8 Steps for Breaking Financial Goals Down into Bite-Sized Pieces
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Would you like to monopolize your finances, achieve your goals, and finally get a handle on your budget once and for all? It’s all about the breakdown!
There’s no time like the present to start tackling your financial goals. But if you don’t set goals strategically, they quickly become overwhelming.
Many people wait until the first of the month, first of the year, a birthday, or another important date to buckle down. But the truth is, your money doesn’t wait. To money, any date is arbitrary.
Others set so many goals, we try to “eat the elephant” in one bite—a sure recipe for failure and financial overwhelm.
If you want to start actually achieving your financial goals, especially your big, significant goals (like getting a handle on your credit card debt or starting to fortify your retirement savings), there’s no better time to begin. It all starts with narrowing your focus and breaking down your financial goals.
So, if you’re ready, here are 8 steps to help you break down and set your targets so you can start achieving those big financial goals right away!
Table of Contents
- 8 Steps for Breaking Your Financial Goals into Achievable Pieces
- Making Cents Count Financial Organizer
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8 Steps for Breaking Your Financial Goals into Achievable Pieces
1. Know Thyself
If you want to achieve your financial goals, you need to look at the roadblocks you’ve run into in the past. Why haven’t your goals worked out up to this point? (Yes, this means telling yourself harsh truths.)
When I started to assess and organize my finances, I looked at what had worked and what strategies failed. In previous years, I had set SO many goals that it was impossible to achieve any of them. I lacked focus. It was 100 percent my fault, which is hard to admit.
I used to think, “I’ll set ALL my financial goals RIGHT NOW,” which in my small-mindedness, I thought was doable. Not quite…
I was experiencing shiny object syndrome—I couldn’t seem to stay in one lane for very long. In a way, it was a case of choice paralysis. There were so many decisions in front of me that I became overwhelmed and ignored them. I wasn’t breaking down my financial goals, I was trying to do it all.
Granted, I may still experience this lack of focus in a few other areas in my life, but I’m a work-in-progress!
2. Reflect on Your Failures
When looking back on those years of financial struggle, I would look back at the end of the year and wonder, “What did we actually accomplish this year?” Only to feel as though I wasted time, I wasn’t achieving my financial goals and I needed to get a grip on what was most important.
I took a step back and had to get completely honest with myself. I had to admit that sometimes I got scared (at just the thought) of actually hitting our goals. What then?! I realize all I was really doing was hiding behind so many financial goals that I didn’t have to face them. The result was failing at all of them.
Not only did I fail myself, but my team and those closest to me, because I had let them down due to my lack of focus.
I don’t know about you, but I hate (or, as I would tell my daughters to say: intensely dislike) to fail at anything—it drives me wild!
And, for the record, I don’t think anyone likes to fail at anything, but there’s been a time or two when playing it safe was just more comfortable. Trust me on this as I speak from experience…
Reflecting on what didn’t work in the past helped me break down and reframe my goals; it helped me figure out a way to achieve my financial aspirations in the future.
3. Narrow Your Focus to the “Big 3”
Since I ultimately knew something had to give if I wanted to start accomplishing my financial objectives, I had to find a clear path. I finally figured out what would help make those goals attainable: narrowing my focus.
I decided to limit myself from setting ‘all the goals’ and instead, break it down to what I call the “Big 3” goals.
When setting financial goals, don’t look at the time of year. The idea of financial “New Year’s resolutions” and similar objectives tend to set us up for failure. Instead of setting a slew of make-or-break one-time goals, I prefer to track and accomplish the “Big 3” on a quarterly basis.
When you achieve one goal, add another. Don’t wait for a new year or even a new month. Keep your momentum going. The key is to start with only the Big 3.
I know you’re thinking, “Set just three goals?! But I need major financial gains (or wins) TODAY! Three goals are too few.”
Let me tell you, this ended up being a real learning experience for me, too. It was challenging to shift my mindset. After all, how can you have only three goals and not hit them?!
