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How to Set Goals for 2013

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Dec 25

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Setting Goals for 2013

The power of setting goals is phenomenal, but most people suck at creating goals. I know because for most of my life I was going about creating goals in the completely wrong way. Rarely did my goals result in anything and I had lost faith in them until recently.

I decided to give goal setting another chance and I am so glad I have. Since learning how to set concrete goals and properly using them, we have TRIPLED our traffic. That sounds completely crazy, and I totally agree. At this point you may think I am trying to sell you some crap 7 step program. Well, we sell Photoshop tutorials not pyramid schemes, so don’t worry. The truth is that I am still exploring the power of goals and I know there is much more to come!

Seeing what a difference goal setting has made in my own life, I know it can have a positive effect on your own life. Here is the thing though, there are some guidelines to good goal setting. A good friend of mine who is a school teacher told me about SMART goals. It turns out that in her school she is encouraged to set these SMART goals and they help her to do more. SMART is just an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Meaningful
  • Attainable
  • Relavant
  • Timely

All of these are guidelines for helping you create goals that you will actually meet. Each of them I have found out is an important part of the goal not to be left out. I know you know how to read the Wikipedia page on SMART goals, so I am not going to paraphrase it. Instead I am going to tell you about what each means for me and how I use them to achieve my goals.

Specific.

Being specific in setting goals is important, vague goals produce vague results. Instead of saying “I plan on doing more photo shoots” say something like “I will produce 4 photo shoots a month, two of which will be on location and two of which will be in the house/studio.” It is easier to know if you have accomplished this goal. You either produced 4 photo shoots or you didn’t. Anyone can see whether or not you met this goal, which means you can have other people help to hold you accountable.

Meaningful.

Having a goal be meaningful is perhaps the most important part of setting a goal. I have often fallen into the trap of setting goals that I didn’t really care about. I thought I cared about them at the time but realized later that I was only setting them because I thought they would make me more money. That can never be the only motivator, for money is hollow and will always let you down. A good way to make a goal meaningful is to set rewards and punishments around completing goals. I will get to that in the next section.

For example don’t make it a goal to try to meet that certain photographer because you think it may be good for your career, set a goal of meeting someone you actually admire and would really like to get to know.

Attainable.

The attainable part is tricky. I tend to be a huge optimist and think that you can do anything you put your mind to. If you want to get that big house on the lake I know you can do it, but it will probably take longer than a month. That is where cutting up large goals comes into play. If you want to shoot the cover of Vogue Magazine, try setting that as a 5 year goal, and then do something each month or couple of months to get you there.  Also if you plan on becoming a billionaire through photography you may want to tone that one down a little bit. Aim for a million and go from there.

Relevant.

I think everyone has a purpose. I know mine. It is to solve problems in a creative way and to never accept the status quo. Phlearn has a purpose, it is our mission statement on the home page. Phlearn’s mission is to provide the skills, confidence and encouragement for creative individuals to pursue their dreams, overcome their fears, and live their passions.

Knowing your purpose helps to keep your goals relevant. Is the goal you are setting in line with why you think you are on this earth? If not you may want to look at altering it a bit.

If you do not know your purpose don’t worry, It will come to you if you want it to. It doesn’t have to be fancy of flowery, and it doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else except yourself. You probably already know what it is, as you spend most of your time doing it anyway.

At the end of each month everyone at Phlearn gets together to set goals for the upcoming month. If those goals are not in line with our mission statement, we cross them off the list.

Timely.

You have to create a timeline for your goal, without it you can’t be held accountable. If you make your goal “I want to double my income” you may always think you are on your way to doing so and never actually change anything. If your goal is formatted a little differently like “I am making X amount of dollars per month by December 2013 and loving it!” you are much more likely to hit that goal.

Most people don’t put deadlines on their goals because they are afraid of not hitting a goal by a certain time and feeling like a failure. This is a fear you have to overcome as soon as you can. I would much rather fall just short of a large goal than continue to coast along at the current pace I am at. Even if you don’t hit that goal by the time you set, chances are that you would have outperformed the alternative of not setting a goal at all.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Create Rewards and Punishments

You are not going to try hard to hit a goal if you don’t have a very clear reason as to why you set the goal in the first place. If your goal is to get that house on the lake in 5 years, you have set a great goal but 5 years away may as well be infinity as far as our subconscious is concerned. That is why it is important to create rewards for yourself along the way.

Here is an example of how I used this technique just this month. I set some large goals for myself and Phlearn in during the months of November and December. Goals that seriously outpace previous performance. As one of my rewards I wanted the brand new 27″ iMac full loaded with 32GB of RAM and a Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID array. These things are not cheap,  but because I set my goals so high and busted my ass to achieve them I now have my rewards. Those two months could have passed by without having set big goals and things would have been just fine, but I wouldn’t have my new computer now.

The computer was not the goal, it was just a little incentive for working hard and achieving my bigger goal which has less tangible results.

