When is the Best Time to Set Your Goals? Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Goal setting seems to be all the rage, right? And not just in the workplace, but also in personal lives. More and more we are turning to techniques like goal setting, manifesting and visualisation to steer our lives toward our dreams.

And the studies show that goal-setters have a 43% higher likelihood of achieving their objectives. So, should you be setting goals? In this post, we’ll explore the art of goal setting and delve into the ideal timing to set your goals effectively.

Avoid setting goals when you’re chronically stressed or burnt out

When chronic stress or burnout sets in, it’s not the opportune time to lay out your long-term life vision.

I recently wrote about how to recognize the signs of burnout, where I explained the top 3 signs which are…

  1. Exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep
  2. Cynicism
  3. Feeling ineffective

All 3 of these can negatively impact your ability to set goals.

When you’re exhausted, are you really going to feel like visualising an inspiring future a year from now? You probably are just visualising when you can next take a break and get some sleep.

Cynicism means feeling unoptimistic about the future. This mindset can hinder your ability to set and pursue meaningful goals.

And the third sign, feeling ineffective at your work, again is going to put you in a negative headspace. When you’re setting goals, you want to feel empowered to go after a goal that is meaningful to you, but if you don’t feel effective a big goal may not feel possible.

You want to set your goals when you are feeling relaxed, and have time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Goal setting requires you to bring in creative energy to imagine a new future for your life. That creative mindset is stifled by the 3 components of burnout.

Plus, burnout is not a single point where you hit rock bottom. Burnout is a sliding scale of stress, and it can go on for a long period of time. If you can see in yourself any of the 3 components of burnout listed above, you may be on your way toward burnout. It’s important to be able to recognise this and address it before you begin goal setting.

Your immediate priorities when stressed or burnt out

If you’re stressed or on your way to burnout* – then it’s time to focus on 2 things alone:

  1. Getting your nervous system back into regulation
  2. Identifying your next best step

*If you’re unsure, think about whether the above 3 components resonate with you. If so, you might be heading toward burnout and it’s worth taking time to restore and recuperate before you set your bigger goals.

Finding balance amidst stress

Stress can throw your nervous system off-kilter, leaving you feeling either ‘tired and wired’ or just purely exhausted. Your immediate goal must be to get it back into regulation, so that your body can healthily manage the stressors in your environment.

Getting back into regulation is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I will say that ruthlessly cutting out or delegating your non-essential tasks, and implementing a practice of yoga, meditation, and/or breathing can be a fantastic start! And if you want more help with that, book a call with me here.

Identifying your next best step

If you are stuck in a burning building, your priority is not going to be planning what you are going to eat for dinner next Thursday.

You’re going to be getting out of that building as quickly and safely as you can!

The same applies to toxic situations in your life. Whether you are working in an environment where you have a terrible manager, or you are stuck in a relationship that feels unsafe to you, it’s critical that you get help to change this circumstance immediately.

Reaching out to your support network like a trusted friend or colleague is a strong first step. You can also look for services that can support you in your local community. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Stress-free and supported, you can move on to goal setting.

Optimal Moments for Goal Setting

Have you heard the expression ‘The diet starts on Monday’? I have heard people say that expression countless times in my life!

If you want to change your diet, there is no reason to wait until next Monday, yet so many people jump through that mental loophole to give themselves permission to do what they feel like today!

Unlike the “diet starts on Monday” mentality, waiting for specific dates like New Year’s isn’t necessary for setting goals.

However, there are certain moments that can naturally trigger reflection and prompt us to set goals. So why not embrace the momentum these moments can bring us?

The September ‘Back to school’ feeling, the New Year, the changing of the seasons, and life milestones like birthdays or anniversaries can be triggers that remind us to reflect on what we want to achieve in our lives.

A strategy for effective goal setting

Establish a consistent rhythm of goal setting to keep you on track. I am a huge fan of Roxie Nafousi’s book: Manifest. She recommends creating a ‘vision board’ where you write your goals on a piece of paper or card, making sure to cover all areas of your life.

I love the simplicity of this strategy. If you enjoy creating a beautifully curated vision board, go for it! But cutting pictures out of magazines has never appealed to me. (The visuals in magazines aren’t what I aspire for anyway!)

Roxie also recommends putting your paper or card vision board away when you have finished writing it. If your vision is for a year away, you can look at the board again in a year.

You might see different advice out there about whether you should put your goals somewhere you see them every day or not. But I like Roxie Nafousi’s method aligns well with yoga philosophy. The Bhagavad Gita teaches the importance of detachment from the outcome. It says that…

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and in defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind” – Chapter 2, Eknath Easwaran Translation of The Bhagavad Gita

The “fruit of work” here is talking about the result or the outcome of your goals.

Let’s say you set a financial goal of earning £50,000. If you stay fixated on that number, put your energy into thinking about £50,000, tell everyone that’s what you’re going to earn, but then put your feet up… You’re never going to earn it!

Instead, you set the goal and then set your attention on making it happen. Your focus, energy, and attention should go into the work you need to do to meet that goal.

Implementing your goals

Transition from focusing solely on outcomes to concentrating on the tasks needed to reach your goals. By focusing on actions, you foster a more productive mindset.

Once I have created a vision board and put it away, I set about writing a monthly task list that outlines the actions that move me closer to my objectives. This includes tasks like launching my website, a new product, or a social media strategy.

These tasks support the achievement of my goals but are focused on the task, not the outcome. I keep the task list at my desk, where I can see it each day and it reminds me what to prioritise.

Mastering the art of goal-setting

In the journey of goal setting, timing is everything. While goal setting has its benefits, it’s essential to recognize that the right moment plays a pivotal role in your success.

Avoid setting goals during times of chronic stress or burnout, as these can impede your creative energy and hinder your progress. Instead, prioritize restoring your nervous system’s balance and taking immediate steps to address any toxic situations in your life.

When stress is under control, seize the momentum of triggers like the September “Back to School” vibe, changing seasons, or personal milestones to reflect and set new objectives.

Remember, the key to effective goal setting lies in consistent effort and a shift from fixating on outcomes to focusing on the actionable steps that propel you toward success.

So, embark on your goal-setting journey with intention, aligning your strategies with the rhythms of life, and watch your aspirations transform into reality.

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