How to Create Memorable and Effective Instructional Content? (Part 1 of 2)

Have you ever found yourself attracted to a particular blogger’s writing style? Have you ever thought what is it about this blogger’s style that attracts you? For example, I LOVE reading Ruth Soukup’s weekly posts on the Elite Blog Academy blog and the related newsletter that comes with each post. It took me a while to figure out why her writing was so effective. Most of her posts:

  • Have an attention-grabbing or action-oriented headline
  • Illustrate a personal but relatable struggle of hers in the introduction
  • Pose a thought-provoking question
  • End with a strong dose of motivation
  • Use simple and familiar language

These are all tenets of great writing, especially when it comes to instructional or motivational articles. Besides the obvious element of great “writing,” the effectiveness of such posts also depends on several other elements.

The Secret to Creating Fantastic Instructional Content

In my professional life, we use a learning model called the ARCS model to deliver effective learning experiences to adults. ARCS is an acronym for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction—the four elements that, when woven into your learning products, ensure your learners benefit from it as they should.

ARCS is a great checklist to ensure you can gain and sustain the interest and motivation of your readers/students. While the acronym specifically applies to adult learning experiences (think about your upcoming eBooks or eCourses!), you can easily adapt it to your writing for the blog. Here’s how:

Writing Memorable and Effective Instructional Content

Attention

There are no two ways about the fact that grabbing your readers’ attention is the first and most important element for gaining loyal subscribers. Without grabbing their attention, how will your writing stand out amongst 10,000 other blogs? What is it that will make people sit up and take notice of your writing?

Remember, according to research, you have no more than 20 seconds before readers will decide whether they will continue reading your post or bounce to the next shiny pasture. So, GRAB.THEIR.ATTENTION!

And here’s what you need to do:

First, spend a little more time thinking about a solid headline that uses power words and is unambiguous about the intent of the post. That said, stay far away from click bait headlines because you may attract traffic purely based on such titles but when your headline and article do not match, your readers would be suspicious of you in future.

Second, write a solid introduction for your actual post. You want to sustain your reader’s/student’s attention even past the headline because that’s where your message lies.

You can do this by using either of the following two strategies:

  • Perceptual arousal: This strategy uses an element of surprise or uncertainty to gain interest. This could be a startling fact or a statistic. Or, it could even be a “non-example” that will go against the reader’s expectations. Try giving humor a chance to introduce an information-heavy post. Basically, include elements that will shake up the foundation of an ideal situation and make your readers sit up and pay attention.
  • Inquiry arousal: This strategy stimulates curiosity by presenting challenges and questions upfront. You can present these challenges or question on a first-person or second-person basis; the idea is to make the premise believable and relatable.

It’s up to you what media you choose to use—it could be a short video clip, an audio clip, a cartoon, or plain old plan. Make it engaging, make it intriguing, make it useful.

Whatever you do, keep your readers/students hooked.

Relevance

Once you have your audience’s attention, you need to make it abundantly clear why they should keep reading your post—what do they stand to gain out of your post? Which real-life problem of theirs does your post address? In other words, what is the outcome or end result of reading your post? Hint: employ SMART goal setting to determine the outcomes.

But how should you present this information? One way to do this is to simply list the outcomes before diving into the main content. But that is as boring as it gets. Instead, consider using model behavior examples, or better still, present yourself in your readers’ shoes. Remember Ruth Soukup’s example above? “Show” the readers how your post will help them in the short and/or long term. Show them by telling how it has helped you, or include testimonials.

Confidence

By nature, humans put energy into tasks that they feel will bring them success/reward/award. Plain, simple return on investment. Does your style of writing make your readers feel they will stand to gain something? The gain could be a new skill, better lifestyle, or even just momentary feel-good headspace.

Use positive and encouraging language when imparting knowledge. Tell your readers/students up front what they will learn from your post and the amount of effort needed from them. Organize your content in a manner that goes from general to specific, and draws from real-life examples.

If your post is building on a concept that you have discussed previously, direct the reader to that resource to level the field for everyone. Provide related and useful content upgrades, worksheets, cheat sheets wherever you can. Essentially, set your reader up for success every step of the way.

Another important thing to build your reader’s confidence is to talk to them, not talk down to them. Even if you are writing an “XYZ post for dummies,” do not think of your readers as “dummies”.