Your rewards don’t have to be several thousands of dollars, here are some ideas you may like. Take a day off work to sit around in your snuggie and watch bad movies. Fill your workplace with beautiful plants. Buy a print of an artist you love. Get a babysitter and go out on a night with your spouse free from the kids.  Buy yourself some new underwear.

Rewards are great, punishments are even better. We will work hard for a reward, we will work even harder to avoid punishment. Remember these are your goals and you may structure them however you please. It doesn’t have to be that either you make your goal by 100% and get your reward or miss it and face punishment. Rewards and punishments can be tiered just like your goals. If you come close to hitting a big goal it doesn’t make sense to just punish yourself for missing it, instead say that you are not going to get the full reward you set out for yourself.

If you completely flop on a goal that is important, then it is time to enact the punishment. Remember these things are here to motivate you and they will only work if you really want the rewards and really don’t want the punishments.

Some good punishments may include not going out to eat for a month, not getting to watch your favorite TV show, giving up alcohol, giving up cheese, staying at work on a Saturday to get caught up.

All of these things work as long as you are clear about what you want.

Getting Started

To get started on your path to creating and accomplishing big goals, here are a few things you can do right now. Get out a big sheet of paper and write down a few things you want to accomplish next month. Do the same thing for the next 6 months and a year. Your next step is to think of how many different ways you can annoy yourself with these goals. I do it by making obnoxious posters and putting them in front of my desk at work.

I also have posters in my bedroom so I see my goals when I first wake up. The posters are ugly, so I can’t wait to accomplish the goals and rip them off the walls. I set the goals as backgrounds on my computer and as reminders on my phone.

All of these things keep my goals right in front of me and keep me on my path.

Staying Accountable

Lastly it is important that you can be held accountable for your goals! Let us know in a comment what your goals are for 2013 and how you plan on accomplishing them! Good luck!

Removing things from your list

I know it sounds crazy but the answer may not be adding more things to your to-do list. The answer may be taking more things off your list.

According to the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule, 20 percent of your actions account for 80 percent of the results you are getting. That means that what you spend 80 percent of your time doing only counts for the other 20 percent of your results. If you are spending that much time doing things that result in very little, why are you doing them?

Often we do things merely because they are habits. They were important a year ago, but right now they may be just something that is filling up your time. Identifying these actions can be a bit tougher than you think. It is easy to believe that everything you do is important. Just think if you would still start doing a task today knowing what you know now.

If the answer is no, then you should probably find a way to stop doing this action. Perhaps you can delegate it to someone else, or just drop it completely. Here is why it is important that you remove these things from your life- they are taking away your time that could be spent doing other high value tasks.

This new years the answer may be instead of doing something new, try quitting something you currently do.

Futuresight is 20/20

Futuresight isn’t a word, I made it up.

They say that hindsight is 20/20, meaning that when you look back in time you see things much more clearly than in the moment. Well if you can see the past clearly, the present not very well and the future not at all, how are you supposed to set goals and know what actions you should be taking?

Look back onto the past, chances are you are still doing a lot of the same things you were doing a year ago. Chances are you can look back and see that some of those things weren’t exactly the best use of your time. Guess what. They are still not a good use of your time. You don’t have to be good at evaluating the present, all you have to do is look into the past to dictate your future.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If you don’t start doing things differently you are going to keep getting what you have always got.

Great Reads

Here are a few great books that will help you on your way to achieving your goals. Check out our whole reading list here.

  • http://twitter.com/patrickniddrie Patrick Niddrie

    Hey Aaron,

    Thanks so much for this. If you ever get tired of teaching photoshop, you should consider becoming a motivational speaker!

    It’s interesting you brought all of this up, because I have recently been thinking a lot about what motivates me and what my goals are. Just yesterday I happened upon an interview with photographer Nick Onken, who is obviously highly driven and motivated. (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxxFSU6doDo ) One of the main points he makes (and one that you touched on as well) is that in order to stay motivated, you really have to love what you do for the craft, and not for the money, status, fame, attention, etc. It’s impossible to kick ass and work hard for something you don’t care about; on the other hand, it’s easier to endure the crappy things that come along with the job when you’re doing something you love.

    Once you have that motivation, then it’s time to institute the goal-setting strategies. I like your idea of the giving yourself a reward, as it kind of gives you something to work for. But I’m hesitant to adopt this punishment strategy. I know you’re not advocating punching yourself, but I believe we need to treat ourselves well even when we mess up or don’t do what we’re supposed to. But hey, I can’t argue with success, and I know Phlearn has been growing exponentially, so who am I to say what won’t work?

    Thank you Aaron, for being so awesome and inspirational!

    -Patrick Niddrie

  • Pingback: How to Set Goals for 2013 I Photographer Blog

  • http://twitter.com/Xander_Rap Xander Rapparport

    This is definitely the best article I have read on Phlearn. Thank You so much Aaron, Happy New Year.

  • Guest

    What to say Aaron,

    I want to confess you that I cried today…
    I cried like I didn´t in a long time, I cried out loud, sobbing, and shedding tears…

    As soon as I finished reading your post I started to mentally planning my next month / next year resolution, to only face that I´ve always failed on this task so badly in the past few years.

