Back at the end of December, I wrote about Taking Stock & Starting Fresh.

If you read that post at the time, you may have completed the accompanying worksheet, which asked you to reflect on some of the best parts of 2017, as well as some of the greatest challenges you faced.

The second section of that worksheet asked you to look forward to this year, and think about some of the things you hoped to achieve.

The thing about making plans, or setting goals or visions for your year, is that if you’re not keeping them before you - putting in place a specific plan of action, and checking in on your progress - it’s unlikely that you’re going to see them come to pass…

That’s why my question to you today is: Are you setting checkpoints?

I don’t know about you, but at the end of each month I find myself thinking in terms of how far through the year we are - the end of Feb marks one sixth of the year; the end of March, one quarter; the end of April, one third…

It’s amazing how quickly the year progresses, and if you’re not staying fixed and focused on those things you’re wanting to achieve this year, you may find yourself writing those very same goals year after year, after year.

So how can you set and make use of checkpoints throughout the year, to give yourself the best chance of achieving those things you want to achieve?

The answer is not going to be the same for everyone, so you’ll need to take some time and create a process that works for you, but here’s some ideas to get you started!

What is it that you’re working towards?

The type of goal you’ve set yourself will dictate the number and frequency of checkpoints you’ll want to put in place.

For example, your goal might have been to learn a particular skill, or to complete a self-directed project, or to plan and save up for an overseas trip. Those goals are each quite substantial, but they also have a clear end - a point at which you would consider the goal completed.

On the other hand your goal might have been something much simpler, but ongoing: like goals to read more books, or spend more time on a creative activity you enjoy, or taking more regular exercise to build your strength and fitness.

Each of these goals could have quite different progressions, so you need to work out: is your goal ongoing, or a one-off achievement?

If it’s ongoing, ask yourself:

  • How often should I be reviewing my progress?
  • What sub-goals (weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly) should I be setting?
  • How am I measuring ‘success’ versus ‘failure’?

If it’s a one-off achievement, ask yourself:

  • How complex / how many layers or stages are involved in this goal?
  • How long am I expecting it to take to achieve this goal? (A week? A month? 3 Months? Several years??)
  • How am I measuring ‘success’? What constitutes completion of this goal, for me?

Once you’ve answered those questions you should find it much easier to work out a plan for checking in with yourself regularly - whether that ends up being weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly or whatever. Mark those ‘checkpoints’ in your calendar and make sure you are using them as opportunities to realign your focus on the things you want to achieve.

What do you need to cover when you reach each checkpoint?

It’s a good idea to have a set of questions that you answer each time you stop to review your progress. These could be something like:

  • What progress have I made since the last checkpoint?
  • What has been going well?
  • What have I found difficult?
  • Have I achieved / completed, the specific sub-goal / stage, that I set myself to reach by this checkpoint? (If no, what do I need to change or do differently in order to reach it within the next week / before the next checkpoint?)
  • What is my specific sub-goal / stage of completion, that I wish to reach by the next checkpoint?
  • What am I going to do differently, or focus on, to ensure that I reach this next stage of my goal?

Celebrate success, and learn from failure.

It’s important to celebrate success! When you reach a goal, or successfully complete a stage of a larger project, that’s reason for celebration and enjoying the progress you’ve made.

But it’s equally important not to let failure get you down.

There is honestly nothing wrong with failure, provided you turn it into an opportunity to learn.

Understand why you failed: Did you set an unrealistic goal? Were there unforeseen events or responsibilities that meant you were unable to give time to that area? Did you lose focus or motivation? Did you lack the necessary skills?

This isn’t about ‘making excuses’ for yourself, but by identifying the reason for the failure you can ensure that you: make better judgements about feasibility and time-scale in future; realign yourself with the original motivation for the goal, when you find yourself losing focus; acquire skills that will enable you to achieve success!