How Many Goals Should I Set? The Best Way To Reach Success

So you have big goals on the mind.

But how many should you work on at once?

What’s the best way to reach your goals without feeling overwhelmed?

And how many can you realistically work toward without “dropping the ball?”

If you’ve ever found yourself questioning “how much is too much?”

Then you’re in the right place.

Because we’re exploring just that in episode 76 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.

Give it a listen, create a plan for each of your incredible goals this year, and then dive in and start making them happen.

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  •  How many goals you should work on at once
  •  Why practicing constraint is the secret to success
  •  How to implement my best goal setting strategies today and start seeing progress

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #76: How Many Goals Should I Set? (Transcript)

Hey, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. The first episode in 2021. Happy New Year! How are you feeling?  Are you excited to dive in and get started on the goals you’ve set?

This past Tuesday I taught my training all about getting crystal clear on your New Year’s goals and resolutions and how to stick with them all the way through. And it was such a fun time.  

Everyone at the training shared such incredible goals that they are working toward in the year ahead from organizing and decluttering their houses to publishing books to losing weight to paying off debt to building businesses. I always get so inspired when I get to learn about the amazing things that each of you will create in the upcoming year. I’m telling you, it’s the best.

How Many Goals Should I Work On At Once?

During the Q&A portion of the training, one of the questions was: how many goals should we work on it once? And this is such an important question, and it’s also one that I get asked a lot. So I decided to do a deep dive into the answer today on the podcast since so many of us are considering this very question right now. How many goals can we actually work on?

And I’m not going to lie; this is a question that I often battle with myself because my answer is: one. Focus on one goal. 

And I struggle with this because I’m someone who loves going after goals. And I’m someone who has tons of ideas. And my ADHD brain loves the idea of have lots of different things going at once. Even though intellectually I know that doing one goal at a time is the most effective way to get me from point A to point B, the concept of picking one goal and sticking with it all the way through sounds absolutely foreign to me. 

I remember the first time I entertained this concept of constraint with goal-setting, I was bargaining with myself. Surely what constraint means is only one goal in terms of personal growth, one goal in your relationships, one goal for career, one for health, and so on and so forth until I had at least a list of 10 goals once again.

Multiple Goals Stops Progress

Now the reality is this. Sure, it’s fun to set all of those goals at the beginning. But actually following through on all of them consistently was just not effective or realistic for me. I felt like I was spread very thin, I constantly tried to balance all of the demands from all of the different goals, and I never really made any forward progress.

On the training that I taught last week, I equated multiple goal setting to multitasking. When you try and do all the things, you end up doing none of the things. Or you do them all but not to the extent that you want.

The One Thing

I’ve been reading an incredible book called The One Thing by Gary Keller, I’ll link to it in the show notes if you want to check it out. I highly recommend reading it. And the opening pages of the book share a Russian proverb, which reads: “if you chase two rabbits you will not catch either one.” 

The same is true for your goal my friends. When you focus on one thing – in this situation one-goal – you move forward so much faster. When you chase two goals, you have a hard time completing either one. Because you can’t go all-in on either.

Pick One Goal and Go All-In

So this is the first reminder that I want to share with you today. Choose one goal, and go all-in on it. You can always start the next goal immediately after you finish the first one. No problem. You don’t have to wait until the next year to start the next goal. Instead, focus on one at a time and watch how quickly you make progress.

Now, you might be arguing with me right about now. You might be saying something like, “But Paula. All of my goals are important. Everything needs to get done now.” Or “I don’t want to do one thing at a time, are you crazy? I want to see the results of each of these goals immediately.” 

Now, that might be true. You may want to see each of the results immediately. But if your brain is offering different versions of these thoughts. If it is relying on thoughts like this to justify why you should work on all of your goals at once rather than practicing constraint and focusing on one at a time, then I invite you to consider these next concepts.

