How to: Post-It Note Goal-Setting

Sticky notes have a place in your life. If you’re like me, that place may be “covering every inch of available desk space” – but it’s a place, nonetheless. I love sticky notes because they are bite-sized. Sticky notes aren’t big enough for me to plan my whole day on (comfortably). But they’re plenty big for a quick to-do list, or a string of random ideas I want to flesh out later. But there’s an even more practical application for sticky notes in planning. They are tailor made for goal-setting!

If your 2022 goals have you feeling overwhelmed, I have one piece of advice: Grab some sticky notes. Grab a pen. Grab your favorite playlist. And get to working!

I face bottlenecks when I work towards my goals. Don’t we all? Sometimes it’s a lack of motivation. Mostly, I bite off more than I can chew. My decision to chase 15 goals in 7 areas instead of 2 or 3 goals I’m passionate about? That decision has consequences when it comes time to work towards my goals. There’s one exercise that helps me set goals, brainstorm action items towards those goals, and ramp up my motivation. It’s interactive and visual, and it doesn’t take much time. It is sticky note goal setting.

So we’ve hit a wall, whether it’s deciding which goals to set, or how to make headway on a goal we’re struggling with. The first thing to do is to write down the goals you’re working towards: One goal per sticky note. Find a blank wall, surface, easel, or board. Put these sticky notes there, leaving enough empty space between them to work into. First: Look at what’s on the wall. Is anything missing? Or critically: Do any of these goals no longer feel authentic to you? It sounds radical, but you have permission to add/subtract goals as you go. Shed the dead weight if a goal you set in December is no longer relevant in February (or April – or anytime!).

We’re going to create a constellation of ideas on the working surface in front of us. Now, there are a few different ways to approach this activity. Are you looking to set an action plan for one of–or all of–these goals? Or are you just struggling to visualize what “working on my goal” looks like day in and day out. Let’s be specific. Say that my goal is to make friends in the new city I moved to. It’s a great goal, but what does working on this goal actually look like?

If you want to create a time-based plan for your goal(s), I suggest this: Create a horizontal line of sticky notes at the top of your surface. Assign a sticky note to each month remaining this year. You could use quarters as well – Q1 through Q4 – if your brain thinks that way. With the year mapped out in front of you, start from the end and work back to today. What incremental milestones are you hitting? And critically, when are you hitting those milestones?

Each of those milestones gets a sticky note and a place on the wall. Here’s an example. I’m training to run a half marathon at the end of November. With a training plan in place, I know exactly where I need to be–and when–to stay on track with this plan. It’s an 8-mile long run in September, 4 miles in July, and so on.

If instead you want to better visualize how to work on your goal, sticky notes are the best way to brainstorm a lot of ideas quickly. You know how they say “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks?” We’re doing that in a literal sense. Take the example from earlier, my goal of making new friends in the city I just moved to. If I asked you: How does one go about making new friends? You’d probably have a dozen answers. Each of those gets a sticky note and a place on the wall.

Create a constellation of ideas in front of you. Host a dinner party, join a softball league, use Meetup for shared hobbies, ask mutual friends to introduce me to new friends, go out, be friendly to neighbors – no idea is a bad idea. Once you have 10-20 ideas on the wall, I like to reorganize them with my “best” ideas in a circle closest to the goal, with more far-fetched ideas emanating out from there. If you’re an overachiever, you can use these ideas as milestones from the first activity and assign them a month, i.e. join a softball league in May, host a dinner party in August. And now you have a concrete plan to work towards one of your goals.

This activity is something I do every year and love. I plan my content for the next year, work on goals. Sticky notes are a vehicle for my best thinking. I think they can help you, too! If you use sticky notes to help you set goals, let me know in the comments below ⬇️!

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