Backward Goal-Setting

Another method of goal setting is to start with the end result in mind and then plan backwards from that point to determine what you need to be doing each step along the way in order to achieve that goal. This is counter-intuitive to most goal-setting approaches. We usually start from where we are and then determine what we need to do first, second, third, etc. in order to get to the goal at some point in the future. But if you start at the end and then plan backwards, you can determine whether or not your plan is realistic in the time frame you are giving yourself. This process also helps you determine what the milestones are and any dependencies that have to be completed before other steps can be worked on.

The process works by following the steps below:

1. Determine your specific ultimate goal. You can use the SMART criteria to do so if that helps.

2. Starting at the ultimate goal, what is the step that has to be accomplished just before you reach your goal? What has to be achieved and by when so that you can ensure that you will reach that ultimate goal?

3. Work backward again. Now you’re identifying what your second-to-last milestone has to be and when it has to be completed in order for you to be successful in reaching your ultimate goal.

4. Continue working backwards until you have identified the very first milestone that needs to be
achieved and by when you need to achieve it.

When you work backwards like this, it is much easier to identify steps that you might have missed when you plan from the present forward because it forces you to look at your planning from the opposite direction. You can also get an idea of whether or not the time goal you have set is realistic and how much you will need to increase your work activity to make the time frame realistic.


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