One of the hardest parts of goal setting is actually following through with it. How many times have you failed to lose that 20 extra pounds or lost sight of training for the 5K that’s six months away?

Don’t fret! You’re certainly not the first person and you won’t be the last. It all really boils down to effective strategies for time management and making a realistic plan for success.

Whatever the goal, you’ve got to put together a plan of action or else you’re just running blind hoping success bangs on your door. While there are some incredibly lucky people in the world, that is not how the vast majority of us make it to the finish line. Let’s look at some foolproof ways to set a goal, make a plan and finish it!

Ready, Set, GOAL!

Obviously, the first step is to set the goal, right? Kind of. You also want to consider your why. If you don’t know your why the goal serves no purpose. Is it a personal goal? For your health and wellness? A goal for work? Financial goal? Whatever you decide is the goal, get up close and personal with your why.

Get It On Paper

Put your goal in black and white! Make it tangible. Make it visible. Writing it down is important for a few reasons. When we write things down it tends to stick to our brain matter better.

If you’ve ever taken notes in class, you probably also reviewed those notes for an exam. Your goal should be reviewed so you get the best possible results. Also, writing things down helps hold us accountable to ourselves.

Speaking of Accountability…

If you work better alone, do yourself a favor and at the very least set reminders in your smartphone or on a physical calendar to check in on your progress and send positive vibes. A weekly “attaboy” message goes a long way.

You could also find a buddy with like goals and do this together from beginning to end. When we have no accountability, stamina sort of fades away and our why becomes unclear. Avoid the trap of making excuses by securing a system of accountability.

Break It Down

Most goals aren’t a single step and voila it’s done. There is usually a process. Want to write a book? How many hours in a day or week will you devote to research? To writing? To editing?

Employ a Timeline

Not all goals have a set date, but by employing a timeline we are more likely to continue progressing. Each step should be clearly and realistically outlined so we know when it’s time to move on to the next step. Think of your goal as a recipe. Once you’ve got all the ingredients together you’ve still got to follow steps, in a specific order, to get a great tasting dish.

Adjust Accordingly

Life. It happens. Don’t beat yourself up if you get off track and don’t hit the milestone for this week. It’s okay. Avoid chastising yourself for setbacks and instead praise your efforts for getting back up and back to work. Adjust steps as necessary and keep moving forward.

Reward Yourself

Achieving the end goal is a reward in and of itself, yes, but nothing beats positive reinforcement along the way! Pick a reward system and treat yourself for intermediate achievements. An ice cream sundae if you’ve written a chapter this week? A 60-minute sports massage if you’ve followed your 5K training schedule for a month?

Create Structure

Big and small goals alike are easier to achieve when there is structure. You’ll find plenty of structure with proficient time management skills, which are imperative to keep the goal alive.

Here are a few tips to consider along the way:

Use a Planner

Goals that require planning usually can’t be achieved in a few days. Using a planner keeps things nice and neat. Again, let’s say the goal is to write a book. Month 1: Research. And break that month into weeks with steps for getting the research stage completed. Month 2: Chapters 1-4. Each week gets blocked time to write a chapter a week. And so on… At a glance, you’ll see a reminder for your goal on every page of the planner!

Visual Stimulation

In your planner use color and flair; highlight, color code, add happy face stickers or stars. Whatever makes it visually appealing and stimulating to you. Put checkmarks next to your completed tasks if color isn’t your thing. You could also post your goals on your bathroom mirror, on the back of your bedroom door, on your cubicle wall at the office. Use your favorite quotes for motivation. Visually appeal keep focus and motivation flowing.

Incremental Evaluation

Assess your progress along the way. If you’ve got an unmet milestone at the end of a week or month, jot down a note on why you think that happened and how you plan to avoid it in the future.

Be Realistic with Time

Determine exactly when you are available and block that time out for this goal specifically. Also, make sure each of your steps has ample time to be completed. Constantly stressing over inadequate time forces either a rushed and sloppy performance, or a feeling of defeat and the whole goal gets tossed out the window.

Goals are sometimes intimidating, and we might not otherwise even attempt such terrific feats without structure and time management skills. When we break the big jobs down into little steps, it becomes easier to swallow.

The real goal is to finish, right? Make your plans more manageable and success is right around the corner!