Satisfaction

Now, this element is more in tune with a formal learning program. In going through a course and/or at the end of a course, learners are typically see awarded a digital completion certificate or access to an expert to address doubts. The objective is to do what you can to ensure that the learner is rewarded for their effort upon successfully completing your intervention.

For blog posts, this element can be difficult to implement. But what you can do instead is do it anyway. Perhaps you can invite comments and respond to each comment—this could be their access to an expert (you!).

In my next post, I will share a few more tips to create better instructional posts. I would love it if you could leave your feedback in the comments below and share the post with others.

Write Memorable and Effective Instructional Content

The Anatomy of a Style Guide + Free Starter Template

Ever since I started this blog four months ago, I have been playing around with themes and trying to establish its visual branding guidelines (I realize I will have to purchase a premium theme and/or hire a designer eventually, but for now, I enjoy playing with the available resources). While I have been pretty sure about the style of content this blog will carry, I have been quite fickle with the visual aspect. So, every time I changed the theme, I wanted to update the color scheme of all images on the blog and social media. I have experimented with so many colors pallets (all in the same color family though) and fonts, it was difficult to keep track. And then it hit me! Why wasn’t I using the #1 tool I have used throughout my professional life? I needed to create a style guide–or, a prescribed set of guidelines that help keep your brand’s message and messaging consistent.

The Anatomy of a Style Guide and Why You Need One for Your Blog

Do You Need a Style Guide For Your Blog?

If you are anything like me, you have played around with your blog appearance several times. Experimenting with font styles, colors, images…an overall theme…trying to create a unique style for your unique brand. It may take you several iterations to come up with a style that truly reflects your brand. While the visual aspect of the blog gets a lot of attention from your readers and you, it’s equally important to realize your content style. Your content style adds as much value as the visual style to your brand quotient.

In addition, as you grow and bring in more hands on the deck, you need to ensure that the changes in the backend are not visible on the frontend. Your message and tone should be consistent across your blog. Your reader must not be able to tell the difference between the posts that you write yourself and the posts that your content writer writes (unless you want your readers to know!). Your style guide will be the one-stop reference material you and your team can consult.

A well-researched style guide:

  • Allows uniformity: By establishing branding guidelines, your style guide allows uniformity across all your products—think eBooks, eCourses, printables, emails, and blog posts following the same style that is consistent with your brand.
  • Provides reference: Consider your brand’s style guide as a legacy handbook. Any person who needs to know about your branding guidelines can consult the style guide.
  • Saves time: Imagine how much time you would waste if you or your team did not have the style guide to consult. A new team member may need to sit around waiting for a more experienced person to guide frequently.

Which Style Guide Is Right For Me?

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It is a common practice in the publishing industry to create one’s own style guide based on the unique requirements of your brand. While the visual aspect is often built from the scratch, most organizations adapt their content style to existing industry-standard style guides.

Two common style guides you can follow or borrow from are the *Chicago Manual of Style and the *Yahoo Style Guide. I have used both of these style guides in my professional life, and base most of my current writing on these as well. Both resources are beneficial for those using informal language, i.e. most bloggers. For example, if you have a parenting blog, your content should be easy to understand, use the active voice, and provide actionable tasks or steps. It should be informative but presented as quick tips (parents don’t have time to sit through a 3000-words paragraph format post). It should have a reassuring tone and highly trusted voice.

Another popular resource for establishing writing style is the *AP Stylebook. This resource is apt for serious writing. For example, if you have a website on mental illnesses, then your writing will be very different from a more casual beauty blog. The AP Stylebook will be more apt for a blog on mental illnesses.

Download a free, fully customizable style guide for your blog NOW!

Common Sections of a Style Guide

Writing Style: This section provides guidance on the expected writing style and formatting for your content.

  • General
  • Formatting
  • Grammar and Mechanics
  • Industry Language and Jargon
  • Credits and References

Visual Style: This section provides guidance on the expected visual style and formatting for your content.

  • Logo: Where does your logo appear? What is the size of your logo?
  • Color and Fonts: What fonts do you use for your text and headers?
  • Images
  • Placement and alignment
  • Templates: Add the image template for each social media platform you use.

