That got me thinking about how I set my own goals – and in this post, I'm going to set out a framework for exactly how I do it.
Why do you need goals?
Well, for a start, because most people don't have any written goals, but every successful person does – without exception.
“If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favourable to him.”
In other words, your goals underpin your entire strategy: without a clear destination, it's impossible to know how to set your sails.
- There are a hundred different ways of approaching property investment: how can you choose one if you don't know what you're aiming for?
- Without a firm goal, you can just be drifting along always chasing the new shiny thing – when really, it's FOCUS that will make you successful
- For any given property, there will be lots of arguments for and against buying it – if you ask five different people you'll get five different answers (more if you ask a lawyer). You need a way of evaluating whether it makes sense to you: in other words, whether it'll get you closer to your goal
- A goal will also tell you when to stop. Reaching a goal is highly satisfying, and will give you a chance to evaluate what you want to do next. Otherwise you could keep buying properties forever without knowing why!
So, that's why you need a goal…but how should you set one?
This six-step process is a framework that works for me – for both my property and non-property goals.
1. Have a deeper purpose
OK, here comes the hippie bit…
Even if you think you're driven by money, chances are you're actually motivated by what that money represents: either something you can do as a result, or even just a way of keeping score.
For me, if my goal was to make an arbitrary amount of money, I'd find it hard to stay motivated because I wouldn't know what that goal represented.
My purpose is actually nothing to do with property: it's about helping people to develop the knowledge and confidence to take control of their lives so they never feel trapped or unable to reach their potential. Everything I do ties into that purpose, including property – as we'll see later.
If you don't have a purpose, things get tricky.
For example, whenever I spend time living in a new country, I want to learn the local language – but I almost never get beyond “hello”, “thank you”, and a few interesting swearwords.
Why? Because even though I've got all the goals and sub-goals and tools that I need, there's no strong purpose. In most parts of the world, the locals' English is better than my attempt at their language – and most of my friends are English-speaking expats.
If I arrived somewhere completely alone and had to learn the language to survive and make friends, I would – but without that purpose, it just never happens.
2. Set a 2-year goal that relates to that purpose
Two years works for me because it's easy for me to imagine: I can remember very clearly what I was doing two years ago, so it's easy to imagine looking back in two years' time and see how I did.
If I had a five-year goal, I might be tempted to slack off for a few weeks – after all, five years feels like a really long time to me so I'd feel like I always had time to make up ground again.
Two years is also short enough that I can change direction relatively frequently. This is a big one for me because I struggle with focus, and I always want to be trying out new things. This system allows me to think “OK, heads down for two years, and once I'm there I can look at the other options.”
At the moment, my property-related goal is a specific monthly income target. But it's not an arbitrary number.
If I hit this target, it means that even if I have no other sources of income, I'll be fine – I can live off the profits and still be putting plenty into savings. So for me, the goal represents freedom: the freedom to pursue interesting options without money being a consideration.
3. Simplify the action steps
This stage is all about working on the concrete steps you need to take.
When it comes to property, there's a real power to simplicity. It's so easy to be overwhelmed by numbers and options, to get into over-analysis mode, and lose focus.
Recently, I met an investor who had his entire business plan on a tiny scrap of paper in his wallet. Every time he had to make a decision, it was a simple yes/no based on the criteria written on this piece of paper.
Simplifying the action steps could mean crunching all the numbers and realising that you need to buy a property every six months that gives a leveraged ROI of 10%. There will be risk and time criteria to consider on top of that, but you can make an initial yes/no filter by just looking at one single number.
4. Break the action steps into weekly goals
It's time to break those action steps into sub-goals:
- Who do you need to meet?
- What do you need to learn?
- What needs to be put in place?
A lot of people use monthly sub-goals, but I prefer weekly. It means that each step is tiny and non-scary, and I can never slack off because I've only got seven days to get my sub-goals ticked off. Because I struggle with focus so much, that's important.
I made use of weekly goals when I was quitting my job and leaving the UK for a period of extended. From my overall scary goal of “OK, we're leaving on this date”, I ended up with achievable weekly tasks like “Speak to three letting agents about renting out my flat” and “Call these people to get the evidence I need for my visa”.
5. Perpetual motion through daily actions
Then it's time to turn those weekly goals into daily actions.
Every evening, I plan out three things that I must get done the following day. The question I ask myself is:
“If I accomplish only three things tomorrow, what do those three things need to be to move me forward?”
When I wake up, I'll know exactly what I need to do – and I'll do my utmost to get those three things done before I consider anything else. I'll try to put off all meetings and calls to the afternoon so I get a clear run at whipping through my daily goals before anyone has a chance to distract me.
6. Turn daily actions into habits
Willpower is a scarce resource: every time you force yourself to do something, you're depleting your willpower and at some point it'll just run out.
The key to circumventing the need for willpower is to turn your goals into habits.
For example, whenever I set the goal of writing a new book, it feels like a big and scary task. It got a whole lot easier, though, when I realised that all I had to do was write 1,000 words every day – then within a couple of months, it's done.
So I formed the habit of waking up, doing some exercise, then sitting down with a coffee and writing until I had 1,000 words. Within a week, it was automatic: it took no willpower, because that's just how my mornings started.
60 days later, I had a book.
You can apply the same principle to booking viewings, setting meetings, searching Rightmove, or whatever else you've decided will move your investing forward.
Educating yourself about property is important, but I've met plenty of people who can talk about it in great detail…yet have never actually got around to pulling the trigger.
At some point you just have to take action, uncomfortable though that often is. The best way I've found of doing that is to have a meaningful goal, translated into the right routine daily actions.
So get to it!