How to Keep a Goal Journal: 7 Tips & Strategies

How many of you want to change your life for the better? If the answer is a resounding yes, then keeping a goal journal can do just that.

In one study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California, people who wrote down their goals achieved more than those who did not.

Goal journals help with setting goals and keeping track of progress. It can make a significant difference in goal attainment by simply writing your goals down.

And it doesn’t have any high requirements either. Assuming you are consistent enough with a goal journal, you’ll do everything necessary to achieve your goals and live your best life.

1. Figure Out Where to Write

Before journaling, you must decide whether you’ll use a physical notebook, a computer, or an app.

Writing goals in your journal should ideally fit into your lifestyle and not be forceful. Pick something that you are most comfortable with. You should be able to write freely without anything hindering your way.

I prefer using the Notes app on my iPhone because I have easy access throughout the day. And if I need to organize my journal entries, the digital features on the app make it convenient.

Or if that’s not your cup of tea, you can also get a small notebook to carry with you. There is no right or wrong answer here. Your means of writing is entirely up to you.

2. Brainstorm Ideas

Before you start writing, it can be useful to list as many goals as you can think of. This will cover everything you want to include in your journal so you aren’t missing anything important.

Be honest with yourself. What motivates you to keep going? What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 or 10 years?

Take some time to think about what you want most from life. Many people drift about without a clear vision of where they want to go. So this brainstorming session is the time to let your true self shine through.

Some examples of goals might include:

  • Visit 10 new countries in the next 5 years
  • Lose 15 pounds within 6 months
  • Save $10,000 by the end of two years
  • Find a life partner within three years

There is no wrong way to brainstorm. Let your creativity and dreams run loose, and don’t have any reservations about it. Just make sure they are goals that you’ll get excited about.

3. Choose the Most Important Goals

Now that you have a list of all the goals you are interested in, it’s time to start prioritizing. After all, you can’t possibly achieve everything at once. Start honing in on the most important goals first.

A great way to do so is by simply choosing the 3-5 key goals from your list and postponing the rest. You may use the Eisenhower Matrix, a framework designed to help you prioritize a list of action items or goals.

Below is an example of an Eisenhower Matrix template:

eisenhower matrix template

The Eisenhower Matrix can sort your goals into four quadrants:

  • Urgent and important. Goals that demand your action right away.
  • Important but not urgent. Goals that can be scheduled at another time.
  • Urgent but not important. Goals that should be delegated to another party.
  • Not urgent and not important. Goals that can be removed from the priority list.

Using a system to prioritize your objectives is a must for any goal-setting journal. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this crucial step.

4. Use SMART Goals

When establishing goals, make sure to use the SMART framework. SMART is a common acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

The purpose is to have well-defined goals that meet realistic expectations. They should have an end date to track your progress over time. This is to prevent setting unrealistic targets that cause confusion and a lack of clarity.

For example, let’s say you want to save up for a house. A SMART goal setting might look like this, “I will save $500 per month for the next 2 years.”

Notice how the goal is:

  • Specific: You know exactly how much money to save
  • Measurable: You can track your progress each month
  • Attainable: Saving $500 per month is absolutely possible
  • Relevant: A house is something you want or need
  • Time-based: You have a specific timeframe of 2 years

In other words, a SMART goal is clear, concise, and attainable. If it meets the criteria, you can surely increase your chances of meeting life goals.

5. Visualize Your Goals

Visualization is a powerful skill that can push you to attain goals. When you have a clear picture of your ultimate goal in life, you are more likely to achieve it.

According to a Stanford study, mentally running through a routine improves performance and involves how our brains prepare for action.

If you want to nurture fond memories with your family, see yourself waking up in a warm home surrounded by loved ones. Imagine going on picnics together. Feel the sun shining on your face and hear the birds chirping.

For a more hands-on approach, sketch a picture of yourself, for example, passing the finish line during a marathon, to make that image more grounded in reality.

Instead of writing, “I will finish a marathon,” you can draw the picture you desire most. That way, your brain will act according to your visions.

6. Write Consistently

A goal journal is a fantastic tool for achieving goals. But it won’t get you far if you aren’t consistent.

Set aside time in the day to write in your goal journal, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Make it a daily habit if possible. At the very least you should commit to writing in it three times each week.

Remember that this is your journal, so write about whatever you want. There is no need to sugarcoat anything. And don’t worry about grammar if that bothers you.

The key is to focus on regularly getting your thoughts down on paper. Just make sure your writing is readable with little conscious effort.

7. Review Your Goals

The great thing about goal journals is that you can freely check your past entries. This helps you stay on track and ensure you are on course to achieving your objectives.

You should ask yourself: What progress have I made on these goals? What challenges have I faced? What lessons did I learn?

Be honest and consider how the progress on your goals is moving along. No need to be hard on yourself if it’s not meeting your expectations. Take these experiences as a learning lesson to do better the next time around.

And if at any point you realize your original goal is no longer what you want, then that’s OK too. There is no shame in changing direction, especially since goals are never set in stone.

You might not be 100% clear on what you want, but by reviewing your goals regularly, you can aim for your ideal destination.

Final Thoughts

Looking back over your goal journal can be a motivating drive to push you to live your ideal life. After all, we all have hopes and dreams, but the problem is setting specific goals that align with our behavior.

Many people have vague aspirations that make it arduous to stay on track. With a goal journal tailored to evaluate progress, you will have everything at your fingertips to reach big dreams.

And by getting into the habit of writing, you’ll have an easier time achieving them. The added bonus is that seeing your results will further energize you to continue working towards those milestones.

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Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.