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goals managementLately, I’ve started to realize that I’m working very hard, but if someone asked me whether or not I feel that I’m working toward a larger purpose, I’d have to say that I really don’t know. The current approach feels more like a machine-gun approach, where I’m just trying to accomplish whatever I can, and hope that it gets me where I want to be. That’s not quite the way to achieve one’s life goals.

So, as I always do when I need a solution, I turned to MakeUseOf. I found mention of an online goals management tool called GoalStacker, but the system there felt much too task-oriented for my needs. I was looking for a more broad approach, where you start out with general life goals, and then work your way down to the individual daily tasks. Next, I turned to Bakari’s review of 43Things List It And Achieve It With 43Things.com List It And Achieve It With 43Things.com Though New Year's resolutions and goals could easily be typed and printed out on a sheet of paper, 43Things.com offers more useful features than pen and paper, and it provides a simple method for managing... Read More , which looked very promising. Ironically, 43Things has the opposite problem. It is beautifully oriented toward those broad goals and dreams, but not so strong when it comes to breaking them down into small pieces and managing the daily tasks that’ll get you there.

One other goals management tool that I looked at was WeekPlan, which I thought had the most promise. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the limited role-based approach, and the fact that the line between life-goals and daily tasks was so direct. In my dream goal management system, I look for a middle area where you can break down those very large goals into smaller (but still large) goals to achieve along the way. Finally, you break those mid-level goals into a group of tasks that’ll help you hit each of those milestones.

Creating a DIY Goal Management System

As usually happens when I don’t find what I need in an existing system or application, I decided to create the ideal system from scratch. Now, I’m not talking about trying to code an application or create a website that’ll do it the way I want. No, instead, I decided to make use of two systems that I use daily and that I know well – Microsoft Excel and Google Tasks.

Organize & Compartmentalize Your Life Goals

If you’re ready to get serious about working toward those big dreams that you have, it’s time to sit down and put them down in writing. This re-introduces focus into your daily life. It gives you a reason to work on those seemingly mundane and meaningless tasks, because you know that task is but one step toward the big-picture goal. Despite everything else out there intended for goals management, Microsoft Excel still remains the single best tool to do this, in my opinion.

goals management

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To get started, open up a new spreadsheet and create a new sheet for the 4-6 core areas of your life that are most important to you. In my case, in the final days of my life, I want to say that I’ve been able to leave great wealth to my kids, have had a wonderful relationship with each member of my family, kept in perfect health, and went on amazing adventures. So, my core areas are WEALTH, FAMILY, HEALTH and ADVENTURE.

On each of those individual “Core” goal sheets, you’re going to break down that core into 4 or 5 specific big-picture goals that signify success in that area of your life, in your mind. These are the items that you’ll list on this page, and include a target year in the distant future. Most of these will be close to retirement, but in some cases you might have a goal like getting rid of debt which could happen much earlier.

goals management software

Now that you’ve broken down those big, huge goals into smaller “sub-goals”, they’re a little more manageable.  However, to make them into daily tasks, they need to be broken down further. Take each of those big sub-goals and list the major steps involved in getting there. These shouldn’t be daily tasks – they should be goals that will take you from six months to a year to accomplish. Each step gets you that much closer to the big sub-goal within your core value.

goals management software

I also like to put a green “$$$” symbol next to the items that will require some investment – as a way to plan ahead for that cost. But most importantly, each of the steps should have a specific year applied that you want to accomplish that step. Make it realistic, but don’t give yourself too much slack either.  Finally, shade the steps that are due within the next year or two – these are the items that you need to plan out immediately.

Now that you have your core values broken down into major sub-goals, and then those sub-goals broken down into steps, it’s time to create the milestones, or tasks, that you’re going to work on to inch your way to the finish line. Create a new sheet next to the core-value sheet with a similar name. I called mine “Wealth_MS1”, where MS stands for milestones.

goals management software

Within this new sheet, you’ll copy over the steps that are due within the next year or two. However, you’ll make each step becomes a header. Under each of these headers, you’ll finally create the specific, individual tasks that you can accomplish with a week to several weeks.

goals management information system

Each of these items can literally be called a “task”, because it’s something that you can sit down and really work on and accomplish after several sessions. It isn’t this pie-in-the-sky idea that feels unreachable. These are very reachable items that seem like a very, very tiny step – but each of these represents a rung in the ladder toward those life dreams. Give them each a specific date – and give that date a lot of thought.

