The power of writing down your goals

I’d often read that writing your goals down was a great way to achieve them but I don’t think I ever really believed it – until I did it.

A paper planner, open at the page for writing your goals down. There is a pair of scissors and paperclips next to it.
Photo by Alexa Williams on Unsplash

Mine was very simple – it was a list of renovations and tasks that I wanted to complete around my home – not a defined project, with timescales and milestones (like installing a new kitchen); that would make complete sense to write down so you can see what you need to do.

No – this was just a list of things that I wanted to buy, DIY jobs that needed doing or just home crafts that would enhance my home.

I wrote the list down in my planner, looked at it regularly – and actioned it. Within a year, everything on the list had been ticked off.

Since then, I have created other such lists – travel destinations, big goals I want to achieve in the next ‘x’ number of years and so on, and slowly but surely, the lists are getting ticked off.

Why does writing your goals work?

There is some science around this – writing things down means that your brain is encoding – this is a ‘biological process by which the things we perceive, travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analysed’ (Mark Murphy-Forbes 2018).  Decisions are then made about what to store, and what to discard. Writing helps that process. There is also something called the ‘generation effect’ – individuals demonstrate a better memory for the things they’ve generated than the things they’ve merely read. This is why writing down notes from lectures and talks, or meetings, helps things to ‘stick’ in your brain rather than just disappear.

So what are the benefits of writing your goals down?

It helps you to clarify what you want – from an idea floating around in your head, to recording it on paper (or on a screen, whatever suits you best) – the act of writing it down means that you are identifying exactly what it is that you want to achieve. It also helps you to track your progress – ticking off a list is very satisfying!

Do they have to be big goals?

Not at all – as I said, my interest in this started when I had a list of tasks around the house that needed to be done. Simple lists of things you want to achieve within a certain timescale can be very powerful, when written down. For example:

One month tasks

  • Research holiday destinations
  • Plan Christmas holiday arrangements
  • Book decorator in

Medium term tasks (three months) could be a project, such as:

Decorate the lounge

  • Research ideas on Pinterest
  • Collect paint and wallpaper samples
  • Work out a budget
  • Decide on decorator or DIY options
  • Produce project plan, breaking down decorating steps

However, if you do have a big goal (to become financially free, for example), a plan of the steps you need to take will be extremely useful. It could look like this:

Becoming financially free

  • Research the theory and principles behind FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early)
  • Identify your current financial baseline and your target ‘money pot’
  • Break down current budget and identify ways of saving money, to move to investments
  • Open investment accounts
  • Automate saving
  • Track progress
  • Modify timelines/amounts accordingly

How to start

You can start small, by writing a list of three daily or weekly goals you want to achieve, ticking them off as you complete them. Creating a routine of writing down your goals/tasks, tracking them and completing them will give a sense of accomplishment, and create focus on what you want to achieve.

The key thing is….

It’s important to actually take action on the goals you’ve written down – information on it’s own won’t help you to achieve these goals, you will need to actually do something! Create a routine whereby you regularly review your goals; maybe you have a list next to your computer, or next to the kettle, or pinned on your bathroom mirror – wherever you will see it regularly. This will get the item into your mind, and then consciously or subconsciously you will start to take action to achieve those goals.

If you want to look into this a bit more, I can recommend this YouTube video by Modern Health Monk, which is where the penny dropped for me!

Have you had success with achieving your goals? Let me know in the comments!