Should You Write Down Your Goals?

I’m going to mention some books in this article – but there will be no affiliate links. I just want to give credit where it’s due. The first book is Goals by Brian Tracy.

One section of this book has always stood out to me. Brian writes:

In 1979, the graduates of the MBA program at Harvard were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

Here were the results:

Had Written Goals and Plans Had Goals But Not in Writing Had No Specific Goals
3% 13% 84%

Ten years later, they interviewed the members of that class
again. Here is what they found:

the 13% who had goals, but which were not in writing were earning on average twice as much as the 84% of students who had had no goals at all

So, at least according to this study, having specific goals is crucial to success. But the most fascinating finding was this:

the 3% of graduates who had clear, written goals when they left Harvard were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of graduates all together.

Tens times as much! Wow! I decided to investigate how successful bloggers approach goal-setting…

Nicole Mölders

Nicole is the founder of High Latitude Style.

Her Instagram has 6,223 followers:

Nicole started her blog because it struck her:

how many women in midlife became invisible because they lost their style and/or they have difficulty to identify what works for them now on their changing body

The fashion books she read just said “wear this, not that” and:

the resulting outfit would be sort of a uniform

She took it upon herself to:

understand what kind of clothes work and don’t work for mature women, even when the clothes were presented by a twenty something model

Nicole shows you “how to build ageless and stylish outfits in your personal style”:

She blogs in her spare time – and her day job is a demanding one. Nicole has been a professor at an Alaskan university for 17 years:

Clearly, Nicole knows how to get things done. I asked her how she approaches goal-setting, she told me:

I have short-term, medium and long-term goals for both my blog, and research. However, they are not written down. They are in my head. Any opportunity that comes along gets checked whether it gets me a step closer into the direction of my goals. It doesn’t matter when the opportunity isn’t a straight way towards the goals. Just the general direction is fine.

So, you can still be successful without writing down your goals. Having said that, most bloggers I contacted told me they write something down – if not goals, at least intentions.

Sophie Bratt

Sophie is the founder of Sophie’s Scran.

She has 4000+ Twitter followers:

And 3000+ Instagram followers:

She is a techie turned foodie – she left the IT industry to blog about food full-time.

One particularly cool thing about her blog is her “Meet the Maker” series. She writes features on chefs and food entrepreneurs – like this post about two guys(neither of them a trained chef) who opened a Filipino restaurant in Manchester.

I asked Sophie if she writes down her goals, she told me:

I use a bullet journal to set my goals. I start the year by writing out what I want to achieve, then split them up into quarterly and monthly goals. These high level goals inform my weekly task list… each week I ask myself, what can I go this week that’s going to help me reach my goals? Tracking it all within a bullet journal is so good to keep on top of things, it’s such a flexible way to look at your week.

This is a very precise method. Sophie’s approach is similar to Nicole’s – with long term goals being broken down into shorter term ones. Other bloggers find success with much less precision…

Sophie Lizard

Sophie teaches people how to Be a Freelance Blogger.

She has over 6,000 Twitter followers:

One line in Sophie’s bio jumped out at me:

My blogging income supports my whole family, even though I only work part-time

That is very impressive. Interestingly, she does this without really setting goals:

I have a digital post-it with notes about what I plan to do for my blog in the next few months. It’s not what *I’d* call written goals, more like vague reminders

She said her post-it looks like this:

July: update course content
August: vacation!
September: Pitchfest (jargon theme)

This is a sort of trimmed down goal-setting. No deadlines, no sub-goals, and no specifics. What if you trimmed it down even further? Just choosing individual words?

Jessica Lawlor

Jessica lives by the saying “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.

She quit her corporate job to run her own communications consulting agency. Her Twitter has 5,000+ followers:

In 2016, instead of setting annual goals for herself, Jessica chose 3 words to live by: value, sparkle, and calm. It went well for her – in one month she made over $10,000.

Then, in 2017, Jessica set no goals at all. Her business still grew by 20%.

So trimming down your goals can work. You can trim down your goals in other ways too. Our next blogger sets very specific goals – not just individual words. But he only sets 3 goals max.

