Making a Goal Board (You'll Actually Use)
I’m a self proclaimed “goal digger.” I love making to-do lists, writing in planners, writing out goals for the year and distant future. I’m one of those people who likes to buy books with goal setting prompts in them.
One thing I have noticed though is that there’s a pretty big gap between writing down goals, and actually getting them done. It’s easy to say you want to write a book (for example) in January, but if you aren’t actively working on it throughout the year, December rolls around and you have twenty pages you’ve written in January, and nothing to show for the rest of the year.
Why Goal Boards Don’t Usually Work
Something that I’ve heard over and over again is that having your goals or vision board up in plain sight so that you see it on a regular basis. I agree with that to a degree--I think your goals need to be written and displayed so you see them every day. But that’s not enough for me.
If you see the same thing over and over again, your mind stops processing what you’ve written and combines it with the rest of your environment. (For example, if you have a movie poster in your apartment as a decoration, you don’t read the poster information every time you pass. It’s just busy information that you tune out.)
When I put in my two weeks for my PR writing position, I started outlining a goal board where I figured out my priorities and the things that were important to me. After I quit, I made a poster-sized list of those goals.
The difference between my goal board and most goal boards was that my goal board requires that I update my progress and fill in blanks about once a week. Because of this interactivity, I have to look at what I have written and can visually track my progress as time passes. This helps me hold myself accountable throughout the year. (I made mine in October and have continued to keep it up to date the past four months.)
Figure Out Your Priorities
Everyone’s goal boards will be different, because we all have different things we’re working on. Try to figure out two to three priorities you have for this year, and stick with those until you have accomplished your goal.
For me, my two priorities this year are completing my web development course and consistently maintaining this blog. Once I finish this course, I’ll change that priority to something like long distance running, hopefully. (I’m really looking forward to running again.) A third priority I have includes making time to do “kid” things with Gus, because due to Ries and I both being students and having so many things to work on, Gus ends up tagging along with us. It’s easy for us to forget to take time to do things that are fun for tiny people.
Make Your Board
I divided my board up five inch columns, and then added rows depending on how many topics I hoped to fit in each column. Your topics will not be the same as mine, but hopefully sharing my board will help you determine what topics to include on your own board. A few additional ideas include a section for quotes, habits you’re trying to kick, trips you want to take, monthly goals/highlights, random acts of kindness you perform for strangers each week, etc.
I made my board with colorful sharpies that I liked, but if you want to use magazine clippings, photos or stickers, I’m sure it would be lovely. I really like looking at my goal board every day.
*For all sections with asterisks, I check these off or cross them out as I complete them. My type A mind loves that stuff.
My Goal Board
My board contains the following topics:
Six Month Goals* (October 2018-March 2019)
A Year from Now Goals* (October 2018-October 2019)
Five Year Plan—I formed a five year plan based on this article, where I essentially have five big goals, and then list more concrete goals under those five categories to help me accomplish the big goals.
Ideal Life—What I want my day to day reality to look like once we get out of tschool.
Company Watchlist—Companies I am keeping an eye on as potential places I would like to work.
Location Goals—Cities or areas I would like to live in either temporarily or permanently.
Big purchases I would like to make in the near future—I’m not really motivated about buying things, I’m more motivated by stability, so this is the least “effective” section on my board I think. But I drew pictures and those are cute to look at.
Books/Movies/TV*—Things I want to read or watch. If you’re a gamer, you could also add games to this section.
Skills I want to Learn—I have all kinds of things on this list ranging from coding to spoken languages to Aikido to musical instruments. Just list anything that sounds interesting. Sometimes that’s the best place to start when you’re having a hard time figuring out what you want from life. Starting a new hobby is also a great way to meet people or get out of a mental or artistic funk.
My Flatiron School curriculum—I have all of the modules listed and each chapter is represented by a box that I get to check off. This helps keep me motivated and see how much progress I’ve made. If you’re in school, you could go week by week and add big projects or papers you have due.
Projects*—These are primarily writing projects that I have outlined and want to work on.
Publications*—This is a list of publications to which I want to submit my work, and their due dates so I have a good idea of where to submit next.
Adventures with Gus—For this section, I listed out each week from October to May and I fill it in each week with something fun we went out of our way to do with Gus. Sometimes it’s something simple like taking him to the park for thirty minutes, visiting my parents’ farm, or going trick or treating for the first time.
I hope this article will help you start your year off right! And remember, any time is a good time to start— I started my board in October!
If you have any questions about my goal board or setting goals, post them in the comments or send us a message! I’m the weirdo who listens to podcasts and audiobooks on this topic, so I kind of consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject.