Focus On This Podcast

68. Tackle the Right Goals at the Right Time



There’s so much possibility when you’re planning for a new year. It’s easy to want to want to see drastic improvements in every area of life all at once. But that’s a recipe for missing the mark—and burnout.

The solution? You need a strategy for knowing what to tackle, when. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at four considerations for determining when to tackle your goals. When you stop sabotaging your goal achievement and start tackling the right goals at the right time, you’ll be able to go further, faster.

You’ll finally be able to design a plan for your best year ever that you’ll stick to year-round.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • Why you can’t put every area of your life under construction at once
  • How to pick the goals that have the highest leverage
  • What to consider if you’re only excited about work
  • How to balance your number of habit and achievement goals
  • Our farewell to Courtney as she prepares to go maternity leave

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Episode Transcript

Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with Courtney Baker and Blake Stratton.

Blake: Happy Monday, Courtney.

Courtney: Happy Monday. It has been a while since we have really talked to people about loving Monday again. Have you noticed that?

Blake: Yeah. I’ve still been loving Mondays, even though we haven’t talked about it as much. I hope you have. Have you been loving your Mondays, Courtney?

Courtney: I have. Well, for me, Monday means I’m a week closer to having a baby. It’s like my weeks change over on Monday. Although I will say this episode is airing on my due date, so I think I can say confidently that this is probably my last episode, so this feels like a very special Monday to love, if I do say so.

Blake: Wow. You listening right now, just raise some praise hands right now, but don’t do it if you’re driving, because there’s another little Baker in the world right now.

Courtney: Yes. Hopefully.

Blake: Hopefully.

Courtney: Dear Lord, please. So, I really know nothing about what we’re going to be talking about today. I’m just going to get to chime in as you walk us through something you feel pretty passionate about.

Blake: So, it’s goal setting season, Courtney. Everyone is thinking about next year. They’re like, “Oh, gosh! I can’t wait for this year to be over. It was such a bummer.” Maybe they’re excited about next year. Maybe they’re coming to Your Best Year Ever, which is our goal achievement event at the end of December. So it’s a good time to talk about goal setting.

But what I want to talk about is one of the biggest errors I think people make that ends up making them feel bad about themselves, discouraged in the midst of their year, and really makes them feel like, “I don’t know if I’ll ever have that double win Blake and Courtney are always talking about, that winning at work and succeeding at life, and everything is so great. I can never do that.” The problem is not the goals you want to set. The problem is you’re trying to have it all all at once.

You can have it all. That’s what we talk about. We talk about the double win: winning at work and succeeding at life. We talk about the different life domains you can set goals in, because we believe one-sided success is not good enough. You deserve to be able to have that double win, to see all of your life be fruitful. But a misconception is you should be doing that all at once. You should have every area of your life be under construction all at once.

It’s a little bit like if you have ever… If you’ve gone through Nashville in the last three years, you can sort of relate to this. When a city is doing construction, they have to be really strategic, because if they shut down one street but also shut down the other side of the road and they also want to repair the pavement on something, traffic stops and nothing can get done. You have to be strategic when you’re doing construction to only choose a couple of areas at one time.

Eventually, the city is going to be beautiful and gorgeous, and I can’t wait until we’re not the crane capital of the United States, but right now, they’re popping up in different pockets over and over again. The key here is you have to know the season you’re in. So, this episode, Courtney, is all about how to set goals that are in season. You know, we preach limitation. You can only set two to three goals per quarter. That’s key. How do you then know, “Well, what should I be doing this quarter?” That’s what I want to talk about.

Courtney: Can I ask you a clarifying question out of the gate?

Blake: Yes.

Courtney: You’re not saying you can’t get to a place that you are winning at work and succeeding at life. You’re just saying if you’re starting from the beginning of pursuing that, you’re not going to be able to get it all at one time. Is that accurate?

Blake: That’s accurate. I would go one step further and say the fastest route to having all of your life domains be thriving like they’ve never thrived before is to not focus on all of them at once but to focus on one or two at once. It seems counterintuitive. I mean, I’ve done it wrong for a lot of years. The fastest route to having a lot of areas thrive is to not try to do it all at once. Sometimes we just jump in. “Oh, if I want every area to thrive, I’ve got to put every area under construction.” That’s not true. If you want every area to thrive, you have to start by limiting your focus, but that can be a challenge.

Courtney: I know you’ve talked about life domains a couple of times. Will you kind of go over what the life domains are?

Blake: Yeah. And I’ll name them off the top of my head, not referencing my planner, because I have that great of recall. Sorry. I just stopped to pick up an unrelated text, just a book that’s totally unrelated. Just, I wanted to catch up on this. The life domains are as follows. Courtney, I’m so glad you asked me. Spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, marital, parental, social, vocational, avocational (or your hobbies), and finally, financial.

Courtney: Thank you. That’s very helpful.

Blake: Just saying all of those out loud, Courtney… Some people get the planner, and they go, “So, I’m supposed to work on all of this all at once? I need to take a nap just reading all of those.”

Courtney: Right. That could be overwhelming. If you were just going into this blind, opening up a Full Focus Planner for the first time, you might be like, “Oh my gosh! I have to work on a lot.”

Blake: So, dear listener, friend, what I want to free you from is this pressure to do it all at once, and what I want to give you in this episode is an insight into how to set goals within limitations, because the fastest route to what you want…trust me…is to limit your focus, but that begs the question: “So, then, what do I focus on in this season, in this next quarter?” So, that’s what I want to talk about. Does that sound interesting, Courtney?

Courtney: Yeah. I think that’s great. I think it’s very timely. Yeah, I’m excited for what’s next. I’m so curious.

Blake: I have four considerations to determine what goal is in season. What’s the best goal for now? In other words, “How do I tackle the right goals at the right time?” The first consideration is leverage. You’ve probably heard us talk about the 80/20 rule before, or the Pareto principle, this concept that not every task is created equal. We tend to talk about that when we’re talking about the Daily Big 3. “How do I focus on the tasks that, if I do these tasks, the most important stuff is going to get done?”

Part of how you know what’s most important is that it actually has an effect on everything else. It’s the 20 percent that will drive 80 percent of the most important results. Well, the same thing is true when it comes to goals. There are actually some goals that if you were to set and achieve this goal, not only would it affect the domain of that goal, but it would also affect the other goals you’re maybe setting or other life domains you’re not even setting a goal for. Let me give you an example of this.

Let’s say you’re looking at your life domains and thinking about setting these different goals, and you’re going, “Okay. Well, a physical goal… I want to exercise every day. Spiritual… Oh, I also want to take time to pray or journal or have a meditation time, or whatever, on a regular basis. And I also want to get better at planning my day. You know, maybe career goals. I want to focus on the right things every day.” You can quickly get a big list of all this type of stuff.

The first consideration is “What is a goal I could set that would make all of those goals or some of those goals easier or unnecessary altogether? What’s a goal that has real leverage that would drive those things forward without any additional effort?” In that context, maybe you set a goal of “I actually want to set a habit goal to wake up at 6:00 a.m. every day instead of what I normally do, which is anywhere between 6:45 and 7:30,” or whatever it is.

Now that’s a different goal, and maybe technically that’s a physical goal, but by waking up at 6:00 a.m., what does that make possible? Well, now you’ve just created time for you to work out if you want or for you to pray if you want or to do both. That’s just literally an off the top of my head example of that, but does this concept of finding the highest leverage goal make sense to you, Courtney?

Courtney: Yeah. It totally makes sense. Sometimes I find that these high-leverage goals… Sometimes they’re financially related too. Sometimes if you can get that financial goal kicked off in the first quarter, it makes that trip you want to do in the fourth quarter actually possible. It’s like, “I have to have leverage here so I can then do this other goal.” The other thing that comes to mind is the opposite of a high-leverage goal. I may have had one of those in 2020. It’s still a good goal. It’s just not accomplishing what’s going to be the most leverage when you’re trying to figure out…

Blake: There’s no domino effect.

Courtney: Yeah, there’s no domino effect. Again, I think what you’re saying is… You know, none of those goals are bad in themselves. It’s just, how do you pick the best one? Looking at leverage is really helpful. In this last quarter, as I prepared for a baby, one of my goals was to try to get all of the photos of my 4-year-old daughter in these albums.

Everybody listening is thinking, “That doesn’t sound very risky, Courtney,” but it was. It was a short time frame. It was a lot of work, and I was really excited about it, but it doesn’t necessarily help me with any of my other goals. It was just a goal. But, yeah, I love that idea of looking through the lens of leverage, especially when you have a long list of all of the things you want to accomplish in a year.

Blake: An example for me this last quarter was I was thinking, “Man, there are these different life domains I really want to get to.” Part of my struggle is I don’t even know which one I should be focusing on or where I should invest my money to make something happen. I’m the cohost of a podcast on focus, and this is still a consideration for me.

I decided, “Oh, what would make all of these things a lot easier or just not necessary? What would give me jet fuel for these other things?” I came to, “Oh, you know what? I really need a mentor. I need someone I can trust who meets these criteria,” and whatever else. I actually didn’t even go that far. I was just like, “I really could use a mentor.” So, literally, my goal was, “This quarter, I want to secure a dedicated mentor relationship with someone whose life experience I want to replicate.” And that’s why I hired you.

Courtney: Yeah. And that’s why you asked me. It’s funny that both of us knew where we were going with that.

Blake: By having a mentor, when I go into Q1, that’s going to make my financial goals a lot clearer and easier. That’s going to make other decisions I have to make a lot easier. I’ll make fewer mistakes. I mean, it’s just going to have a massive domino effect. Chalene Johnson calls these push goals. So, if you’re thinking about that… I like to think of that visual of a domino effect.

You don’t want to hit the goal that’s at the end of the domino line, because then nothing else happens. But are there goals that if you would accomplish them, it would start this chain reaction of achievement? So, that’s the first consideration: leverage. The second consideration when you’re determining what’s in season for you is life domains. You heard me list all of these out, but I want to reiterate you can’t work on all of your life domains at once.

Courtney: Even the idea of that kind of makes me twitch a little bit.

Blake: This is true if you’ve ever gotten surgery or you need multiple phases of a surgery.

Courtney: Did you say faces or phases? I thought you said faces.

Blake: Yeah. You know, in plastic surgery, you have multiple faces if you need… No, I’m just kidding.

Courtney: It’s like Nicolas Cage in that movie Face/Off. Right? Remember that one?

Blake: Aptly named. Nicolas Cage, an American treasure. If you try to put all life domains under construction, it puts your overall health of every life domain in peril. It really does. You need to recognize that. It’s not healthy to try to optimize every area all at once, just like it’s not healthy to have… When an athlete gets a specific injury or they need something fixed, you don’t do all of the surgeries all at once, because that would exponentially increase your recovery time. The rest of your body can’t help you at all because all of these areas are under construction at once. You have to work at one or two at a time.

Courtney: And, frankly, that is just a recipe for failure. It would be like, “Only 25 percent of the surgeries were successful, and the other 75 percent were a total bust.” That’s true for your goals. If you try to accomplish goals in all of those life domains… I can tell you before you start that it’s impossible.

Blake: Absolutely. So, what you want to do with this consideration is to ask some questions to consider, “Which life domains do I want to focus on right now?” The first and most obvious way is a tool we have called the LifeScore Assessment. Here you’re trying to get visibility on which life domains need the most help. We have a free assessment you can take, and it will ask you some questions, do a diagnostic on those life domains, and then you get to see, “Oh, here are some life domains that are really struggling.”

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not always what is the squeakiest wheel and, therefore, that’s what I focus on. You also want to think about “What am I excited about investing in? Which life domain do I have energy around?” Because if you ignore where your energy lies, you set yourself up for failure in goal achievement. If you think, “Well, I should focus on this” rather than “I get to” or “I’m excited about focusing on this,” you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Courtney: I love that advice of which ones you have energy for, but what I find, a lot of times, is that people tend to have energy for their vocational goals, for work goals, but sometimes not much outside of that. So, what would you say to people where it’s like all the energy is on vocational and nothing else?

Blake: How gentle do you want me to be?

Courtney: Well, we’re nearing 2021, so they’ve dealt with a lot of hard this year, these listeners.

Blake: Okay. So I should be gentle.

Courtney: I think they can handle…

Blake: Oh, you’re going the other way.

Courtney: I was going to say, I think they can handle it. I mean, they’ve done hard this year. They know how to take it.

Blake: I don’t know if you can reach back behind you on that bookshelf. I left a gas tank there for you so you could put on your gear here, but let’s scuba dive for a second. That’s probably an identity issue. That’s probably where it begins. Sometimes we’re really clear on our work identity. And by identity I just mean what we believe to be true about ourselves and whether we have vision for ourselves.

If you do not have a vision for your marriage… You’re just like, “Hey, we got married because we loved each other, so I guess now we’re married. That’s what you do.” If there’s no vision for your marriage, you’ll never get excited about it. So, ask questions like, “Who do I really want to be?” Identity isn’t just given. It’s also designed. So, who do I want to be as a dad? Who do I want to be as a spouse or who do I want to be in finances? What do I believe to be true about myself?

We did an episode recently on limiting beliefs. Sometimes we’re not excited about a financial domain goal because we think we’re terrible with money. That’s actually a limiting belief. So, you may have to put on the scuba gear. You may also need to cast some vision. If you’re not excited, it’s likely either you have an identity problem or you have a vision problem, like, “I don’t have any vision for an emotional goal because I don’t know what it means to have healthy emotions.”

When I said, “How gentle do you want me to be?” my first gut reaction was like, “Go see a counselor.” I say that in only a little bit of hyperbole. If you don’t have vision for those things, it’ll be really hard to gear up excitement. The reason we’re excited about career goals is usually the vision is laid out for us. Someone else has shown us, “Oh, hey, here’s your big goal, so go and do it.”

Courtney: I think this is a really interesting two things sitting in opposition of each other. It’s like the person who wants to work on all of the life domains because they’re like, “Let’s get this all in order,” and not needing to do that, and then the opposite end, which is, “I’m only excited about this one life domain, and I can’t quite figure out how to get excited about any of these other ones.” Honestly, a lot of times, I find that’s where we end up burned out and overworking. It’s because we really don’t have a vision for anything outside of that one life domain.

Blake: Here’s something sneaky that’s going to sound like I’m contradicting myself, Courtney, but I’ve seen this play out again and again with our one-on-one coaching clients in BusinessAccelerator. I was talking with one of our coaches, and he said this guy was having a really hard time with getting breakthrough as they were trying to scale their business. Their profitability was just not working with scale that they were growing at.

I said, “Oh, wow. So, John, what model did you give him? Did you do some strategic whatever?” He said, “Oh, no. I told him he had to go find a hobby.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Oh, well, he literally never, ever thought about anything besides work.” What he doesn’t know that our coach John knows, because he has the experience, is you are operating at a limited capacity when you never take a break. For this guy, he was never going to take a break until he had a hobby he was excited about.

Lo and behold, the guy starts… I can’t even remember what he did. It may have just been playing golf or something like that, you know, getting outside. Lo and behold, his profitability has improved in his business. He’s like, “How does that even happen?” He’s like, “Well, you rejuvenate, you get creativity, you get fulfillment, and you show up differently at work.” So, this is art and science. Yes, consider leverage, and it may seem like, “Well, if I crush it at work, then everything else will be fine.” Ask yourself how long that has been the case, because if it’s a lifestyle, then it’s not a seasonal thing.

You may want to consider your life domains. If you’ve been stuck in a career issue or a financial issue for a long time, you may actually want to look at another life domain. “Hey, actually, if our marital life…” I keep coming back to marriage or emotions. “Hey, if my emotional life domain was better, I wonder if my financial life domain would improve. Maybe I would not be comfort spending as much. Maybe it would be easier to save more.” That sort of thing. Anyway, that’s the second consideration. Think about your life domains. Consider which domain you want to focus on.

The third consideration is goal compatibility. Courtney, I’m smiling because I have shared a story of this from your life before. Essentially, some people will set goals, and they don’t even realize they’re setting themselves up for failure because the goals are so great. Maybe they were SMART goals, but they weren’t SMARTER, because that last R stands for relevant. If your goal is not relevant to other goals, if it’s not compatible with other goals, you’re setting yourself up for some hurt.