At face value, this may look like a lot of unnecessary work. But you should work with the mindset of a business owner. Your aim should be to optimize your processes such that you or any new member that works on your blog knows exactly what to do. Maintaining a style guide is one such resource that helps maintain business continuity. A style guide can be as concise or as detailed as you like. It is not a fossil document; remember to modify it as your brand evolves.

To get you started, I have created a fully customizable style guide template for you. You can work with this template as is, or add further sections to your own liking. For example, if you start writing eBooks or eCourses, you can create a separate section for the content and visual guidelines to follow. Much of this guide will overlap with your existing style guide.

The Anatomy of a Style Guide and Why You Need One for Your Blog

5 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Next Blog Post

As a new blogger/online business owner, you need to be visible. People should see you. The name of your blog/product/service should start to register. Your brand should intrigue your readers. And you, in turn, need to find your niche audience and gain traffic. One way of ensuring this is to promote your blog/business on social media platforms, including Pinterest and Facebook groups.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a post that I am no longer participating in the “all-or-nothing” Facebook promotion threads. To participate in such threads, one needs to set aside a good amount of time. But as someone who not only has a young kid as well as a thriving freelance business, I cannot afford to set aside that much time. But more importantly, I spoke about how these threads often do not comprise of my target audience.

So what have I been doing to promote my blog posts? Well, I am still using social media to get the word around. I am also focusing on Pinterest and Facebook because that’s where the majority of my traffic comes from. So let’s talk Facebook!

I share a love-hate relationship with this platform that has over one billion active users. While I am very nervous about the privacy of my personal page, it would be foolish of me to ignore the reach of Facebook for my business.

Facebook groups help:

  • Connect and collaborate with other bloggers
  • Gain and provide support
  • Promote content (though some groups do not allow any kind of promotion)

So, I continue to promote my work on select few Facebook groups that are well-moderated and have helpful and thriving communities.

5 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Next Blog Post

Facebook Group Promp Social 1

  1. Boost Your Blog: Hosted by Helene Sula, this is one of my favorite Facebook groups. The group allows promotion of your blog post any day of the week but disallows “like-for-like” type of threads (YES!). You are also expected to participate in the discussions and add value in return. Blog Your Blog has more than 25K members, so there’s a fair chance your target audience is hanging there J
  2. Blogging Newbs: Hosted by McKinzie Bean, this group is a thriving community of over 16K members who support each other by sharing knowledge. The group allows promotional posts on Tuesdays (direct promo) and Thursdays (via social media).
  3. Bloggers Supporting Bloggers: This group, hosted by Allie Barke, has over 23K members who have a chance to promote their business every day of the week. The themes or source of promotion may vary depending on the day, but its promotion nonetheless.
  4. Secret Blogger’s + Bosses Society: If you haven’t watched the very useful free webinars hosted by Kate McKibbin, you are missing out. But I digress! This was one of the first groups I joined on Facebook and have found the discussions immensely helpful. Kate hosts promotion threads on Saturdays and Sundays.
  5. Women Winning Online: I consider Jennifer Snyder one of my unofficial mentors 😛 But that’s absolutely not the reason her group finds a mention in this list. I have found Women Winning Online to be an extremely close-knit and supportive group of over 4.5K members. The group is alive but not noisy. Jennifer hosts promotion threads on Fridays but the threads during the rest of the week are worth participating in too.

 

Conclusion (and a confession)

So, there you have it: my top 5 Facebook groups for promotion. That said, I hope you also understand that these groups are extremely useful not just for promotion, but also for networking, building visibility, and self-education.

I am not as active on Facebook as I would love to because of certain personal circumstances but I try to spend as much time as I can to participate in the groups that I mentioned above. I would love for you to join these groups, if you haven’t already, and connect with me if you are already a part of the group. I go by the name ‘Mala Magotra’.

See you around.

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Facebook Blog Promotion Pinterest 1

5 Ways I’m Eliminating New Blogger Overwhelm

How often have you sat at your desk after putting your children to sleep or finishing your day job, and suddenly did not know where to start? As a new blogger, you feel overwhelmed even before you start working on your new blog post. You are not sure whether you should finalize the post first, or separate your draft from your editing process. You sit at your desk and stare at your computer. Finally, you give up and call it a day. I wrote about my frustrations as a new blogger. But, I wasn’t going to let that keep me down for too long. I needed to address those issues and tackle them head-on.

