The Smart Way To Set And Achieve Goals


Rachel Bridge is a journalist and author and the former Enterprise Editor at The Sunday Times. Her latest book, Ambition: Why It’s Good to Want More and How to Get It (published by Capstone) is out now.

So you’ve got a big goal. It might be to take part in an Ironman triathlon, to write that hilarious novel, or to start your own business. Whatever it is, here’s how to improve your chances of actually achieving it:

1. Make room in your life for your ambition. If you are serious about achieving your ultimate goal, you need to make space for it. Sounds obvious, but in reality the reason why so many people fail to reach their goal is because they tack it on as an afterthought. They never consciously make room for it, and so it quickly gets lost among all the other things going on in their lives. You have to put achieving your goal right at the heart of what you do each day and, if need be, rearrange the rest of your life around it. That might mean tweaking your lifestyle, changing jobs, or even moving countries. If you want to become a best‐selling novelist, get up earlier and commit to writing 500 words every morning before work. If you want to become a professional surfer, move to Cornwall – or Hawaii. If you want to start an internet company and be the next dot com millionaire, consider getting shared office space in Tech City – or Palo Alto.

2. Make a plan. If you are going to achieve your goal, you need to think about how you are going to get there. So write down the actions you will need to take to get from here to there. Include these things: what money you will need, and where you hope to get it, what equipment and resources you will need, what skills you will need, what help you will need from other people, and a realistic timetable of when you hope to achieve it. Writing all this down will not only help clarify what you need to do, it also becomes a useful document to show people who may want to help you. If you need advice, mentoring, sponsorship, investment, or even just a travelling companion to come with you on your adventures, having a ready‐made plan to hand will be immensely helpful.

3. Use your time better. Too many people talk about the goals they would like to achieve if only they had more time. Don’t be one of them. Everyone is given the same number of hours in a day, so start using yours more effectively. Move the television into the coldest room in the house so you are less tempted to slump in front of it every evening. Stop saying yes to invitations that you don’t really want to go to. Now identify all the underused pockets of time in your day and be ruthless about making them more productive. David Wolstencroft is the creator of the television series Spooks and now an award‐winning screenwriter, filmmaker and novelist who lives in the Hollywood Hills. Ever since he was at school he has used every spare 15 minutes of his day productively. He says: “I had a geography teacher who told me that 15 minutes is a really useful amount of time. That 15 minutes is not a productive piece of time when it is seen on its own, but it is a component of what you are going to be doing over the medium to long term. If you write two pages of screenplay a week – less than half a page a day – you will have written a feature film by the end of the year.”

4. Focus your energy better. Stop dissipating your energy in areas which won’t take you closer to your goal. Running around in a frenzy of pointless activity will achieve nothing. Make sure you are eating healthy, doing regular exercise and getting enough sleep. These things matter. Then start writing more effective to-do lists. Don’t make them too long or you will become overwhelmed and never achieve anything. And get better atmaking decisions. Remember you don’t have to get every decision right; you just have to get most of them right. So stop agonising over them. As Gavin Patterson, the chief executive of BT says: “Making decisions is the single distinguishing characteristic that separates the good from the great.”

5. Create a support team. No matter how ambitious you are to succeed, it can sometimes be hard to achieve goals on your own. So build your own pit crew. Get your friends and family involved in what you are doing, find a mentor who can help you stay on track, join a group of like-minded people, and get networking to discover new people who may be willing to help you. And beware negative influences. If you have a friend who is constantly trying to undermine your efforts, either get them to stop, or ditch them.

Rachel Bridge is a journalist and author and the former Enterprise Editor at The Sunday Times. She currently writes about entrepreneurs and successful people for The Telegraph and The Times. Her latest book,Ambition: Why It’s Good to Want More and How to Get It (published by Capstone) is out now.