Courtney: I’m curious. Is the goal you share of mine the one where I had the financial goal and my husband had the goal for all of these vacations we were going to take in the same year? Yeah. You know, we set our goals separately, and I had this kind of aggressive savings goal for the year. When my husband and I got together to go through our goals, he had a goal for all of these different vacations we were going to take periodically through the year.

We realized, “Yeah, these don’t work together.” Kind of going back to your point about leverage, maybe if we had done the financial goal first to fuel all of the vacations… But trying to do those simultaneously was a recipe for failure on both of our parts.

Blake: Exactly. So, your goals need to be compatible with one another, but I want to actually highlight another element of compatibility. It’s a question I get a lot when we do Full Focus training, which is, “How many habit goals should I have versus achievement goals?” What I would share is… And this is not a hard and fast rule, per se, but I would warn you against setting a bunch of habit goals all at once, even if they’re in different life domains, even if they’re separate, even if they’re all high leverage.

If you have all habit goals and you’re trying to change multiple habits at once, it’s really, really challenging. It’s not impossible, but if you want the fastest route to the double win, I would recommend one, probably two at the most, habit goals that you’re working on in a given quarter and balancing that out with achievement goals.

Trying to uproot all of your habits and patterns at once is just not going to be compatible. It’s like working on too much at once. Similarly, you may experience the same thing if all you set is achievement goals. I think there the challenge is project management and a feeling of disorder. It’s a different kind of overwhelm. Imbalance in one direction or the other can lead to overwhelm. Do you agree?

Courtney: Yeah. That’s so key. With all of these, it’s kind of keeping things in balance. Both achievement goals and habit goals are really important, but if you get too many on one side or the other, it can be a recipe for frustration on your part. Okay. Blake, can I brag on you for a second? I don’t have a written part of this podcast today, so I feel like I can say whatever I want. You just brought up that you get these questions at trainings.

For everybody out there listening… Because I’m going to be gone for a while on maternity leave. You may not realize this, but Blake does trainings for the Full Focus Planner. So, if you or your company are interested, you might want to have Blake come in and do a training for you all. You can do that. You can schedule that at… I don’t know the website. I should because I’m the chief marketing officer, but, Blake, you probably know it.

Blake: You can go to

Courtney: So, if you want to be able to ask your questions to Blake in person, there you go. That’s how you do that.

Blake: Thank you, chief marketing officer, for that glowing recommendation. All right. So, you want to consider your leverage. You want to consider your life domains. You want to consider goal compatibility, you know, ensuring you’re not having one goal eat the other’s lunch or just all in achievement or all in habit goals. There’s one more consideration, and that is outside circumstances.

Courtney: Do you just mean 2020?

Blake: I don’t just mean 2020. What I’m not saying is that your circumstances have to define your progress. Again, we just did an episode on limiting beliefs. But going back to this idea of what’s in season, what I like to consider when I’m choosing goals is “How can I get the most success the fastest?” I guess, if you think about it, it’s kind of a lazy way of thinking about it, but I’m like, “What’s the laziest way to goal achievement?” Not because I want to be lazy but because I want to reach my full potential. If there’s a fast track, I want to be on it.

When we consider outside circumstances, we’re just looking at, “What are obstacles or deadlines or literal seasons that are at play in my life, in the world, in our business?” What are those things? It’s not to say those things will define what you do, but you do want to consider them, because it could affect the order of your focus. It could affect the order of operations if you’re considering all of the different goals you want to achieve in a given year.

Courtney: So, you’re saying, before I finish my goals for 2021, I should probably remember that I’m going to have a newborn.

Blake: Exactly. That would be really important.

Courtney: Got it. So, no marathon running in February. Probably not going to happen, huh?

Blake: You know, this is kind of a cliché, and if this has been you in the past, I want to release you from any shame about this, but sometimes people will start their new diet or exercise program January 1, and the gym is full in January. The truth is that’s actually pretty smart, because if you decided to start your brand-new diet plan right before you’re about to have a bunch of meals or parties where all the food is tempting you and the menu is totally outside of your control, it’s not impossible, but, boy, it’s a lot harder.