Here’s what I realized: this feeling of overwhelm is natural when you are being pulled in five different directions. Perhaps you have young kids and they need your attention. Perhaps you have a large family and you want to cook three square meals for them every day. Perhaps you work full-time and have a small home-based business on the side. Which way do you go first?

I knew there are things I CAN do to eliminate the overwhelm from my busy mom life. I decided to apply those same principles and guidelines to my blogging life and replicate the results.

5 Ways I’m Eliminating New Blogger Overwhelm 

Make Prioritization your Best Friend

The key to productivity is prioritization. Writing a simple To-Do list in no particular order does NOT count. It is essential to identify and mark the order of priority. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to determine my priorities but you may have your own system. The important thing is to have a system.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

Consider using the Pomodoro technique. For those of you who do not know, Pomodoro is a productivity technique of working for 25 minutes on a single task and then taking a 5-minute break. Each 25-minute window is called a Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros (i.e. around the 2-hour mark), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This refreshes your brain and helps you maintain focus for longer durations. The technique by itself is more detailed, and I will write a separate post on it.

Simplify and Automate the Systems/Processes

As you gain experience in the blogging field, you will start to see patterns emerging in the way you work, such as tasks that can be grouped together and executed together at a later time. Based on your findings, simplify the processes. For example, I once read a lifestyle blogger who admitted they pass their images through three different editing apps on their phones and then finally through Picmonkey. I think that’s too much. Unless you are a professional photographer, I don’t see why you want to edit your photos so extensively. But to each his own. What is important is that for your unique situation, identify the time suckers in your routines and eliminate those. Additionally, automate what you can. You are not just a blogger; you have other roles to fulfill too. Save some time by automating tasks. As a new blogger, it is not practical to purchase all the essential automation tools at one go. But most of these tools have a free trial you can use for 15-30 days or longer with limited features. Try them out and see what works for you. For example, I have been using the free version of Tailwind for a month now and I have hit my 100 auto-scheduled pins limit. As I go about upping my social media game, I will purchase a subscription from Tailwind. There are other tools I am interested in too, but those will have to wait for now.

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Take Time for Self-care

All work and no play make you a dull person. Remember to take some time off every now and then. When you hustle hard, you are likely to burn out fast if you don’t take care of yourself. Using the Pomodoro technique will take care of your work hours but take some time to chill outside of your work hours too. I know it may be difficult for some of you but self-care does not necessarily mean spending a weekday afternoon in the spa (wouldn’t that be nice though?) Self-care can be something as simple as spending 15 minutes in the shower instead of 5 minutes. Or, perhaps watching a few funny cat videos on YouTube for 10 minutes may make you forget your worries. Think about the little things that make you happy. And find the time to do those things.

Educate Yourself

Blogging is a fast-evolving medium and you need to keep yourself up-to-date. Every day, I am reading about social platforms changing their algorithm and I don’t even know how exactly that affects my work. By the time you come up to speed with Technology X, another technology will come knocking at your door. Therefore, it is very important to stay up to date. Schedule time in your calendar (daily, weekly, or monthly) to educate yourself, whether through free webinars, articles, blog posts, or through paid courses. My Facebook feed is mostly filled with blogging-related posts because that’s what I am focusing on these days. But I cannot afford to spend too much time reading long articles or watching webinars for hours every day. So, I save the article links throughout the week, and on Thursdays, I open those links and read them. Or, if I have enrolled for a course, I will go through that course.

With time and with the aforementioned tips, I am slowly settling into the bloggers’ groove and finding my pace. I can literally feel some of my fears and stress addressed. I am determined to create more and better content in the near future. I hope you will stick around. J

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Eliminate New Blogger Overwhelm Pinterest 1

Batch Processing + My Blogging Routine

There was a time I was wildly fascinated with the lifestyle of the French. I wanted to know everything about their lifestyle: how they dress, how they live, how they raise children, what they eat…everything. So, I started following a few bloggers who write about the “Parisian Chic” life. In one of the posts, the writer mentioned how French women build exercise into their daily routines. They walk everywhere. They take the stairs. They grocery shop several times a week. Wait, what?! Call me lazy but I don’t want to step out of the house multiple times a day. When I am out, I better finish all (or most) of the errands, return home, and kick off my shoes. I grocery shop weekly. I go to the gym directly after dropping my son to the school, I visit in in-laws on the way to or back from somewhere else. That’s me, batch processing my life!

