We have exactly one week left of February which means you might be starting to think about what you want to accomplish in March and how you want the month to look. Hold your horses! Do people even use that expression anymore?
First, have you reviewed how February went? If not, drop (or carefully set down) everything and check out my monthly planning video for some tips on reviewing your month to help set you up for a successful new one.
Done? Okay, now you have my full permission to move on to goal-setting. In an ideal world, you would have life goals (a vision, you might call it), yearly goals that break those down into more measurable steps, quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily priorities. Whew. But we’re not robots, and it’s hard to be this clear and detailed in what you want to accomplish.
My argument - at the very least, set monthly goals. The time period of one month is kind of a sweet spot. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in one month, but at the same time, a month can fly by in the blink of an eye. It’s not so long that it’s intimidating, yet it gives you enough time to really get things moving.
I’ve put together the four reasons why monthly goals are essential to moving forward towards the life you envision. And if you need a bit more guidance, I’ve got a free worksheet that includes 50 goal ideas as well as a monthly goal-setting template to help make it all crystal clear.
1. Monthly goals make you commit to projects that you would otherwise procrastinate.
One of my favorite TED talks (check out my Favorite Links series for more recommendations) is Tim Urban’s “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator”. In it, he talks about how short-term procrastination, however stressful, is usually effective because rapidly approaching deadlines send us into a panic that and we get things done fast.
But just think of how many things in life have no deadlines. The book you want to write, the relationships you want to develop, the skills you want to learn, etc. None of that has a strict due date, and no one will yell at you if you don’t get started. If you procrastinate, you will never take the steps you need to take in order to improve your life.
In Urban’s explanation of how procrastination works, he blames the “Instant-Gratification Monkey” in each of our brains for our tendency to do what’s easy and fun in the moment, but not necessarily most rewarding in the long-term. Monthly goals help you overcome this monkey inside your brain by forcing you to set a due date for yourself and then reminding you constantly of what it is you should be working on.
As a personal example, in December I decided to make a video for my 18th birthday to recap my 18 years of childhood. I had never made a video like this before, but I set a goal because I wanted to challenge myself creatively and have this little memory to look back on.
If I hadn’t set that as a goal, it’s unlikely it would have happened. I had other video projects due for school, the holiday season was a stressful whirlwind of preparations, and on top of all of that I was just really really excited about my birthday and it was hard to think about other things.
Think about what you’ve been wanting to do for a long time now but simply haven’t made the time for, and commit to it now.
2. Monthly goals encourage you to explore and try the fun things on your bucket list.
As I was filling out the Lavendaire Artist of Life Workbook to prepare for 2019, I had to fill 100 blank lines with things I wanted to do in the new year. I’d never had a bucket list before, so it was hard to come up with that many items, but exciting to think of all of the possibilities.
Monthly goals don’t necessarily have to be work-related. They don’t have to have a clear, practical purpose. As long as they push you towards the life you dream of living, you’re on the right track. So if your dream life involves going on fun trips with friends and you’ve been wanting to try snowboarding, feel free to make a snowboarding trip one of your monthly goals. Commit to doing the necessary planning to make it happen, have fun, and take pride in having taken on something that’s a little bit scary.
An example of a bucket list goal that I set recently was to bleach my hair. In the past one or two years, I’ve been a lot more experimentative (say that 3 times fast) with my hair, and this year I wanted to finally go for the platinum blonde color I’ve been saving on Pinterest for a long time now. Seeing that on my goals list every day has pushed me to do the research to make sure my hair falls out, and start making plans for when I’ll do this (I’ll share how it goes once I cross over to the “light side”!)
Commit to doing or trying something fun you’ve been thinking about for a while. If you have no ideas, challenge yourself to write a bucket list for the year and then you’ll have plenty of ideas to last you for months.
3. Monthly goals remind you of your priorities for that month.
Oftentimes work and school often choose our priorities for us. Even though goals like this are obligations and aren’t really your choice, it still makes sense to set them as goals. You’ll be reminded of what you should be focused on every day, and you’ll feel an even greater sense of accomplishment once you reach the finish line.
An example of mine was my December goal to get all of my Christmas presents ready. It wasn’t optional - I had to do it simply because it was that time of the year. But putting it on my list of goals reminded me every day to think about what little things I could do to get closer to achieving that task - searching for gift ideas, making shopping lists, getting photos printed, etc. Plus, when it all got stressful, I had a clear finish line to look forward to. I could imagine wrapping the last present, crossing that goal off of my list, and being able to relax and enjoy Christmas with my loved ones.
What obligatory projects are on deck for you this month? Attack them with a goal mindset and feel extra accomplished once you complete them.
4. Monthly goals can help you improve habits.
One of the keys to successfully building consistent habits is to start slow. If you currently have no semblance of a daily routine, you can’t expect to wake up on January 1st and meditate, eat healthy, do 100 squats, follow a 10-step skincare routine, and find your spiritual calling all in one day. And definitely don’t expect to get up on January 2nd and do that all over again.
A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology claims that it takes an average 66 days to form a habit. Obviously some habits are harder than others and some of us have more willpower than others, but the key to remember is that it takes time to build habits.
So one way to use your monthly goals is to commit to practicing a habit for 30 days straight. This doesn’t mean you need to ditch all of the other habits you already have in place. It just means that for 30 days, you will put your best efforts towards not breaking the streak that you have with this particular habit. By the end of the month, it will (hopefully!) have become much more automatic for you.
A personal example is when I committed to not doing any homework at home for the month of November. By October I’d realized that my senior year course load was manageable enough that I could get everything done at school if I just used my time wisely and allocated my energy to where it mattered most. I’d been following a “no homework from Friday to Sunday” rule throughout junior year, so I decided to take the next step and push myself to work so efficiently at school that I could focus on other things once I got home.
I was successful at this for all of November and I no longer need to write it down as a monthly goal. There are definitely times when I bring home some work but these instances are few and far between because the behaviors and mindsets that I need to get all of my work done at school have become so automatic for me.
Think of a goal you’ve been wanting to implement, or a goal that you’ve been struggling with recently. Commit to keeping a 30-day streak, and watch as the task becomes like second nature by the end of the month.
I hope this has convinced you that monthly goals are pretty dang powerful! I have found so much benefit in setting monthly goals in my life. They push me to constantly do better in a way that feels manageable and, most importantly, fun. It’s exciting to sit down at the start of a month and dream about all of the possibilities for the 30 days ahead of you.
As promised, I’ve put together a monthly goal-setting worksheet for you that includes 50 goal ideas, sorted into categories like health, relationships, and fun.
Let me know! What are your goals for February?