When Everything Seems Important

First of all, if your brain is telling you that everything is important and you can’t possibly choose one goal because everything has to get done now, that’s just not true. Not everything is important. What that really means is we haven’t taken time to prioritize what is most important. We haven’t paused to really consider what will move us forward the most in our longer-term goals 3, 5, and even 10 years down the line. 

I mean, humor me and play this out in a model. Let’s say you have five different goals that you want to work toward. And you can use this on a smaller scale, too, and have 10 different things on a to-do list for the day. The concept remains the same.

Run It Through A Model

So in our circumstance line – remember, this is the neutral factual component of our model –  we have five goals. Our thought about that circumstance is some version of: everything is important. Or I can’t possibly choose just one.  And for me, thinking either one of those thoughts makes me feel pretty anxious. And when I’m feeling anxious, I show up to those five goals while spinning out in confusion. 

I get stuck telling myself I don’t know where to start. I bounce from one thing to the next. I never allow a solid chunk of time to do deep work on any of the goals. And I find myself easily distracted. Plus, because I’m not seeing progress, I want to give up quickly. I start questioning why I’m even working toward these goals in the first place. And my general go-to amidst all the mind drama is procrastiworking. I do everything except those five goals because at least I’m staying quote-unquote busy by answering emails or Slack questions, organizing my desk, and unloading the dishwasher.

And let me tell you, I can confidently say that when I’m thinking to myself, “every goal is important,” and I feel anxious and spin out in overwhelm and procrastiwork, I ultimately make none of the five goals important. So while my initial thought was, all of these goals are important. That thought is not useful. 

Keep The Goals & Change Your Thinking

Now you can still have five goals. We can keep the circumstance line the same. But I want to suggest that we start thinking about them differently. Even a thought as simple as, “one at a time I’ll get it all done,” will yield vastly different results than, “I have to get everything done right now.”

Because when I choose that thought, I have very focused energy. And when I’m focused, I choose one goal, I map out the steps, and I know exactly what to do.  I don’t let myself slip into overwhelm thinking, “I have to get everything done now.” 

Instead, I move forward with the plan I created. I take one step after the next. I start seeing the results from my efforts, which makes it easier for me to keep believing one at a time I’ll get it all done. And wouldn’t you know it, I get all five of the goals done. I may not get them all done at once, but that’s okay. Because I get them done a heck of a lot faster than attempting to do them all at once.

I Want To Do Everything Now

Now another flavor of the thought, “everything is important”  is “I want to do it all now. I want to do everything at once. I don’t want to go one at a time.” And as I alluded to earlier, this is the one that I struggle with. Patience is not always my strong suit, especially when I’m super excited about something. And so I really want to jump in and do all the things at once. I have an easy time seeing that big picture, and I just want to do everything I can all at once.

But once again, even though the energy might be different. And the thought behind it might be slightly different. It’s going to create a very similar result. At least it does for me. 

Because when I think about our example of five different goals, and I think to myself: “I want to do everything at once,” it creates an excited, yet distracted energy. I find myself flitting from one thing to the next because I want to do everything now. And even though I might not feel the anxious, overwhelmed feeling from the other thought “I have to get it all done now,” I’m still not focused. I’m still not getting things done as efficiently as possible. And in the end, I actually get things done at a slower pace than if I had approached the goals one at a time while channeling my energy into one focused effort.

Five Soccer Balls

I was talking with my coach a while ago about the concept of constraint, and she gave an analogy that I really love. Imagine lining up five soccer balls at the end of the soccer field with the goal of getting all five to the other side. What would be the fastest way to get there? 

Well, you could absolutely keep kicking all five, running back and forth between each ball as you dash all over the field. Or, you could stick with one ball, kick it all the way down the field with focused attention, and then run back to the next ball, and repeat. That kind of focused commitment is going to get you moving forward in a much faster way. 

And the same is true when you’re working toward your goals. 

What Goal Should I Work On First?