And I follow the same principles in my blogging life too. I batch process my blog production.

Batch processing is a technique that will transform your blogging routine and amp up your productivity manifolds. Click the image to read more.

What is Batch Processing?

Batch processing, as the name suggests, is a technique to process tasks in batches. It’s based on one and only one principle: single tasking. In today’s day and age, everyone multitasks. When I was still part of the corporate world until five years ago, I was even evaluated on how well I could multitask (can I just say I rocked multitasking?). But let’s be honest: I used to slip up every now and then. Recently, I have seen a lot more articles urging people to adopt a single-tasking mindset.

Remember, batch processing is not a process, it is a technique. It simply helps you group similar tasks that can be processed together. For example, you may choose to write your SEO even before writing your post, or you may choose to create your images before writing the SEO. These tasks are not necessarily linear (it helps me though to keep it linear but that’s the “process” that I follow—more on this later).

Benefits of Batch Processing

Once you start batch processing, you will see the benefits within a very short time. Batch processing:

  • Helps focus: Working on a single task at a time helps bring focus to the task. When you are switching between tasks that require the use of different faculties/abilities, it messes up your concentration. Conversely, while batch processing, you are using only one set of faculties and your brain can supply all the juice to the required faculties.
  • Improves productivity: When you batch similar tasks, it builds rhythm and improves your productivity. On the other hand, if you are constantly switching between dissimilar tasks, your brain has to reorient itself to the current task.
  • Saves time: When your brain doesn’t need to switch modes constantly, it helps save time. Your brain knows the requirements and parameters within which you are working and it’s already optimized to deliver at those levels.

How to Batch Process Your Blogging Business

Quite simply you break down your blogging tasks to the last detail and group them for similarity. Let’s say on the 1st of every month (ideally before), you research all the topics you want to write about during that month. Spend 1 hour coming up with as many topic ideas as you can. Note that you are NOT focusing on ONE topic idea but several topic ideas at a time. That’s batch processing.

Similarly, identify other tasks that you can group but need not necessarily relate to a single blog post or project. Here are some ideas:

  • Populate the content calendar for a month
  • Edit and proofread multiple blog posts for the month
  • Record multiple YouTube videos in one sitting (ok, you can change your shirt for every video if you want!)
  • Schedule social media posts for the week
  • Write invoices
  • Respond to emails OR comments

The options are aplenty.

Once you have identified the task groups, you want to schedule them on your calendar and build a routine around it. For example, I group tasks and then schedule them by days. Here’s a screenshot of my “sample” Trello board:

Trello Screenshot Momchakra Batch Processing Productivity Blogging

  • On Sundays, I come up with several topic ideas. Yes, my work week begins on a Sunday. It takes me about 1 hour and it’s nothing more than a brain dump.
  • On Mondays, I select 2-3 topics and begin researching. I note down the key points and build a wireframe for each post. I also decide if a post warrants a content upgrade. I spend 4 hours doing this.
  • On Tuesdays, I write the first draft of the posts. I do not worry about the formatting or grammar. It’s a free-form writing day. I spend 4-5 hours on this task.
  • On Wednesdays, I go in with a hawk’s eye and edit my content. I have been trying to write the long-form content of late so it takes a lot of time and patience to edit.
  • On Thursdays, I create content upgrades, if applicable. If not, I use the time for self-education or administrative tasks.
  • On Fridays, I create the images, fill in the SEO details, and schedule publish. Another thing: social media. Right now, I am very bad at it but I am trying to become more visible on social media. So, with whatever time I save on Fridays, I plan to schedule social media posts for the week going forward.
  • On Saturdays, I spend about 1 hour to draft the week’s newsletter (no subscribers to read them though :-P)

I am only three-months into the whole blogging system, and I am still learning. In addition, I am a stay-at-home mother with only about 4 hours to spare in a day. Additionally, I like to keep my weekends as open as possible. I know that is the opposite of a hard hustle, but if I cannot spend time with the ones for whom I am doing this, what is the point of doing it at all? I wrote about my new blogger frustrations in an earlier post. Depending on your unique life situation, you may do more or less and take more or less time doing each task.