Chris Bailey

My praise for Chris will be effusive – so please bear with me. Chris is the founder of A Life of Productivity.

He has over 8,000 Twitter followers:

On top of this, he has a whopping 200,000+ email subscribers. How did he get so popular? He focuses on producing excellent content. In fact, he doesn’t do any advertising or affiliate promotions on his blog.

Chris monetises his blog by using it to promote his own books – The Productivity Project

And Hyperfocus.

The Productivity Project is a must-read. Chris opened my eyes to so many possibilities for improving my results. To see what I mean, have a look at this article – how to get as much energy out of caffeine as possible. I read it during a caffeine crash and I saw the light.

Chris outlines his goal-setting strategy in his book. He sets 3 goals – no more. He has 3 yearly goals, 3 monthly goals, 3 weekly goals, and 3 daily goals. This system offers two main benefits:

1.It’s easier to remember 3 goals. You don’t have to look at a file on your computer. You’ll have the goals in the front of your mind.

2.Having less goals means you have to be very selective. Each goal becomes exaggerated in importance. This reduces the chances that you’ll put off taking action.

Not everyone is sold on this idea though…

MJ Manzanares

Mary Jo Manzanares blogs at Travelling with MJ.

MJ has over 19,000 Twitter followers. She has a great eye. You can see this in her post about Pompeii:

I asked MJ if she writes down her goals – she replied:

Yes, of course.

I have annual goals that I review and set each year. Then I break down what I need to do to reach those goals on a monthly/weekly/daily basis.

I asked her if she thought limiting yourself to 3 goals was a good idea:

Nope. I don’t follow anyone else’s rule for what my goals should be. That just sounds like a recipe to sell books, courses, whatever.

I’ve been in business long enough to know how to set business plans (goals) and create the strategies and tactics that will get me there. I think most bloggers who treat it as a business do the same, but may call it by a name other than goals.

I think that’s the main takeaway from this article. Your approach to goals is a very personal thing – if it works for you, then it’s the right strategy. Our next blogger used written goals for a while, and then decided to stop…

Andy Sowards

Andy blogs at

His Twitter account has more than 16,000 followers:

Andy writes about business and technology. He gives great bite-sized business advice e.g. if you need a motivation boost, talk to a mentor.

Andy says he no longer needs to write down goals:

You know I actually did used to write down things I wanted to do but eventually I began getting too busy doing those things and I never actually had time to write anything down again, I guess that is a good thing?

So I think at first yes write down goals – but at some point you just start moving towards where you want to be and in the back of your mind you know what you want and how to get there so you don’t spend time writing it down or thinking about it – you just do it 🙂

Our final blogger says she tried to do this – but it didn’t work out.

Victoria Bampton

Victoria is The Lightroom Queen.

She has 12,000+ Twitter followers:

Victoria teaches her readers how to edit photos using Adobe Lightroom. In a previous post on this blog, I asked bloggers how they learn about blogging. One blogger heaped praise on The Lightroom Queen. She said she “loved this site” and called it a “wonderful resource”.

Victoria is a fastidious goal-setter:

Yes, I’m a big planner. I find that goals that aren’t written down never get accomplished, and I often add pictures or cartoons as I’m quite a visual person.

I do a yearly review at the end of December to plan out the following year, and take at least one day offsite every 2 months to reassess the progress I’m making and whether things need tweaking.

It’s every 2 months rather than the more traditional quarterly review, because Lightroom’s release cycle is a 2 month cycle. I go out somewhere to do this review, even if it’s just the local coffee shop, because there’s far too many distractions in my office.

The blog topic does influence my planning too. When I go out to shoot, I often usually have specific editing techniques or photo faults in mind that I need photos to illustrate.

Like Andy, Victoria stopped writing goals. But, unlike Andy, Victoria did not feel that this was a good thing:

I did stop writing them down at one point. I ended up going way off track, distracted by the busyness of life. It’s too easy to drift.

Written goals don’t need to be long or complex, but we all need reminders about exactly what we’re aiming for, because life pulls us off track far too easily.

Do you write down your goals? Why or why not? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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