    Admitting this to myself was pretty bad and the emotion were overwhelming… it did hurt __
    I felt like a big Loser, able to pull out only a failure after another, not even capable to focus long enough on my dream to give it a proper try… and because of this lack of energy they seem always as so distant, and dreamy…

    Was all very therapeutic and I thank you from the deep of my heart for this post, I appreciate the work of all of you at Phlearn, and look up to you from today even more~!

    Alfonso

  • Alfonso Bonvini

    What to say Aaron,

    I want to confess you that I cried today…
    I cried like I didn´t in a long time, I cried out loud, sobbing, and shedding tears…

    As soon as I finished reading your post I started to mentally planning my next month / next year resolution, to only face that I´ve always failed on this task so badly in the past few years.

    Admitting this to myself was pretty bad and the emotion were overwhelming… it did hurt __
    I felt like a big Loser, able to pull out only a failure after another, not even capable to focus long enough on my dream to give it a proper try… and because of this lack of energy they seem always as so distant, and dreamy…

    Was all very therapeutic and I thank you from the deep of my heart for this post, I appreciate the work of all of you at Phlearn, and look up to you from today even more~!

    Alfonso.

  • Pingback: Setting Goals for 2013 « Chad Strachan – "My Adventure with a Camera"

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  • http://www.facebook.com/arron.patton.3 Arron Patton

    Hey Aaron,

    I’m really curios as to what one of your “ugly” posters would look like. Can you share with us an example of one?

  • http://www.facebook.com/arron.patton.3 Arron Patton

    Hey Aaron,

    I’m really curios as to what one of your “ugly” posters would look like. Can you share with us an example of one?

  • http://www.flickr.com/karissa-lynne Karissa Hosek

    Thank you for the guidance Aaron! I have such a hard time setting goals and pushing myself to achieve them. This structure is helping me so much already. Finding a punishment is hard for me… one of mine is NO internet or social media for two weeks. with the exception of watching phlearn for motivation! ;)

    I’m going to be reading the book you recommended “The Success Principles” I feel as though it will help me over come fears and realize my purpose

  • http://www.flickr.com/karissa-lynne Karissa Hosek

    Thank you for the guidance Aaron! I have such a hard time setting goals and pushing myself to achieve them. This structure is helping me so much already. Finding a punishment is hard for me… one of mine is NO internet or social media for two weeks. with the exception of watching phlearn for motivation! ;)

    I’m going to be reading the book you recommended “The Success Principles” I feel as though it will help me over come fears and realize my purpose

  • http://www.flickr.com/karissa-lynne Karissa Hosek

    Thank you for the guidance Aaron! I have such a hard time setting goals and pushing myself to achieve them. This structure is helping me so much already. Finding a punishment is hard for me… one of mine is NO internet or social media for two weeks. with the exception of watching phlearn for motivation! ;)

    I’m going to be reading the book you recommended “The Success Principles” I feel as though it will help me over come fears and realize my purpose

  • http://www.flickr.com/karissa-lynne Karissa Hosek

    Thank you for the guidance Aaron! I have such a hard time setting goals and pushing myself to achieve them. This structure is helping me so much already. Finding a punishment is hard for me… one of mine is NO internet or social media for two weeks. with the exception of watching phlearn for motivation! ;)

    I’m going to be reading the book you recommended “The Success Principles” I feel as though it will help me over come fears and realize my purpose

  • http://www.flickr.com/waseef Waseef Akhtar

    This is just the only awesome stuff I’d have passed by today. Word, man! totally motivative, inspirational and “futuresighted” haha. I want to quote “We will work hard for a reward, we will work even harder to avoid punishment.” so bad everywhere around the web that I also want to shoot for it haha. The thing to ask here is this really your quote, Aaron?

    Thanks a lot for sharing the awesome-st new year article I’d ever have passed by. This just totally made me more thoughtful and focused in what I do. My 1st huge goal for this year is to nail my Chemistry exam that actually dragged me down into getting into a university. My 2nd huge goal is to get a full-frame dSLR or just upgrade to a Canon L Series lens. And I’ve already started writing my goals for the next month reading half the article haha. There are a lot of cheezy and funny stuff so I’d rather not share that. But yea. Thanks again, Phlearn!

  • tpellicer

    Hi Aaron,

    My friend referred me to your site last week and I have to say it was the best recommendation I gotten in a LONG time! I love your tutorials and actually bought by first one today. It’s my first step in achieving one of my goals of seriously becoming great at PS. Then I came across this blog post today and I have to say I suck at goal setting too, but now I have some motivation to make this year’s goals much SMARTer. Thanks for doing what you do!

    Thomas

  • http://twitter.com/JWDesignCompany James Wieland

    I absolutely agree that you must start right now in order to feel like you are moving towards your goals. I have heard from many life coaches that just making that first step towards a goal can greatly increase your chances of actual success.

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