So, there you have it: how I use batch processing in my blogging routine.

What your blogging routine? What processes and techniques do you use to work on your amazing blog?

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Batch processing is a technique that will transform your blogging routine and amp up your productivity manifolds. Click the image to read more.

How to Set SMART Goals and Accomplish More Every Day! + Free Goal-setting Template

A friend of mine recently came up with the idea to start a home stationery business. As we got talking about the business and her vision for growth, we agreed that she needed to put her vision on paper for more accountability and clarity. Naturally, one of the first things that came to mind was to create goals so she can measure the success and growth of her business. Among others, here is what she wrote as her goal:

  • Be the one-stop shop for all things in home stationery.

Let me add here that this is the first business she plans to launch. I applaud her for that. It takes guts! She quit her full-time job as a graphic designer 7 years ago to stay at home with her then-newborn daughter. Today, when her daughter has grown up and spends most of the day at school and after-school activities, my friend found herself with a lot of time on hand and she did not know what to do with it. Instead of wasting it on binge-watching a show on Netflix for the rest of her life (someone, please tell me it gets boring after a while!), she decided to use her design skills to start her own business. Yay to that!

Coming back to the goals…here’s a little background on my professional experience. I am an instructional designer, which means I analyze, design, and develop online and offline courses for corporate employees. An integral part of being in the education business is to know how to identify the goals and objectives of any program (or business, or any project really). This is what I do for a living and I couldn’t hold back. We spent the next two hours thrashing out goals. A tried-and-tested strategy to draft goals is to use the SMART methodology.

How to Set SMART Goals and Accomplish More Every Day!

What is the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

A SMART goal stands for a goal that is:

  • Specific: Your goal should be as specific as possible. It should have an expected outcome attached to it. Explore the what, why, where, how, who of your goal. Making your goal specific to the last detail helps you identify the component(s) that you want to track. It helps make your goals clearer and more manageable, and consequently easier to accomplish. For example,
    • Vague goal: I want to grow my email list.
    • The problem: The aforementioned goal is vague because it does not address several questions, including (but not limited to):
      • Why is it important to grow your email list?
      • How many subscribers do you want to gain every month?
      • How will you grow your email list?
      • Do you have the necessary tools in place to grow your email list?
    • Specific goal: Grow my email list to 100 subscribers by October 31 so that I can pitch my eBook for sale.
  • Measurable: How will you assess and measure the success of your goal? How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Identify the metric and benchmark against which you will measure your specifics. Vague words such as “successful blog,” “life-changing post,” “awesome email list” are neither specific nor measurable. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, every new subscriber will be a metric to measure. That each of those subscribers is “awesome” is an added bonus J
  • Attainable (or Actionable): It is important to remember that the goal must be realistic and achievable. While it is good to be ambitious and positive, it is somewhat unrealistic to set a goal of growing your email list from 0 to 50,000 in the first month. Another example is to aim for a goal for which you do not have the necessary resources available. “Aim for the stars” is a great motto but unless you are part of NASA or Elon Musk’s team, it’s pretty unattainable, don’t you think? Draft goals that set you up for success, not failure!
  • Relevant: Often, it’s easy to get carried away and lose track of the big picture. Does the goal align with your vision/big picture/ultimate goal? For example, gaining email subscribers may not matter for bloggers who analyze current affairs. Generally, such bloggers do not aim to sell anything on their blogs. A more relevant goal for such bloggers may be to have a high traffic rate.
  • Time-bound: Finally, the goal you draft should have an end-time so that you know when to measure efforts. In other words, define the range of time within which your efforts will come to fruition. This is the time when you will consider marking your goal either a success or failure. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, determine an end date to this goal—such as, by October 31, 2017. This way when the time comes, you will know to measure your growth. Additionally, be realistic about the period. Keep your personality and circumstances in mind when deciding the end date.

Why should I use the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?

Why should you? Here’s why. A well-defined goal will act as an effective roadmap for you to gauge your growth. It is a productivity tool that helps:

  • Convert vague goals into actionable tasks
  • Visualize success
  • Prioritize
  • Monitor progress

Convinced? Here’s a little bonus resource for you.

