By Amelia Bartlett

How to Set Monthly Goals You’ll Actually Achieve


Challenge yourself to make real progress on things that matter.

The monthly goal section is one of the most important pages in your Ink+Volt planner.

Monthly goals are our connection to the year’s purpose. Each month, we break down the big projects we’re working on into goals we can achieve in thirty days or less, making incremental progress towards the things that really matter.

Or at least, that’s what we do in an ideal world.

Not everyone sets monthly goals. And it is easy to see why. The daily grind is so busy, and every week we are just trying to catch up to our to-do list. Weeks turn into months and suddenly half the year is over!

But monthly goals are critical for your success. If you aren’t setting monthly goals — or if you set monthly goals, but can’t quite seem to achieve them — then this guide has everything you need to start making every month count.

Goal-setting from big picture down to the details

The best goal-setting approach is a top-down one. You can set a goal and achieve it, but if it doesn’t move you towards where you want to be in life, then what was the point?

Here’s how we break down goals from big picture to monthly goals to weekly action plans.

5 and 10-year goals

Do you have a five-year plan? My best friend is regularly refers to her five-year and ten-year plans in conversation as if they were standing in the room with us. Her influence has helped me to create plans like this for myself, though hers remain far more concrete and detailed than mine.

Whether you are like her or like me, it helps to have an idea of where you want to go in the very big picture. You don’t have to have every detail locked in — it’s not likely that your plans will go 100% as envisioned anyways — but putting a few clear ideas on paper will give you a lot more focus and clarity than you might expect.

Five and ten-year goals look like:

  • Buy and renovate my dream home
  • Get a masters degree
  • Travel to [insert countries here]
  • Achieve ‘debt-free’ status
  • Sell my first business

These are goals that will most likely take years of effort, largely because they take time to mature. It takes time to accumulate the funds to purchase a house or to pay off your debts. It takes time to visit a number of destinations and make a dent in your bucket list. It certainly takes time to achieve a degree.

Five and ten-year goals are best broken down into yearly goals to make them more manageable, step-by-step.

Yearly goals

These are big – not five-year plan big – but big enough that they’ll take more than a few months to complete. Anything that can be completed in less than two months will be done a disservice if made a yearly goal.

If your plan is to be debt free, making one of your yearly goals “pay off my first Visa credit card in full” could be a manageable endeavor for one year.

Yearly goals should be clearly stated and always S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Otherwise, it is too tempting to set vague goals that sound good but are hard to make progress on.

Let’s say you want to cultivate more happiness in your life. You may not know the list of destinations you want to travel to or you may not know if you’re ready for home ownership yet, but you know you want to be happy.

Take time to draw a mind map for happiness. In the center of a horizontally-oriented paper, write the word HAPPINESS in the middle. All around it, record activities, people, ideas, opportunities, and thoughts that bring you happiness.

You may have written: yoga, my sister, volunteering at the animal shelter, avocado toast, reading fiction, and pottery classes. Each of these activities is a means for cultivating happiness in your life. So, declare your yearly goal:

Yearly Goal: Cultivate more happiness in my daily life through activities, social connections, and investments in myself.

Yearly goals are the roots of your monthly goals. Looking at your mind map, you now have a slew of monthly and weekly goals you can create from the singular goal of “cultivating happiness.”

The difficulty that comes with Yearly Goals is the accountability portion. Yes, they are time-bound: one year. But, as anyone who has lived a year on Earth, you know just how fast that time flies and how spring looks like a blur in the dead of winter.

Monthly goals are the accountability you need to achieve your yearly (and longer) goals.

Monthly goals

When looking at your yearly goals, imagine how over the next 12 months you’ll make consistent investments in achieving success. How can you break those big dreams down into bite-sized chunks that you won’t forget about when life gets busy?

Each month, we ask you to refer back to your yearly goals and review. How are you progressing? How are you investing in your success? Are the goals you have set for this month in line with your yearly goals? Are they taking you closer to where you want to be?

Monthly goals take 30 days or less to complete. These goals are met in between all of your other commitments: work, school, family, self-care, social activities, clubs, housework, eating, and sleeping. They are reliant on your ability to manage your time and prioritize your goals, and you’ll notice quickly how well you can manage both of those expectations.

If you’re not sure about how long a goal is going to take, write it at the top of a blank sheet of paper and work backward, step-by-step, to create a roadmap.

Looking back at our example yearly goal of “cultivating happiness,” one of the items from our imaginary mind map was read more fiction. Let’s work backward from there.

What does it look like to successfully read more fiction? Complete one book by the end of the month.

Where will you get this book? Go to the library and/or bookstore and choose a book.

How long will it take to read it? If you can read a chapter in about 30 minutes and there are 10 chapters, you’re looking at 300 reading minutes.

How could I accomplish reading the book in a month? Read for 10 minutes per day. Block off this time on your calendar like any other important appointment.

The more clearly you know your monthly goals, the more likely you are to achieve them

Monthly goals are one of the best ways to make sure that you accomplish your yearly goals and your biggest life goals. If you can make monthly goal-setting a part of your planning process, you will be amazing at the progress you can make every year.