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A lot can happen in a quarter of a year — new jobs, new house, new city, new baby, new years resolutions and all sorts of life-changing and altering things.
Or nothing can happen at all.
When we feel stuck, we often make grand plans and resolutions to become unstuck. It’s a common process we adopt in order to instigate change. However, many of us don’t make through to the end simply because the end just seems too far away. It only takes one little thing, consecutively strung together, to see ourselves remain at the same point as to when we started. This, as a result, is often enough to discourage us from finishing.
It’s one thing to start.
It’s another to keep up a sustained pace. This is why I plan my goals in quarters.
Faster feedback loop
A quarter of a year is exactly 3 months. The first quarter is a lot shorter due to February only having, mostly, 28 days. But the 3 days-ish difference doesn’t have a major impact. You still have approximately 90-ish days to do, create, learn something significant.
I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself
- Elon Musk
By planning your goals and life around the idea of quarterly reviews, you become accountable for the obtainment of that goal. Feedback loops also help us determine how effective and efficient we are in the ways we are currently operating. It gives us the incentive to work towards and answer the hard questions:
Have I been successful in my journey towards achieving my goals?
Have I been honest and consistent with myself?
What did I do well?
What didn’t I do well?
What can I do to improve in the next quarter?
Visibility on your progress and growth
When we plan our goals a year away, it is easy to postpone the process of working towards those goals. When we break our progress into quarterly milestones, we are essentially breaking the proverbial elephant into mentally manageable chunks.
Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change
— Richard Branson
A quarter of a year is a decent amount of time to track progress and see significant change. Not only that, if you decide to quit after the 90-ish days, you still have something to show for it. 90 days then become a non-long term commitment plan that is only valid for its particular quarter.
When it comes to learning something new, we often look at those who are more experienced than us and get discouraged when things don’t seem to be moving as fast. We often get sidetracked by people who are on track.
By keeping ourselves accountable for such a small yet significant time, we allow ourselves to make enough progress and see it in action. People often quit when they think there is no progress, especially over a long period of time. Motivation cannot be sustained on a single dosage of success or an idea. It needs to be refueled and quarterly reviews can help determine if the goal is worth continuing.
How to plan and achieve your quarterly goals
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now. ― Alan Lakein, author
Pick a theme. A lot can happen in a year and there can be a multitude of goals that you can personally create and set. However, having too many goals and game plans can be overwhelming — so the trick is to pick a theme.
Selecting a theme for your year allows you to move towards a set of goals with common traits. It might be a theme of healthier living or more learning. Mine is consistent creating.
A theme gives you direction but not a final path. It is flexible enough to let you change your goals and plans if you find that they’re not working.
Pick a main quarter goal that supports your theme, set your metrics and work towards that for the next 3 months. Your goal should have a concrete outcome and should be reasonable based on your current situation.
Select a reward that contributes to your theme and only use it at the end of the quarter after your review. Check yourself against the metrics you set to see how successful you are. You should have more than one metric and they should measure a range of things.
Keep track of your progress on a weekly basis. Change your execution method if you find that you’re not tracking as well towards your goal.
Living your life in quarters can be much more efficient for your progress and goal tracking because you become more aware of time. It forces you to acknowledge your day and ensure that they are not being wasted away.
We often think that because we’re at the beginning of the year, month or week that we have plenty of time. But the end often creeps up on us and then the next thing we know, it’s all over.
To achieve anything, you need to be consciously committed to what you want to succeed in — and that means showing up every single day and incrementally do the things you need to do until its all done.
Nothing in life is ever easy but if you do it consistently and turn it into a habit, then everything just becomes so much easier.