Why working backwards is the best way to reach your goals

Reach your goalsWhen you are first working towards a dream or goal, the first flurries of excitement can result in getting loads done, but there can tend to be a lack of structure to your path. 

After the excitement has died down the sheer task can seem so daunting and so far away that sometimes it’s easy to give up even before we even get started.  With a bit of planning your dream can get that structure so that you can achieve it more easily.

Set a date

Do you have a date when you wish to have completed your dream?  You should!  If you haven’t thought about it and are still thinking that you are just going to get there someday then I want to encourage you to just try and set a date.  It doesn’t need to be an exact time on an exact day, month and year, but certainly try and narrow it down to a month and year.  Think about when is the best time for you to reach the goal. If there isn’t a best time, choose a time that you think will give you enough space to get there.  6 months time?  A year?  Get a date, print it out, tell the world.

Once you tell the world when you’re planning to do something it’s amazing how things can conspire and work so that you reach it.  Opportunities arise and since people know about it they are in a position to help.  However, that is not a reason to sit back and wait for it to happen!

Work backwards

Now that you have a date to work towards, magical things can happen.  Get yourself a calendar, online is fine, you can print one out or even buy a specific plain calendar for the job and then add in the most important date first – the date you are aiming to reach your goal.

Think about the big things that are going to happen in order for you to reach your goal.  Of course these will be goal and dream specific and there and no right and wrong things to put on.  Are you going to give up your employment?  Work out your intended leaving date and pop it on the calendar.  What about money?  Do you need a certain amount by a certain time?  Pop that in there too.  Give yourself a halfway goal and add that to the calendar.  Do you need to buy any items?  Are they needed by a certain date?  Add in any vacation time and important dates too so you can see the big picture.

All of a sudden, I hope you’ll find that the path to your goal doesn’t seem so fuzzy and unclear any more.  There are milestones for you pass, and a clearer path to take.

Keep adding as you research your goal.

As your goal is defined and as you learn more about what it’s going to take to get there, keep adding more items to your calendar.  Look at what is on there already – can you expand on anything?  If you’re leaving your job, when do you need to hand your notice in?  Can you add that date to the calendar too?  Maybe people who leave bring in cakes on the last day – write down that you need to buy cakes!!  Nothing is too trivial.

Don’t be afraid to recalculate

It’s not easy reaching your dreams, if it was we’d be all there already!  The reasons that they aren’t easy is because they take time, effort and a huge number of steps to get there.  Perhaps you’ve set a date and started working backwards and all of a sudden hit the fear that you can never do it in that time.  If so, don’t panic!  Just recalculate your date, it’s ok!  There are no set dates we need to worry about.  If you’ve always wanted to reach it before your 40th birthday and you then realise it will never happen at least you’re thinking about it now and can maybe recalculate it to change it to happening in the year that you are 40.  The important thing is that you are working towards something!

The value of working backwards isn’t just in realising what needs to be done and seeing whether it can fit in a timeframe, although that is important too.  What is also great is that if you do this well, each month that comes around has a ready made ‘to do’ list waiting for you to achieve!  Another great benefit is that when it all seems so far away and you’re feeling like you’ll never get there, you can see in your calendar things that you’re doing TODAY to get the dream going.
Kirsty Bartholomew achieved her dream of travelling with her family in 2013 when she set off on an adventure with them around Europe. Now she’s at Untrapped Life kickstarting dreams for others. She’s also on Google+.

-Share your thoughts on goal-setting in the comments below.