How to set goals and achieve them -- goal-based to-do lists for the win!!

How to set Goals and Achieve Them… Goal-Based To-Do Lists For the Win!

There are plenty of sites out there that will tell you how to set goals, and even why you should set goals. But how many of them will tell you how to set goals and achieve them? I mean with a real, actionable plan and not something trite like “now that you've set your goals, you can get to work and make them happen.” Because believe me, in today's world, you need to do more than simply set goals and get to work.

Chances are, even before deciding to work from home, you were pretty busy. Maybe you were working full time, or going to school, or both. Or maybe you're a mother. We all know how crazy busy motherhood makes us.

Whatever you were doing before you started working from home, starting your own business has probably made you even more busy. Not just with the work you have to do, but with the work you have to do in order to get the work for you to do. Marketing, graphics, design, website maintenance, pictures, or even bidding on new projects.

And chances are that when you start getting busy or overwhelmed, you put together a to-do list. Because that's what we do when we're crazy and overwhelmed. We try to create some sort of order. Some sense of control over the chaos.

And some way to prioritize those pesky little tasks.

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How to set Goals and Achieve Them

Here is where we get all messed up. We prioritize those tasks by urgency.


The follow-up calls that we need to make to those customers who ordered a couple of weeks ago, those blog posts you still need to write, the classes and extra training you wanted to take.

Not to mention the novel you wanted to write, the toddlers screaming for your attention, or the pile of laundry that is piling up on your bedroom floor.

We get busy and we prioritize. And we usually prioritize by a sense of urgency: what has to get done now? Well, there are a few problems with this method:

  1. Short term goals are always more urgent than long-term goals.
  2. There are never enough hours in the day to complete everything.
  3. Everything on your list is necessary — even if it isn't all that urgent.

Now. I wouldn't tell you to throw out your old method of creating a to-do list without offering up an alternative. And here it is: Goal-based to-do lists.

But what is a goal-based to do list?

I'm glad you asked. As you might have guessed, it starts with having a goal or two in mind.

First, define your goals for your business. For example, for my ghostwriting business, my goal is to have finished with every outstanding client by December, 2016, so they can all be billed for this year. That means I have given myself five months to reach this goal.

Next, define the major points you need to reach that goal:

  • All combined, my current projects add up to approximately 550,000 words
  • I need to average close to 3,700 words per day to complete them all by the end of the year. I normally average between 4,000 and 5,000 words per day, so this should be doable.

And for this blog, my goal is to build up some of the passive income a bit so I can relax on the ghostwriting bit and have more time to work on my own writing (that is, the books that will be getting released under my own name). To do this, I need to start:

  • Researching the tools and systems I use to see if any of them offer affiliate programs
  • Work on building up traffic through better SEO and Pinterest strategies

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Now, on my to-do list, the first three items on my list every day are going to be tasks meant specifically to achieve this second goal — to build up my passive income on this blog so I can write more of my own things rather than relying so much on ghostwriting income. That means every day, the first three tasks I complete will be designed specifically to build that revenue.

And it doesn't matter where on the urgency scale these tasks land. Some of them may be time-sensitive, but most of them aren't. Some of them might be money-generating, some of them might not be. For example, creating graphics and uploading pins to Pinterest will not get me any money and can be done anytime. But they will help me build traffic to this site, which will help show my affiliate links and courses to more people, which will, ultimately, increase my passive income.

And that's the real goal.

With the old way, these tasks might end up near the end of my list. After all, everything else is more urgent. Laundry has to get done. Customer follow-ups have to be made. I have to eat.

Yet I get to the end of the day after crossing off some 15-20 tasks from my list and would still find myself no closer to my real goal. Graphics that never got made, blog posts that never got written, my own books sitting on the hard drive of my computer under a layer of virtual dust.

This changes that.

Of course, there are a bazillion other tasks that will still end up on your daily to-do list. But the first three tasks — every day — will be just for your main goals. And that means at the end of every single day no matter how many tasks you've been able to complete or how many tasks have been added to your unending to-do list, you will be at least three steps closer to meeting your ultimate goal.

Did you like this article? Here are some other posts you might enjoy about goal-setting!

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Goal-setting FAQ

How do you organize your goals and to-do lists?

Because to-do lists tend to be organized in a hierarchy of priorities, the process tends to be very personal. The most effective methods will include a personal blend of long-term goals and short-term tasks that allow you to see progress in both areas.

How does writing lists help your brain?

There have been dozens of studies that have all shown that writing things down, such as lists, helps us to organize our thoughts into manageable patterns and remember things more easily. Just as with taking academic notes helps our brains sort, filter, and recall the information later when we need it, organizing our tasks and to-do lists on paper helps our brains sort, filter, and prioritize tasks that we need to get done to reach our goals.

How do you organize tasks effectively?

1) create a list of all your tasks using a brain dump.
2) sort the tasks into smaller lists based on criteria of your choosing (ie, urgency, revenue generating, goal-oriented, etc.)
3) assess overall value of accomplishing the task as well as effort required to complete the task.
4) re-order the tasks based on your priorities, assessed value, and required effort to accomplish each in an efficient and timely manner.
5) remember to stay flexible; you may need to adjust your lists should circumstances change.

Why is making a list important?

One of the most effective tools we have at our disposal is the ability to categorize and sort through our required activities and place them in a to-do list. Doing so allows us to program our brains to prioritize our tasks into a more manageable system so we can get through them efficiently without losing sight of our goals or forgetting an important step.

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