Use the excitement and the leverage point of a new year to engage in that habit. That’s an example of outside circumstances. It’s not that you shouldn’t do something or an obstacle or a season makes it impossible, but consider, “When will this be easiest to accomplish?”

Courtney: Then use the systems and the tools we’ve trained you all on, including your Full Focus Planner, to be one of the people who are still there in February at the gym.

Blake: Exactly. So, that’s the biggest thing. Think of the literal seasons. Like, if you have a goal, for instance, “Hey, I want to start a running habit,” maybe you want to do it when it’s nice weather in your area, because that’ll be easier. You’ll be more excited to get outside. You don’t have to make it hard on yourself.

So, this last one is really just an encouragement to consider those deadlines, those physical seasons, those business seasons. We have seasons in business. Right, Courtney? At Michael Hyatt & Company, people take sabbaticals every three years, but our current policy on that is… When do they take those sabbaticals? In July.

There’s a reason they don’t take them in October, and it’s not because we don’t believe in the double win and the double win isn’t possible. October and November tend to be pretty big months for us. Right? July is kind of… There’s just a natural rhythm. That’s exactly what we’re talking about. How do you make the double win easier? How do you accomplish it? You have to consider your outside circumstances when you’re setting your goals. That helps you keep them in season.

To sum up, if I may, you can have it all, you can have the double win, just not all at once. You have to put limitations in place. You need an imbalance of focus temporarily to create that overall balance you’re looking for in your life. To do that, you need to set the right goal at the right time. So, consider what goals are going to be highest leverage right now, consider your life domains, consider the goal compatibility, and consider your outside circumstances.

Courtney, I know you’re just jaws on the floor right now with the heavy-hitting revelation, but I’m curious if there’s a final thought or something, maybe just one takeaway from this episode that you feel like you’d want to highlight to our listeners or just bring with you as you set goals next year.

Courtney: I think this is so good. It’s really, really helpful, and I’ve taken notes myself. For some people, you may be wondering, “Okay. I have the opposite problem. Actually, I can’t come up with any goals.” I would encourage you… You actually probably can. You just need to take a few minutes. I would recommend taking the life domains and just being creative for a second, just jotting down any kind of idea you have for each one, and then using these considerations to hone down on what is going to be the right thing to tackle for the first quarter and second quarter and third quarter.

For me, personally, this is a really good exercise as I come to a big shift in my life, and I think all of these are right on. Blake, did you coordinate this episode just for me? That you were like, “You know what, Courtney?”

Blake: This episode was just a passive-aggressive way to encourage you to take, I think, up to a full week after your baby is born to start training for that marathon.

Courtney: Yes. Thank you, Blake. Thank you for that good advice on how to look at the outside circumstances.

Blake: That’s what our listeners want. They want my perspective on how you should handle your postpartum life. I think that’s what they were looking for.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yep. That’s something there.

Blake: “What’s Blake going to weigh in and say?”

Courtney: I think this is really good, and for everybody out there, especially people who have gone through Your Best Year Ever, this is a really great tool. Honestly, I think this is something that every quarter, as you evaluate your goals as part of your Quarterly Preview process, could be a really helpful set of questions to work through.

Blake: Awesome. Well, thank you, Courtney, for accepting my humble presentation here today, and thank you listening. This is Focus on This. We’re so happy you made time to be with us.

Courtney: Yes. We are happy that you made time, and it is.

Blake: Let me rephrase that. I’m happy you joined us today. Courtney…she’s on the fence.

Courtney: I’m borderline. No, I’m thrilled that you listened. Seriously. One of my favorite things is getting into our Full Focus Facebook community and seeing the questions about the podcast or seeing comments about the podcast. Literally, I love it. So, thank you all for listening, truly, and I will miss y’all for a while here. This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so remember to share it with your friends and use #focusonthispodcast.

Blake: And someone will be here next week with another great episode. It may not be Courtney, but we’ll do our best without you as you enter into the next chapter.

Courtney: Yes. Dun, dun, dun.

Blake: Until then…

Courtney & Blake: Stay focused.