Executing on Your Goals

Over the last month, we’ve talked a lot about goals; specifically why they’re important and how to identify and refine them. Now that you have a clearly defined goal, let’s talk about execution.

Set a Timeline

The first step toward executing on your goal is to set a timeline. In our last post, we talked about the importance of making your goals time-bound. When setting your goal, we asked you to think about how long it will take to accomplish it, when you want/need to complete the goal by, and what needs to happen to make the deadline.

When creating a timeline, start with the end date: when do you want to complete your goal by? From there, work your way backwards. For example, if your goal is to add 20kg (120kg end goal) onto your back squat by December 31, 2019, start by thinking about where you will need to be one month out to accomplish it. Your monthly timeline may look something like this:

End of November: 117kg
End of October: 115kg
End of September: 113kg
End of August: 110kg
End of July: 107kg
End of June: 104kg
End of May: 102kg

Of course, if you’re following a periodized program, you likely will not be testing your 1-rep max back squat on a monthly basis. This timeline simply serves as a guideline to keep you on track and measure your progress for when you do have a testing day midway through. It will also serve as an assessment tool for your timeliness and likelihood of success. For example, if by October, you are only squatting 105kg, you may want to adjust either your timeline or your end goal to be more realistic. Unless you have a strict need to meet a deadline (e.g. hitting a qualifying total for a competition), you should allow for some wiggle room and adjustment.

Create a Strategic Plan

The next step in executing on your goal is to create a strategic plan with your timeline in mind. Remember in our last post when we talked about goals being “measurable?” This plan should include clearly defined action items/process goals that can be measured on a weekly and daily basis. To continue using our back squat example, some weekly goals could include: train 4x/week and back squat 2x/week, while daily process goals could include: get 7-9 hours of sleep/night and eat 130g of protein/day.

Stay on Track

Make lists

Having a list of things to do will not only keep you on track, but it will also keep you motivated on the days you don’t feel like putting in the work. Write your process goals down and keep them in a place you will see them regularly: on your desk, taped to your fridge or mirror, or on your nightstand. It may even be helpful to rewrite your daily goals every day so you can cross them off when you accomplish them. You could also set up alerts on your phone to go off at the beginning, middle, and end of your day as a persistent reminder not to give up. Find a method that works best for you, but don’t just write your goals down once and let them fall to the bottom of a drawer only to be discovered one month before your deadline.

Log your progress

Progress notes are equally as important as to-do lists. Next to that list of action items you have taped to your desk at work, you should also have a note of the progress you’ve already made. These notes can be as directly or indirectly related to your goal as you’d like. The point here is to celebrate your efforts and stack up small victories to build confidence. Feel proud of something? Write it down. For example: squatted 80% without a belt, hit my macros 5 days in a row, skipped drinks after work to get my training in.

Have someone hold you accountable

Another method to help stay on track is to find someone to hold you accountable. Ideally, this person is someone you train with and who has similar goals, but it could also be a coach, friend, partner, or anyone who is equally as invested in your success as you. This person will be there to provide motivation on the days when you are doubting yourself or the process. They’ll be there to remind you of what’s at stake on the days you don’t feel like dragging yourself to the gym. And they’ll be there to celebrate the small successes with you along the way.

Prioritize your goal

The level of priority you give your goal is dependent on its importance to you, the finality of the deadline, and the amount of time and effort it demands. For many, hitting your daily and weekly process goals will be enough to accomplish your long-term goal. However, for others, reaching their goal may take another level of dedication. If you’re in the latter group, you will want to assess each decision you make against your goal, and consistently ask yourself, “Does this bring me closer to my goal?” For example, if your goal is to qualify for the USA Weightlifting American Open Finals at your next competition in 3 months, you will want to think twice about going sky-diving (injury prevention), going out to dinner with friends (prioritizing nutrition), attending to a late night concert (maximizing sleep and recovery) or doing extra work, like rock climbing or trail running, on training days (optimizing performance).

Reward yourself

Lastly, the greatest way to stay on track is to reward yourself after small victories. Reward does not necessarily mean cutting yourself a giant slice of cake—alternatively you can enjoy taking a relaxing bath, making yourself your favorite post-workout snack, or enjoying your most-loved movie. When you reward yourself, your brain evokes positive emotions, leading to the realization that hard work equates pleasure. After all, the point of the entire journey is not just workout results—it’s feeling good about yourself and the work you’re putting in along the way.