- by Barney Davey
90-day goals are a wonder and a force of nature.
Unless we are sleepwalking through life, we are all trying to get things done. It’s human nature to want to accomplish things. It’s also human nature to bite off more than we can chew, and procrastinate on those ideal things we would like to do.
What I just said is a dichotomy. How can you want to accomplish your ideas and at the same time be a procrastinator? It’s easy. We’re involved human beings with a multitude of inputs, impulses, and desires.
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. – F. Scott Fitzgerald
While we might aspire to have great success, we also have enormous temptations. The studio, napping, family, friends, Facebook, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and football games tug at us. We are pulled in a lot of directions daily.
It takes self-discipline to break out of our everyday routines. Changes cause ripples and effects we have to deal with whether we want to or not. We often are resistant to change because we fear the cause and effect. Or, we are just comfortable enough to be complacent.
Humans Are Complex Beings
Accept these things about being human. It helps clarify why five-year and even one-year goals are hard to achieve. Human nature takes effect and starts the trouble. We relax knowing we have months or years before urgency kicks us into action.
While long-term goals are okay, they need setting and accomplishing smaller aims to support them. If you want to become a medical doctor, you know it will take years of education and training with lots of incremental milestones. Fortunately, learning breaks into smaller segments, which make monumental and mundane achievements possible.
Why 90-day Goal Planning Works
Let’s talk about artists for a minute. I find artists fall into two broad categories with lots of crossovers. Most either are creative, or they are technical. You don’t see many good planners in either type. It’s too hard to figure out what we want in five years. Some of us float for years in relative comfort because we are not planning and taking action on higher goals.
If we attempt to force ourselves to make long-term goals, we often come up with items that sound good on paper. But, in reality, how often are they things not close to our authentic selves? As such, we don’t take such goals seriously.
Compare 90-day Goals to Formal Education
You got through whatever level of formal education you completed in quarters or semesters. There is a good reason for breaking up the year that way. School administrators, teachers, and students can wrap their heads around a 90-day agenda. A quarter is believable and achievable, which makes it easy to get done, to see the finish line.
So why not go back to what worked well for you in the past? I suggest not going quarter to quarter without a break between. Taking some time off between 90-day goals gives you an opportunity to prepare for the next 90 days. And, a chance to recover from your previous 90-day push. Plus, it provides you with a cushion to finish a project without taking time from your next 90-day period.
A Schedule to Live By
I suggest you use a 90-day on and 30-day off routine. Here is one suggestion. You can modify to your needs:
- September – November and taking off December
- January – March and take off Apri
- May – July and off in August.
That plan gives you three 90-day on cycles and three 30-day off cycles. Taking breaks in December, April and August seem to fit the lifestyle and coordinate with other yearly plans and obligations.
Put together enough quarters of formal education, and you can get a doctorate
Keeping steady at using a 90-day cycle will allow you to achieve loftier, more complicated long-term career goals, too.
Commit to your goals in writing
The primary reason you and others will fail is a lack of a written deadline. The Stanford University executive program found 90% of high-performing people shared these common traits:
- set specific goals—with expected results
- set a time frame for their goals
- writes them down
Want to know the quickest way to make this new goal setting routine to fail? Load it up with too much stuff. Starting small when you are making changes is how to stay focused on what is essential.
Set one personal goal and one career goal. It may not sound like a lot. But, it’s already far more than you were doing before. As your muscle doing thing grows, you can add more to it. I think taking on three personal, and three career goals should be the max. More than that and you water down the relevant things. Worse, you get discouraged and quit doing everything because you are not making progress on anything.
Do great things with your goals.
Don’t let good be the enemy of great. Too many goals mean lots of good and little or no significant accomplishments.
A personal goal can be intensely personal meaning you don’t have to share it with anyone else. You can if you want, but it is not necessary and may even be not helpful to achieving your goal. Ask yourself, “What one thing can I do in the next 90 days that will make me happier with myself?”
I’ve written about self-belief and confidence many time. Committing to a personal goal and seeing it to finish builds confidence. The result is a virtuous cycle that will add to your confidence and inspire you to keep working on new goals.
Your career goal is something I encourage you to share with others. Your spouse, your colleagues, and your employer, for example. Ask for more than validation, although that’s great. Ask for feedback. Sometimes a minor tweak or different way of viewing a goal can make a big difference in the outcome.
Think, Then Act!
Once your goal is set and written, give it a day to sink it. Then come back to make sure it is your best, highest goal. Ask if there is a change you can make to push it just a little higher. You want something that is achievable, but that is also something that you have to stretch to reach.
Set your goals to your top priority. Get a calendar and commit to tasks you will perform every day. Make an appointment with yourself and give yourself the time to get things done.
Schedule action items for each goal. They’re appointments you cannot break.
Be your own accountability partner. Review your goal daily and be honest with yourself about what you accomplished. Don’t let that you did not complete a daily task throw you off. Instead, use it to double your resolve to get more done tomorrow.
Look for someone in your circle who can help you. Share your professional goal and your to-do task list with this person. Set up a firm schedule where they will check on a regular schedule to measure your progress. I suggest someone other than your spouse or life partner. You are already accountable to that person for many other things. A third-party adds more positive pressure to the situation.
Make it a two-way deal. You hold each other accountable. Set up a weekly meeting and make it sacred. Use Zoom or Skype to see and talk with each other. Both free services allow you to share screens with each other.
Worksheets, Calendars, Resources
With the abundance of online calendars, there is an option for everyone. You can create a Google calendar that is specific to your goals. You can also share just that calendar with your accountability partner. For those of you who like the tactile experience of writing things done by hand, I have a planner for you in both Word and PDF formats for you.
- Download monthly and weekly planning calendar – Word version
- Download monthly and weekly planning calendar – PDF version
- Google Calendar
- Technori post – The Most Effective Goal-Setting Plan You’ll Ever Find. (Plus Template Worksheet)
- Art Career Success Requires Making Goals
- 5 Steps to Make Sure You Are Not Planning to Fail
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