But, if you need more convincing, keep reading 🙂

How to Achieve Goals Consistently

The great footballer (soccer, for Americans J), Pele, once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Sure we all want to be successful at what we do. Sure we want to accomplish everything the universe has to offer. But success takes a lot of work and it is in our favor to define and approach success in a way that’s challenging but not overwhelming. Here is the step-by-step process that can help work accomplish your goals consistently.

  1. Identify your big SMART goal: Before you do anything else, do a brain dump on a piece of paper or use a digital worksheet…whatever works for you. Come up with ONE big goal that based on the SMART methodology. One ring to rule them all 😉
  2. Break down the big goal into smaller goals: Think of it as a funneling process. Identify the smaller goals (further filtered to task level) that will collectively help you funnel up and accomplish the big goal.
  3. Set deadlines: Assign due dates not just for the big goal but also for each individual task you identified in the previous step. This will keep you accountable and help prioritize. Also, small wins. Yay!
  4. Build-in review checkpoints: Have you ever set yourself a lenient deadline and still found yourself scrambling for the finish line on the last day? That’s Parkinson’s Law at work. ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ Let that sink in for a moment. Guilty? Here’s what you can do: set up 2-3 checkpoints between the start and end date of the big goal. Hold yourself accountable for meeting these smaller “deadlines” on your way to the checkered flag.
  5. Reflect, evaluate, and modify: At the end of a goal’s life cycle, it’s time to reflect and evaluate. Think back on the process you followed. Determine what work and what didn’t. Identify the roadblocks and think about how you can work around or eliminate those roadblocks from the next cycle. This kind of evaluation will help you modify your process going forward.

How to Set Yourself Up for Success

While the process will help you achieve goals, there are a few additional tips you can keep in mind when brainstorming your goals.

  • Set goals at regular intervals: January 1 is not the only date when you should think about reflecting and setting goals. No, I am not saying you should not set goals on that date…do it; it’s been a long-standing tradition and it’s good to follow some traditions. But please understand the logic behind this tradition…it plays on the word “new year” that is supposedly a clean slate to work on. But ultimately, it’s asking you to reflect on your wins and losses and determine how you can leverage that knowledge to succeed at your next mission. One year is a LONG time to not evaluate yourself or your goals. But, if you choose to follow this “tradition” every quarter or every month and line up fewer and smaller goals, leading up to a big goal, isn’t that more realistic, empowering, and achievable?
  • Set fewer goals: We are ambitious and success is great for our confidence. But are we setting ourselves up for failure by adding too many things on our plates? You bet we are! Take my example, I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler, I run a freelance writing business, I have a home to run, I have a family to care for, and now I have a blog too. That’s a mighty lot. But there’s a lot I don’t do—I have a help who dusts, mops the floor, cleans dishes, cleans the bathrooms, folds laundry, etc. Another lady comes in daily to cook our meals (Indian meal cooking takes a lot of time + I hate cooking). I had trouble giving away some of my household chores because it makes me anxious. But labor is cheap in India and I just had to measure the return on investment. For a few bucks each month, I have freed up the time to do other things that are more important to me. Those are my fewer, big goals I want to accomplish. Cooking a daily meal for my family is important but it’s not my big goal. As long as we are eating home-cooked meals, I don’t really care who is cooking for us.
  • Focus on the smaller goals: Keep your eye on the big goal, but focus on the smaller goals. Remember the funnel? These short-term goals are going to buoy you up and carry you to your big goal. Focusing on the smaller goals allows you to reset or refine your tactics continuously. Imagine going all the way to the big goal deadline and finding that everything you did was a waste of time.
  • Allow yourself to fail at times: Even superheroes fail at times. Give yourself the grace to fail occasionally. If you can learn something even from a failed opportunity, it’s not really a failed opportunity after all, right? Some goals can be tougher than the rest. Or, perhaps you didn’t allow yourself enough time to accomplish the goal. Or, maybe your measurement metric was wrong all along. Next time, you will know better than to repeat the same mistakes.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

What methodology do you use to draft goals? If you’d like to explore the SMART way of goal setting, I have created a template that will help you draft goals that are not only based on the SMART methodology but will also help you break the goal down into smaller, more achievable tasks. Simply sign up below to receive this free resource.