Too many goals? Too big goals?


Sometimes we don’t set enough goals and other times we set too many and most oftentimes our goals are too big. But how do we gauge whether the goals are too many or too big?

The best way to do this is to assess your current skills, decide what new skills you need to develop, assess whether your goals are competing with each other and whether you got the resources (money and time) to make your goals happen in the time frame you want.

As an example, let’s take my goals for the year:

  1. write and publish 12 scientific articles,
  2. pay-off credit card debt,
  3. write and publish a non-fiction book,
  4. write, publish, and sell a study guide for a course I am teaching, and
  5. lose 50 lbs in body weight.

Now 5 goals look like a reasonable number of goals for the year. Three are related to writing, one on money and one on health/weight loss.

But, first consider where you are starting from.

Have I written 12 and published 12 articles in one year?


In fact, in 2017, I published two scientific articles in one year, completed the revision of one paper and was in the process of revising another one by December.

So jumping from publishing 2 articles to 12 is a big jump. Maybe publishing 12 articles in one year is too big a goal.

I can break the article goal into quarterly goals. So every 3 months I have to submit three articles for publication. That’s one article a month. Now that is pushing it. I can possibly get one article out if I use simulated data or existing data sets. I can’t try to do experiments which need new materials or equipment. So I need to do an inventory of my data sets and the research questions I can attempt to answer with them.

Sometimes publications require a fee if the journal is open access or for color page charges. I don’t have the money for 12 articles in my university grants. So I know up front I have to submit to traditional journals. That means long review times. So I will not get all my submitted articles published this year. I can at most get those submitted before April published.

And, I have to develop a workflow process from idea germination and data assessment to publication. If I can do this then next year I could make the article publication process smoother.

So I am modifying my article publication goal to: Submit 12 articles and publish at least 4 articles.

Same with credit card debt. I am now $65,000 + $16,000 = $81,000 in debt. If I use one of the credit card calculators online with the interest rates from my bank I will need to pay $8,400 per month. Is this doable for me? Luckily it is as my salary is about $20,000 a month and my expenses are about $10,000 per month. So I can keep this goal.

But, I also got to not buy things I don’t need and not charge my credit cards. Uggh…new frugal skills to learn.

Let’s look at my third goal on writing and publish a non-fiction book.

Have I done this before?

Again, no. I have written articles but not books. And books usually need more research and a different style of engaging writing. But the most critical thing here is that I need to learn to write a book.

Now, I feel that this goal will be competing for time with my scientific article writing goal. I need to accomplish the articles goal for my day career. I am a lecturer in my local university and promotion at the end of the contract period is based on the quantity and quality of your research articles. And you got to have these articles in by a particular time frame.

I can modify this goal to just come up with a non-fiction book idea, validate it, and research it. If I can learn how to do this I will be happy. Next year I can write and publish.

But, when I look at my next goal “write, publish, and sell a study guide for a course I am teaching”, I realize that the study guide will compete for time with the non-fiction book goal. And I prefer to write the study guide over the research for the non-fiction book goal as I know that I have a guaranteed market. And most of my writing is outside of my work hours.

So for now I have to totally put the non-fiction book goal on hold and shift it to next year or later in the year.

The last goal is to lose 50 lbs in body weight. This will move me from 180 lbs to 130 lbs. Again, is this doable? Let’s take a 1 lb per week weight loss. And me eating healthy to get that 1 lb weight loss.  So 52 weeks gives 52 lbs. But, it is not realistic to expect to lose 1 lb every week. In fact, if I don’t gain weight in one week I will be happy. So I am going to put 17 weeks where I am steady in my weight. So my goal is now to lose 35 lbs and move from 180 lbs to 145 lbs. I will be happy with a weight less than what I started off with this year.

So this is in keeping with me trying to lose weight gradually. I tried drastic changes and those never lasted. I want lasting weight loss. And I want to look good and change my wardrobe as gently as possible as I go along. I also have to pay off a credit card so I can’t buy excessive amounts of clothes. I can have a reward for every 4-5 lb weight loss…like a new dress/jeans/shirt/top, or shoes, or jewelry to accompany the clothes.

I also have to make changes to my diet. I am off the buy and eat salads every day diet. This tactic is a bit hard on my wallet as bought salads are generally expensive. It is hard as I often eat salads briefly and then return to the meaty foods I love. So I have to learn how to cook and incorporate salads slowly into my diet.

I also have to learn to eat smaller portions of food, not drink my calories, stick to a calorie budget (1800 calories), and eat only when hungry and stop the snacking.

So from the analysis above I can now state my modified goals:

  1. Submit 12 articles and publish a minimum of 4 articles.,
  2. pay-off $81,000 in credit card debt,
  3. write, publish, and sell a study guide for a course I am teaching, and
  4. lose 35 lbs in body weight, moving from 180 lbs to 145 lbs.

Let me check in with myself. How do I feel? Do I feel anxious? No, actually I feel excited. I feel as though I can achieve my 4 main goals.

What can you learn from this? That you need to think through whether your goals are realistic and achievable for you. Not for anyone else, but for you and your situation.

We look at our goals and we think we need to do more. Or we look at others and benchmark ourselves against them. Don’t do this. Benchmark yourself against your current self and where you want to go. And by going through this process of checking whether our goals are achievable, you will develop your confidence.

Assess your goals according to the skills you currently have, the skills you need to build, and the resources (time, energy and money) you have. Assess also whether your goals are in alignment. If they are not then check in with yourself and determine which one or two goals you must accomplish this year. All other goals that do not align with your priority goals should be put on the back burner.

Finally, as you achieve your goals or any milestone leading to a goal, pause and celebrate. Bask in your accomplishments and your feelings of content and happiness before moving on.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: