This blog was featured on 07/23/2019
Setting Goals and Sticking To Them

One of the hardest things to do when life gets busy is sticking to your goals. I have a checklist of writing tasks that I try to get done each month, a goal that I hope to keep to inspire my writing and help me reach that glorious end goal of publication. However, I am about four months behind on my checklist.

Now, please don’t think that I was being lazy or just didn’t do my tasks. In reality, I tried to keep up, but life had other plans. Buying a new house, moving, dog sitting, a million things that pop-up and can complicate our original clear-cut goals. Now, there is nothing wrong with this! This is life, it’s how it works.

When this happens, however, you may wonder how you can set better goals for yourself in your busy life and how you can hold yourself accountable when things go a bit off course. There are a number of techniques that you could try. The following ones have worked very well for me.

1) 7 – 10 Things Daily:

The biggest key in setting goals is to not overwork yourself. Remember that four months I told I was behind? I tried to get everything done in a week. Not very realistic, right? Following this technique, I did!

I couldn’t recall the source where I read this particular piece of advice, so forgive me if you have heard it before, but I have been following the piece of advice to do 7 – 10 things daily.

Each morning, I sit down and make a list of 7 – 10 things I’m going to do that day. Not only does this help keep me on track throughout the day, but it helps me feel accomplished when the day is done. The number of tasks is important, so be sure to stick to it.

You need at least seven tasks to be able to reach goals in the long term. Seven tasks are the base number, the minimum. It may seem silly, but I have found it extremely helpful in keeping my goals as well as managing with my stress and anxiety. Anyone who suffers from such things know that the days where it hits you hard, it isn’t just that it is hard to do things, but the next day you sometimes feel guilty you didn’t do more. But, if you made the list, the seven tasks were accomplished, even if they were small to-dos.

Ten is the maximum number. The reason behind this is that it ensures that you don’t overwork yourself in a day, as well as ensures that you prioritize your tasks. Sure, maybe you want to start writing the first chapter of this new story idea, but if you have the final draft of another story due in a week, perhaps that should take priority on your list.

7 – 10 things daily. Give it a go and stick to those numbers. I hope it works as well for you as it did for me.


Making goals isn’t enough, even with that 7 – 10 things list. Just as important in setting goals is to ensure you are setting GOOD goals. I know it sounds silly, but it is important to set goals that will help you achieve your dreams instead of making them harder or seem to farther away. For this, you will want DAPPS (Downing 2017).

DAPPS is an acronym that you should keep in mind when setting goals for yourself. By following the DAPPS rule, you can make tasks and goals that will help you venture further and feel more accomplished.

D – Dated

A – Achievable

P – Personal

P – Positive

S – Specific

As stressful as they are, you have to admit that due dates really push you to accomplish tasks you didn’t think you could finish before. When you work towards a goal, give it a ‘due date’. It will help keep you focused and help you with prioritization.

Achievable! If you ignore the rest of the DAPPS rule, please remember this one. If you set a goal for yourself, make sure it is achievable. It can be heartbreaking when you don’t accomplish what you had hoped, so it is important that when you set those goals, you keep in mind your own abilities and time frames.

Now, it may seem silly to have every goal be personal. I mean, they are your goals, so of course they’re personal! But are they really? For example, on my list for today, I have to type and post this article, write a draft of a short story, and make a pillow for a friend. They all sound like they are personal, because they’re mine, but when I make the list, I think about why it is important to me. I make them more than just a box to check off.

Positivity is so very important when you are setting a goal. You need to ensure that even when you hit obstacles and challenges, you are able to see the little ray of sunshine. Stay positive. Make sure that when you make your goals they don’t just become something you HAVE to do. Make them something, whether through wording or such, you WANT to do.

Being specific is also key. If you aren’t specific on what the goal is, then how can you know when you achieved it? For example, instead of saying that your goal is to ‘write more of a novel’, instead be specific. How many pages? How many words? How long do you want to write?

Utilize DAPPS to help you make truly spectacular goals you are proud to accomplish.

3) Reward Achievements

Now, it may seem silly to think of rewarding yourself for your achievements, but it is important. Rewards help keep you focused. Now, I’m not saying you go out for a steak dinner after every chapter is written. You don’t need to have an elaborate reward system, just something that you think of when you feel your motivation waning.

Personally, mine is video games and tea. If I do an entire weeks’ worth of 7 – 10 things daily, then typically I get a day to relax with a book and tea, or play a video game for a couple hours. It helps me motivate myself when I have only one or two things left for the day. What would your little reward be? How will you celebrate your accomplishments?

4) Understand Failures

Failure isn’t a four-letter word, so don’t treat it like one. Failures are only failures if you don’t learn something from them. When you don’t reach a goal, or get something done that you had hoped to, take a moment for reflection. Why didn’t you accomplish it? What was the main reason?

Now, think about how to adjust the goal or task so you don’t face those struggles. Reflection isn’t just about understanding what went wrong, but how to overcome and adjust. Don’t think of your failures in terms of ‘I can’t do it’, instead turn them into ‘I will do it next time.’

5) Remain Flexible

As I mentioned earlier, things happen in life that you don’t plan for. Perhaps your computer died and so you won’t be able to write for the next few weeks, maybe work got hectic and you can’t get that task done you really need to. Remember to just stay flexible. If you need to, relook at your goals and the ‘due dates’ you assigned to them.

Making adjustments as you go will save you a lot of stress and worry in the future. You aren’t putting off doing something forever, remember that. That goal is still reachable, just take a moment to rethink the approach.


Downing, Skip. 2017. On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life. 3rd Edition. Boston (MA): Cengage Learning.

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