Assign Actionable Tasks To Accomplish

Once you’ve created all of these “milestones” sheets, the next step of your goals management system is to assign those tasks to your to-do list. No matter what to-do lists Do It (Tomorrow) Is An Extremely Simple Online To-Do List Do It (Tomorrow) Is An Extremely Simple Online To-Do List If you love the idea of an online list of things you need to do, but never manage to actually use one for longer than the time it takes for you to add all of... Read More I’ve tried, I absolutely always come back to Google Tasks. So, I decided to use it for this project too. Basically, you create a new list for every one of your core values that you defined at the start of this project.

goals management information system

Once you’re done, you’ll see all of those core goals ready to accept the individual tasks you’ll be working on to get there.

goals management information system

Now – go through the “milestones” sheets you just created, and place the most urgent items – due the soonest – right into the applicable list in Google Tasks. Don’t forget to assign it the date, and give it a good description so you remember exactly what you wanted to accomplish.

Once you’re done – you’ll have assigned yourself a list of the most urgent tasks.

Now you have real, actionable items that you know you’re going to accomplish, because they’re on your to-do list with deadlines!

Track & Monitor Your Progress

You have a really cool system set up now. Every week or every other week, you can open up your spreadsheet, update the items you’ve completed, and keep track of how much closer you’re getting to those big goals

It would be good to just check off items as done, but to be honest, I’ve found that visual feedback works as even better encouragement along the way. I’m going to quickly show you how you can set up a cool bar-graph to show progress. Go back to the “milestones” sheet you created, and create a “Completed” column next to the target dates. At the bottom of that column, create a field using the forumal, “=COUNTIF(cell1:cell2,”Yes”)/x)*100″

Just replace “x” by the number of rows (tasks), and make “cell1” and “cell2” equal to the cells at the start and end of the range.

What this does is creates a cell under all of the tasks that will update with the percentage of total tasks you’ve completed. Now, to make that graphical, click on Format and choose Conditional Formatting for the cell, and choose one of the data bars.

This converts the cell into a data bar. Now, just go back into the same menu item again and choose “Edit Rule”. Set all of the items shown below with a red arrow to the values shown.

This will make the bar fill up with green color at the percentage that represents the number of tasks that you’ve accomplished so far!

Is that cool or what? Okay, maybe this last step is a bit of overkill, and you could totally complete the goals management system without this graphical encouragement – but I love seeing the bar move across the cell as I accomplish one task at a time. Hitting 100% means you’re a very big step closer to those life dreams.

What do you think about such a customized system? Do you think it can give you more power and control to better manage your life goals? What systems do you put in place to break down your big dreams into manageable tasks? Share your own advice and tips in the comments section below!

  1. Kelsey
    September 11, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    This is so helpful! Thank you!

  2. Sarah
    August 7, 2016 at 2:33 am

    This was so awesome! Thank you! Just what visual types need! And no - the last step was not overkill the little green bar tracking the progress is fabulous! Love it!

  3. Suresh Devesan
    April 9, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Thanks. I was also facing the same problems you mentioned and I was searching a way out with the help of Excel . I am going to try your teachings. Thanks.

  4. javier
    February 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I also like this and will make the time to create and set it all up. I have been doing reasearch and all the great systems are going web based and they carry a hefty monthly cost..... You have to build this and set it all up but atleast it is FREE!!

  5. SL
    November 30, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    I like Toodledo for this. It allows you to create long-term and short-term goals and then it allows you to assign tasks to those goals. As a result, not only can you organize tasks in terms of their associated goal but you can also go back and look at what tasks you've accomplished in order to advance towards that goal. I.e. one of my long-term career goals is CIO/CTO/CISO so I have some tasks that advance me towards that and when it comes time to interview for that position its easy to go back and review everything I have done to work towards that goal. Alternatively you can clear out old tasks if you don't want to be able to go back.