So you might be asking, but which goal? How am I supposed to know which goal is going to move me forward the most?

Pareto’s Principle

This brings me to two powerful concepts that have been very eye-opening to me. The first is  Pareto’s principle, which is often known as the 80/20 rule. 

To put this into perspective, let’s say that you have a small business and you want to grow it to $100,000 per year in revenue. The concept of Pareto’s principle is that 20% of the things you do in your business yield 80% of the results. And then 80% of the things you do – often all of the busywork – yields about 20% of the result. Yet for whatever reason, we often spend all of this time doing the busywork because it feels busy, it feels productive.

But as I’ve said in other podcasts, busy does not equal productivity.

So by creating a goal around that one task or that one project that creates 80% of the results and really leaning into that goal, you have an opportunity to yield huge results. 

80/20 Rule

So thinking about this concept in your own life, and taking into account all of the goals that you have on your mind, you can ask yourself, which one would yield me that 80%? Which would have the biggest payoff? And the answer will be different for different people, and it might take some exploration to figure out the answer. But when you take the time to hone in and identify what it is for you, and you commit to sticking with it, that belief and commitment make all the difference.

Because whatever it is you choose – when you go all-in on it, you will see the results so much faster than if you bounced from one thing to the next all year long.

What Is Your One Thing?

Now I mentioned at the beginning of this episode a book that I’m reading called the one thing, and in the book, Gary Keller takes this concept even further. And he does it by asking a really powerful question. And I’m going to ask a question here for you to consider to help you constrain your focus to one goal. Keller asks: what is the one thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

It’s a little wordy, so I’ll read it again. What is the one thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

In other words, what is the one goal on your list that, if you reached it, would make everything else you do either unnecessary or so much easier? 

I promise you, if you take a look at that list of things you want to do, you will absolutely find an answer. And once you find that answer, I encourage you to commit to it. Go all-in. Make this goal your focus until you reach it. And apply all of the different goal setting strategies that we’ve talked about throughout these podcast episodes in order to lock it in and follow through no matter what. I will make sure to link to some of my most popular goal-setting podcast in the show notes here. 

Set Yourself Up For Goal Success

But to leave you with some marching orders for this podcast specifically, I’ll remind you to make sure that your goal is super-specific. What are you going to do exactly? Don’t just “get healthy.” Instead, you need to define what healthy means to you. Maybe it’s losing 10 lbs. Maybe it’s exercising 4 days per week. Or maybe it’s running a Marathon by October.

Similarly, don’t set a goal to save money. Instead, create those measurable benchmarks. So if your overarching goal is by December 31 of this year, I will have saved $X amount. Then maybe you break it down into quarters: I will save $X by March, $Y by June, and $Z by September so I know I’m staying on track. 

Give your brain measurable benchmarks, and then start brainstorming the projects or habits throughout the year that will get you to each of those benchmark goals.

Recap

And of course, if you want some guidance in identifying and breaking down your goals, or if you struggle with following through and want some support and accountability to make sure you move forward on your one thing, sign up for a 1:1 consultation with me where we can see if my coaching program would be a good fit. I can’t think of a better time to go all-in on yourself and really uplevel your life. Just head to imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching and grab a spot.

So as a quick recap, as we enter the new year and launch into our new goals, remember to practice constraint.

Don’t multitask on your goals. Instead, single task with one goal at a time to see the measurable results so much quicker. And if you hear yourself arguing with this concept, and if you’re thinking to yourself: “everything is important. I can’t possibly choose just one thing.” Or “I want to do everything now,” really question those thoughts. Run them through a model yourself. Are they creating the result you want? If not, consider giving this new way a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And as you think about which goal to start with, keep the 80/20 rule in mind, and ask yourself: what is the one thing I could do that, upon completion, would make everything else easier or unnecessary. Once you choose that goal, go all in. I have a feeling you’ll surprise yourself with everything you accomplish. 

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