual goals created, then divide those goals by 4 to get quarterly goals. Now you’re trying to add $8250 per quarter in passive income.

Those same goals can be subdivided further — divide them by 3 to get monthly goals each quarter, then divide by 4 to get weekly goals, then divide by 7 (to get daily goals for a 7-day week) or 5 (go get daily goals for a 5-day week). Heck, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t divide your goals by 8 to get hourly goals based on an 8-hour work day.

Now you have real goals to work with… goals that will build on each other over time. Goals at the microscopic level that, if you work on them, you’ll contribute to your larger goals.


Goals are not actions. Dividing these goals down to that tiny level won’t make them magically come to fruition. Rather, it turns a seemingly overwhelming career-long goal into something that you can actually work on right this minute. So once you have these goals, assign actions to them. Some actions will be daily, some weekly , some quarterly, etc. But assign actions to contribute to those goals.

Not all goals work on the same timeline. I used passive cash flow as my example because I wanted to use some numbers that could be divided from large career-long numbers down to much smaller numbers. But not all goals will work that way. Some won’t take your entire career. Some can’t be divided down into hourly goals. Owning a Lamborghini in a decade is a worthwhile goal (especially if you cruise by my house and we can drive around in it for a bit). But it’s hard to subdivide a Lambo into annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. (Well, not if you’ve heard Johnny Cash’s song “One Piece At a Time“). So use some common sense here, people. Figure out how to make it work. Maybe you set a goal to have enough money to buy a Lamborghini — that can be divided down.

Not all numbers are easily divisible. I hope what I’m about to write makes sense. Here goes: Not all numbers can be easily divided by the number of time periods in the smaller sub-set. Sometimes, you can’t just quickly divide your decade goal by 10 to get annual goals because the goals build on each other to create an exponential increase rather than a straight line increase. (Similar in concept to the different ways that depreciation is calculated — straight line or declining balance). It might be easier to make a larger jump later in the goal than earlier.

Image credit: TALUDA

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