Back in 2015, I had the habit of setting goals in January, resolutions of sorts. That year, I set more than 40 goals and was very committed, in the first two months… When my drive gradually dissolved, I started to cross off items from my list. I started making excuses. At the end of the year, I had accomplished 15 of those 40+ goals. Not a bad result, but not even close. I realized that I had two problems in my planning method. First, I set too many goals to be able to work on all of them. Second, most of the goals I set in January were no longer relevant in April. This is when I learned about quarter planning.
Shortly before I read Michael Hyatt’s book Living Forward, I heard him talk about quarter planning on his podcast, This is your life. I was very intrigued. Right after I’ve listened to that episode, I was introduced by Jeff Sanders’ podcast to The 12 Week Year book by Brian P Moran. After reading his book, I created the planning method I am now using, incorporating elements from different influencers I admire. I now have a step by step planning strategy that I go through every season to set new goals and get closer to my life vision. Today, I will share my method with you and offer you a template to apply this method into your life.
Why quarter planning works best
Have you made resolutions in January? If so, are you close to reaching those goals by the end of the year? Not quite? You are not alone! Research shows that only 8% of Americans achieve the goals they set on January first. I believe that setting goals on a 12 months scale is not working. After 6 months, 54% of resolution-makers have dropped the ball. An alarming statistic! In January, we are pumped, motivated, we are willing to do the efforts and do what it takes. Comes February, the novelty has worn out and you realize that you can skip a day or two and it won’t make a difference comes December. You start losing your grit. You might also realize, in March or April that you are not in the same place in your life now and the goals you’ve set in January are no longer relevant.
That is why setting goals in 12 weeks periods make more sense to me because it becomes a sprint. I keep your eyes on the prize for a short period and each week counts. I cannot afford to lose any time, I have to focus and do the work. After the 90 days period, I reassess my goals and choose new ones. I can achieve more goals in a one year period because of these quick bursts of effort. It keeps me motivated and dedicated to my goals, I feel like they are attainable and I can see the finish line more clearly. I just love it! Here are the 5 steps I take to set goals using the quarter planning method.
Step 1 : Assess your current situation, the Level 10 Life exercise
First of all, I like to gain clarity on my current life circumstances and figure out what areas of my life need improving. That is how I choose my goals, by focusing on my pain points, the aspects of my life that do not satisfy me and would make the bigger difference in my overall wellbeing. In his book, The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod shares an exercise called the Level 10 Life. Elrod asks this question : if you had to evaluate your life on a 1 to 10 scale, how high would you want to score? 10 right? This exercise allows you to evaluate the different areas of your life (life accounts according to Michael Hyatt) and measure your level of success so that you can aim to reach the 10/10 you truly want. Such life accounts can be physical, family, friends, career, faith or spirituality, finances, any area of your life that is a priority for you. You can choose 5, 7, or up to 10 life accounts. You can see below my own Level 10 Life exercise in my current bullet journal. I’ve created a template for you so you can do your own Level 10 Life exercise. You can access the free PDF here.
When you have gone through your exercise, you should clearly see the areas of your life that are not satisfactory enough in your life right now. That is where I suggest focusing your efforts for the next quarter. But before we start, I suggest that you pat yourself on the back and celebrate the good things in your life. Take time to reflect and write down the gratitude that you feel for those areas where you have a great score. We can never have too much gratitude!
Step 2 : choose your next goals
Now that you have identified the pain points in your life, choose 3 or 4 areas that you would like to improve. Write down what you would like to achieve in each of these areas for the next 12 weeks. If you have written a life plan before, make sure that the goals you have chosen are aligned with the bigger picture. Ideally, your life plan would determine your 5-year vision, which would determine your goals for the year. You would choose your quarter goals in alignment with your plan and choose your actions each week according to your 12 weeks goals. Your daily to-do list should always be aligned with that plan. I suggest that you set no more than 4 goals, to be realistic and be able to give time and attention to each of them.
Some would say that your goals have to be SMART : Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. I agree, most of the time. Some goals will not fit inside those boxes. For example, one of my goals last quarter was to connect with my younger brother. It was not measurable per se, but it was still a valuable goal to pursue.
Step 3 : create your action plan
It is a great thing to set goals. But a goal without a plan is just a wish! For each of your goals, write down the specific actions you need to take, or the habits you need to implement to reach your destination. For my goal to connect with my brother, one of the habits I have implemented was to call him once every two weeks. An action I needed to take was to plan a get-together. Some of those actions are very simple, others will require a bit of planning. Go through each goal and write down your plan. You can set due dates for some of those to make sure you stay on track.
Step 4 : Review your plan daily
One of the best ways to stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize is to review your goals daily. There are many ways you can make sure to read them every day. For example, I write down my goals on my Miracle Morning checklist in my bullet journal. Every day, when I do my morning routine, I read my goals and assess if I am making progress on each one. If you are not a Miracle Morning practitioner, you can create a desktop wallpaper for your computer with your list of goals, or write them down on a post-it and stick it on your fridge or mirror.
Step 5 : Do the work!
Now is the time to act! Setting the goals is only the beginning, you will only reach them if you put in the efforts and implement your action plan. Work it!
Every week, assess your progress on each goal. Have you taken action on your goals? Did you practice the habits you needed to implement? Brian P. Moran says that if you accomplish 85% of your plan, you will achieve your goals. Goal setting is as simple as choosing what you want to achieve and do what you need to do to achieve it. So simple!
Since I’ve started to implement my quarter planning method, I have achieved most of the goals I have set. I am more motivated by my goals and I see each quarter like a crucial part of my year, a time to get things done and create the life and happiness that I truly want.
Will you try quarter planning? How do you think it could impact your progress? Let me know in the comments below!
Don’t forget to grab your level 10 life template, and if you would like to see more images of my planning process, follow me on Instagram where I share sneak peaks of my bullet journal and the research I do for the articles on my blog. I can’t wait to connect with you!
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