“To me, success is not about money. It’s about what I design.” —Paula Scher

It doesn’t matter what your goals are. They can be real-estate-related, or real estate can be the investment vehicle that allows you to achieve your goals. The important thing is to be clear and specific about your goals.

You can’t just say you want more money. Rather, to achieve your goals, they must excite you and create an emotional response when you think about them. Create as much detail as possible around your goals. Here’s an example of a specific goal that is emotionally exciting and contains plenty of detail:

“In 10 years, my family will be taking vacations every quarter of the year. We will plan these trips together in advance. Photos of the vacation destination will hang in a prominent place in our house. These trips will get longer and longer, and eventually we will buy a property in each of our favorite destinations. We will rent these properties out when we are not using them, and we will claim our trips to them as tax-deductible expenses to check on our investment properties. Eventually, we will have enough streams of income to be able to live for as long as we want at any of these destinations.”

How to Write Your Goals

To have any chance of being achieved, most goals must be written. Here are a few tips for writing them. Remember, keep the exercise simple. It should be fun. It may take you a few drafts to achieve clarity around your goals, but you should be able to review the finished product often to evaluate your progress.

  1. Start with a blank piece of standard copy paper. Divide the paper into three sections down the page, from top to bottom. The top third is for your 10-year goals, the middle third is for your five-year goals, and the bottom third is for your one-year goals. Keep it simple, but it might take a few drafts to get it right.
  2. Consider your 10-year goals first. Get clear on no more than 3-5 goals that touch on different areas of your life (e.g., health, finance, business, relationships, and spiritual goals). Make sure you write goals that are as well rounded and inspirational as possible. Be detailed and specific. Again, your goals should seem exciting and even out of reach as you write them.
  3. Next, write your five-year goals. Each five-year goal should directly align and relate to one of your 10-year goals. For example, if one of your 10-year goals is to acquire 10 rental properties, each cash flowing a minimum of $400 a month after all expenses, including a property manager, then your five-year goal would focus on buying five rental properties that fit your criteria.
  4. Finally, write your one-year goals. Again, they should directly relate to each of your five-year goals. For example, if you said you would buy five rental properties that fit your criteria in five years, your one-year goal should be to find one rental property that meets your criteria.

By writing your goals starting with the big picture and working backwards, you are essentially building the activity scaffolding necessary to stay ocused on your 10-year goals.

Keep your written goals handy and review them once a week, preferably on a Sunday before the next work week begins. Plan to do this exercise every 10 years. Keep goals that are important to you or that you did not fully achieve in the previous 10 years.

Some people say that the “thought” of attaining the goals is the most important thing to focus on to stay motivated to achieve them. However, if you really want to hit your goals, focusing on the work or activities necessary to turn them into reality is the most important thing you can do. If you do not consistently take action toward your goals each week, even when you don’t feel like it or when it is not convenient, you’ll find it hard to achieve your goals.

The consistent completion of mundane but essential activities leads to the realization of your goals. It’s the secret to getting what you desire, but it’s not really a secret.

A Closer Look at Your One-Year Goals

Your one-year goals are the ones you can control most. They will be your most actionable in any given year. One way to keep them top of mind is to place them where you see them often, like where you do your planning for the week. Keeping them where you feel productive and relaxed is also a good idea.

Here are some suggestions for places where you can post your one-year goals so you can review them and visualize achieving them.

  1. Summarize them on an index card that you use as the bookmarker in your physical weekly and yearly planner. Keeping your goals in the same place you organize your weekly and daily activities assures you that you’ll see them daily and creates an urgency for accomplishing them.
  2. Write them on sticky notes you post on the wall next to the mirror in your bathroom. This is a good place to review your yearly goals because, again, it ensures you see them every day. A bathroom mirror is also mostly a private place if you don’t want others to see them on more public places, like your refrigerator.
  3. Writing your yearly goals on a whiteboard by your work area is another excellent and mostly private place for reviewing your goals for the year.

Obviously, these are just suggestions, and you can and should do what works best for you. The important thing is to keep your yearly goals where you can review them daily.

Achieving Your One Year Goals

Working on your one-year goals weekly is key to achieving them. The way to design your week to achieve your one-year goals is to make an activity dashboard that has all the activities you know you need to complete weekly to achieve them. You can track these activities in a Google spreadsheet or something similar so you can review and update wherever you are. Again, keep it simple and uncomplicated, but focused enough to hold yourself accountable.

Here are some suggestions for doing that. Create a column on the far left of the spreadsheet with a heading that says “Activities.“ Next, create subsequent columns labeled “Week 1,” “Week 2,” and so on. By doing this, you can track each activity and you can see at a glance any activities you may be neglecting.

Example Weekly Activity Dashboard:

Now that you have a dashboard to track the activities that will lead you to your goals, commit to making it work for you. Start by making sure the activities in your weekly dashboard directly relate to all of your one-year goals.

It’s OK if you don’t hit all your activities in one week, but you should complete each activity at least once each month. There are some activities you will naturally do every week.

Schedule time once a month to reflect on which activities are producing the most results toward your goals, and do more of those activities and fewer of the unproductive ones. If certain activities are not producing results after you’ve given them ample time to do so, rethink them.

Put your weekly activities in your physical weekly planner. Allotting time to them in your schedule makes them a priority and helps ensure that you accomplish them.

Setting aside time on Sunday to plan for the coming week is a good way to prepare to accomplish your activities for the week. Modify and adapt these suggestions to make them work for you. Following this goal-setting—and achieving—method will all but ensure that you will accomplish your goals in 10 years or—at the very least—get you much closer to them.

Jeff Roth is the founder of Arbor Advising in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Arbor Advising is a real estate consultancy dedicated to growing and securing clients’ wealth. They are passionate about helping clients invest, buy, and sell in Michigan. You can contact Roth at jeff@arboradvising.com, visit www.arboradvising.com, or subscribe to the weekly newsletter at www.arboradvising.com/subscribe.

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