Honestly, it felt ridiculous, and it left me feeling somewhat like a sell-out because it was just too easy. I kept thinking all the while, “It’s too simple. If I only aim for three, how can I NOT hit my goals!?”
And then it hit me! (Admittedly, I can be a little slow on the uptick sometimes, but there it was.) THE WHOLE POINT WAS TO HIT MY GOALS! And, with just three goals, I could do it!
4. Resist the Urge to Set More Financial Goals
It sounds shocking, right? Achieve your financial goals by only setting three? I mean, why not take on a few extra?
Soon followed all the self-talk, “Well, if I can do three goals, let’s just make it five.” There I was once again, off to the races.
I won’t bore (or scare) you with my internal thought process because, ultimately, it was nothing more than a perpetual loop that I needed to rationalize in my head.
So once again, I decided to stick with the Big 3 if I wanted to be successful. Aiming for more would become distracting and overwhelming. Those three goals required laser focus.
5. Take the Stretch Goal Challenge
So, what happens after you accomplish the Big 3? Do you take off a few months? Do you kick back and relax?
No! Once you’ve reached the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing your financial goals, it’s time to take on a challenge. Go for a Stretch Goal.
Stretch Goals are our biggest, scariest, and really, really hairy goals. Honestly, we usually don’t hit them. But by setting them, we know we’ll continue targeting them in the future, and the intent is to have them in front of us as that constant reminder.
In case you’re wondering just how many Stretch Goals to set, I’ll let you take a guess. Yep! You should limit those to three as well (are you sensing a pattern here?).
By focusing on three goals again, it allows you to break down goals into smaller, more manageable bites. Suddenly that big hairy goal isn’t so big and hairy anymore!
6. Set a Timeframe
We should break each of our goals—our Big 3 and our subsequent Stretch Goals—down by quarter, which is then broken down monthly, and then weekly. Breaking down goals into smaller chunks makes each financial goal manageable.
Using this breakdown format will show you what’s working, what’s not working, and what you need to tweak to get back on track to accomplish your financial goals.
Keep in mind, it’s much easier to redirect your goals after a bad week or even a bad month. If you wait until a quarter or a year has passed, you’ll be left wondering what happened (and why you didn’t hit your targets).
Instead, look at each bite-sized step. What can you do this week that will move you closer to achieving your financial goals? What can you do next week? By the end of the month, what needs to happen to keep you on track for success?
I found if I didn’t break my goals down into these smaller steps, I’d end up back where I once was—failing. I had decided that this time around failure is simply NOT an option…
7. Don’t Get Derailed by Mistakes
If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of failure or making mistakes. I find this fear is a significant source of avoidance for me. I’d rather put something off than risk failure.
Because of that fear, it always leads me to a saying that I love and that has helped me shift my mindset: Failure is not the opposite of success. It is part of success.
Because here’s the deal: you only fail when you stop trying. It doesn’t matter how many times you may fail, whether it’s been a life-long dream or even a short-term goal. The very fact you’re attempting to achieve a goal will move you toward success. It really is that simple!
Here’s another little tidbit. Any step you take forward is still progress, no matter how small! The goal is to (always) keep moving forward.
I also love the Japanese proverb that reflects this mindset: “Nana korobi ya oki,” meaning “seven falls, eight getting up.” Or, as I’m sure you most likely know the proverb: Fall 7 times; stand up 8.
8. Get Started Now!
Whether it’s a new year, a new month, or simply time to act, don’t put off your financial goals out of fear. It’s time to jump in and start moving forward.
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Once you get your budget rolling, check out my post on 6 Simple Steps to Get Financially Organized. This post also includes a helpful checklist available in my Resource Library (free to access).
Admittedly, this particular checklist has a larger-scale focus on your overall financial picture, but I genuinely feel that getting your finances organized is essential. Eventually, you’ll build upon those principles as you set broader Stretch Goals.
Lastly, and most importantly, remember you only fail when you stop trying. By breaking down and implementing your financial goals into manageable bites, I guarantee they won’t be quite so big, scary, or hairy!
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