    I've also been thinking about writing a web app that does this. I.e. collects background, experience(s), education, and books/articles read that advance a person's career. It addresses that fundamental challenge of providing real-world examples of your experience when interviewing for a job, we can't always remember those little things we've done that ultimately result in valid experience.

  6. Jitendra S. Dabadgaonkar
    May 7, 2015 at 4:57 am

    Dear Arun, yes, I too thought author is giving us integration of excel with google task.. it is not. Indeed he has explained simple excel management for goals but it is time consuming and again rewriting in google task.

    Try new google app 'My Effectiveness Habits'. This is based on seven habits and I found everything, except graph, on life goal management.

  7. javaughn
    March 31, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    This is a bit too awesome for me to do. If i vould i would already be a great goal setter. Do you reccommend an app I can use that could help me get metrix without so much pre-work (plus I have 3 special needs kids).

    I use chore monster for them I wonder if there is one for adults.

  8. Dima
    March 1, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for this post! I've been searching for something like this for a long time. This is very much like the Benjamin Franklin approach to time management!

  9. Elsy
    February 26, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    I really like this...Thanks

  10. Jonathan
    February 5, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    my formula keeps reading 0 what am i doing wrong?

    =(COUNTIF(K10:K13,”y”)/4)*100

    • Jason Smith
      March 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm

      You're using curly quotes instead of straight quotes. Retype the quotes using the keyboard instead of cutting/pasting them...

  11. Nina
    January 2, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Looks great! I will give it a try this year! Breaking tasks down is definitely the way to achieve them! Well done!

  12. William
    June 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Goal management via excel is very efficient way to reduce time and work force. I recently allow my department to use excel for completion of their goal within time-span. I search on google for templates and read an article
    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/excel-project-management-tracking-templates/, that's about importance of excel templates in business.
    I also create a blog and mentioned this post for doing on my behalf. http://www.projectmanagementwatch.com/2013/01/25/useful-excel-templates-for-project-management/

    Thanks

  13. Arun Waghchoure
    June 5, 2013 at 9:09 am

    On first glance I thought you had cracked on how to integrate google task with excel sheets. But you are doing things manually :-( , Yeah I do the same thing create beautiful graphs in excel sheets and use google task as a project dashboard.

    There is still no app which would be said to be a true dashboard, having
    1. Outline features
    2. Task sub tasks
    3. Setting deadline dates and managing overdue, reminders without annoyance.
    4. Integrate reviews every week
    5. Show graphs anytime.

  14. Scott M
    April 25, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I have used a goal sheet since I was a young man and it is essential to getting the job done properly without the minutia and mundane interfering in the important tasks at hand,by ranking in order of importance it allows a useful second thought of what are assumed to be critical items that need to be done.On reflection some items are relegated to a lower rank,new tasks may be added and others sometimes can either wait to the last minute or are so minor that if they aren't done that day,it really isn't a problem and they may be done the next or later in the weeks.Its a good program that makes the process easier to perform and I think more likely to become second nature to any employing a task ranking system.

  15. Nevzat A
    April 25, 2013 at 10:24 am

    interesting approach.

  16. Francois
    April 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    You say you work very hard but lack that sense of getting towards a goal. This system illustrates very well that you may have a tendency to spend rather a large amount of time organising goals in a complex and unsustainable manner rather than actually working towards any goal in particular. Looks like halfyour time will now be spent trying to maintain that very cumbersome system of unrelated spreadsheets and talks.

    I'm saying that because for too long I did the same.

    Good luck!

    • Ryan Dube
      April 25, 2013 at 12:04 am

      Thanks Francois. Having a goal spreadsheet to review every month and a "high-priority task" sheet to review weekly really works for me - helps me stay focused on the things that matter.

      I'm curious - what system have you come up with that works best for you?

    • Scott M
      April 25, 2013 at 11:34 am

      When I first began sales we were encouraged to read Think and grow rich by Napoleon Hill who suggested daily goals,weekly,monthly yearly and were you wished to be a decade from the present.Its a very useful idea.It isn't rigid and you are able to change or adapt your goals at any time but keeping the original goal sheets is a great way to observe your progress and whether your goal in life for ten years later has now become a different dream and you need to refocus your energies in different areas.

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