Experts Swear By This Easy Method to Make Challenging Goals Way Less Overwhelming

published Feb 24, 2021
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For as exciting as setting personal goals for yourself can be, figuring out how to accomplish them can be daunting, to say the least.  Whether you’re hoping to secure a better job, buy a house, or simply aiming to exercise more, there’s one goof-proof way that career and life coaches say can make approaching your big goals less intimidating. 

“Breaking down your goals into smaller, bite-sized tasks helps make them more digestible, and easier to see what actions you need to take to accomplish them,” career and mindset coach Kenitra “Keni” Dominguez says. “By focusing on one target at a time, you can better anticipate how to turn your goals into a reality.”

Not only will turning your big-picture goals into specific, actionable steps make them easier to tackle, doing so can also help you stay motivated along the way. According to Grace Marshall, author of How to be Really Productive, “Baby steps help you bypass procrastination and create momentum. When you’re ‘just’ doing one small thing at a time, it’s easier to get started and keep going.”

Interested in learning more about how to break your aspirations and resolutions down into manageable tasks? From writing down your objectives to finding an accountability buddy, here’s what steps career and life coaches say you can take to make challenging goals less overwhelming. 

Define your goal.

Before you can turn a goal into actionable tasks, Dominguez says you need to get specific about what exactly you’re aiming to achieve. “It’s important to take time to reflect on your goals before getting started,” she explains. “Writing or visualizing your goals makes them real, so take out a piece of paper, or use a digital tool like Trello, Evernote, or Pinterest, and make a list or imageboard of your objectives.” 

If you’re having trouble defining your objectives, creative career coach Kat Koh says knowing the difference between a goal and a task can be a big help. “A lot of people don’t realize that completing goals and tasks bring up different emotions,” she says. “A task is something that brings us relief when it’s finished, like filing your taxes on time. Goals, on the other hand, such as publishing a short story in a literary magazine or starting a community garden, are usually meaningful and rooted in deep values, so we feel joy (not relief) when we accomplish them.”

Break down your goals into bite-sized to-dos.

Once you have a clearer picture of a certain goal, career coach David Wiacek says the next step is to turn your vision into smaller tasks that you can work on one at a time. “Start by writing down one thing — just one little task — that you can do to bring you one inch closer to that vision, and take it from there,” he advises. “Visualize what specific steps it will take to achieve your goal, and make a list of those tasks so that you can order and prioritize them accordingly.”

If a certain task on your list seems particularly daunting, Wiacek recommends breaking it down into even smaller to-dos if possible. “For example, if your goal is to find a new job and one of your tasks is updating your resume, aim to rework just one small section of your resume at a time, instead of trying to complete it all at once,” he says.

Set deadlines for yourself.

As soon as you have a list of all the tasks you’ll need to complete to reach your goal, Dominguez says attaching a deadline to each step can help hold you accountable. “Whether they’re daily or weekly due dates, integrate these deadlines into your calendar so that you get reminders or notifications when tasks are due,” she says. “You can also take it a step further and schedule progress check-ins with yourself, to ensure that you’re meeting your mini-goals along the way.” 

When you’re setting a timeline for your tasks, Koh says it’s important to choose deadlines that are feasible and within your bandwidth. “Everything takes about ten times longer to do in real life as it takes to dream up in the mind,” she notes. “If you create a realistic timeline that you can stick to, it’s less likely that you’ll procrastinate or write off your goal as impossible. “

Credit: Lula Poggi

Find support.

When it comes to reaching major life goals, accountability is key. That’s why Wiacek recommends designating a friend or family member to help hold you responsible for each step you need to take. “Try to choose someone who actually has some clout over your life,” he says. “The idea is that you’ll actually feel something if you don’t follow through with your goal.”

If you ever feel a wave of procrastination or intimidation washing over you, Wiacek says you can text your accountability buddy to discuss any struggles with the task at hand. “Inform them of your deadline and ask them to check in with you by that date to make sure you’re on track,” he advises.

Celebrate each and every win.

No matter how big the goal is that you’re trying to achieve, Koh says it’s crucial to reward yourself for each task you complete along the way. “Our brains are oh-so quick to move on, minimize, and forget about the good work that we’ve done,” she explains. “Celebrating the small successes with gratitude and fun is like topping off the gas tank so you can keep driving.”

Observing each milestone can be as simple as calling a dear friend, treating yourself to something delicious, or having a quick dance party to the song you’re currently obsessed with. “It might feel silly at first, but there’s brain science to back this up,” Koh says.