Photo Credit: hooverine 

How many different goals are you chasing at the moment? Are you trying to get fit, cut your caffeine intake, write a novel, start a business, learn to draw, become an early riser, volunteer, get a promotion ... all at the same time?

Okay, that's a bit of an over-exaggeration, but it's not too far from the reality for many of us. If you've got an interest in personal development, self-improvement, or simply getting a bit more from your life, then you probably have a number of goals that you'd like to achieve in the next year or two.

You may already have run into problems, though. The more goals you're chasing, the harder it is to keep enough attention and energy focused on any one of them.

Have you already got several unfinished novels tucked away in desk drawers? Have you been on a dozen diets in the past - which you never stuck to? Are you trying to cram too much into your week in an effort to be a success in every single area, all at once?

Many of us could achieve much more by doing a bit less. Here's how.

Figure Out Your Top Goal
If you could accomplish just one thing in the next year, what would it be? Maybe you want this to be the year when you finally do lose that extra 50lbs. Perhaps it's the year when you start and finish writing a novel. It could be that you want to take a qualification, or get a promotion at work.

Don't let anyone else's expectations or desires dictate your primary goal. Just pick the one thing that, if you succeeded in accomplishing it, would give you a great sense of achievement.

Write it down. This goal is your top priority, and all your other goals, projects and day-to-day tasks are subordinate to it.

Decide What Else to Fit In
Sometimes, your top goal is such a big one that it needs as much focus as possible - and all your other goals need to wait. Often, though, you can fit in a couple of other goals.

Let's say your primary goal is to lose weight. That needs time, energy and commitment - and you don't have limitless supplies of any of those. However, losing weight won't take up all your resources. Think through (or, better, write down) all the other goals that you'd like to accomplish.

Which of these support your goal to lose weight? For example, if you have a goal of waking up early, that might help because it'll give you time to exercise and eat a healthy breakfast in the mornings. You could also pursue a hobby-related goal: perhaps learning to knit or do woodwork - something that'll keep your hands and mind busy and prevent you from snacking out of boredom.

The same process applies to any primary goal. Look at your other options, and see what would support that goal (and what might detract from it). Also think about what you really want to accomplish - choose the goals that excite you the most.

Put Other Goals On Hold
Many goals aren't time sensitive, and can be put on hold. Perhaps you'd like to go back to college, but you know it'd be sensible to pay off your credit card bills and other debts first. Maybe you want to start a blog, but you also need to finish your college degree.

Although it's frustrating to have to put off a goal that you're excited about, it's sometimes the best way to guarantee that you'll actually achieve something over the next few months. You don't need to do everything at once in order to succeed - and in many cases, future goals will become easier to tackle because of your present success.

Ditch Goals that Come From Others
Finally, some goals shouldn't be on your list at all. These are goals which someone else has imposed on you, whether directly or indirectly. If you're only trying to get into medical school because your parents want you to, you're going to struggle to stay motivated. If you're starting a blog because your best friend thinks you should, you probably won't get far.

If there's a goal which is draining your energy, because you don't really want to go for it, then just stop. There are more great goals for you than you can possibly chase in a lifetime - you have to go for the ones that have meaning to you.

Next Steps
So, how can you put this into practice today?

  1. 1. Pick your top goal - the one thing that you really want to achieve this year. Write it down.
  2. 2. Make a list of other goals you could tackle. Circle one or two which you're excited about, and which help to support your top goal.
  3. 3. Put a star by any goals which can wait for a year or two.
  4. 4. Cross off any goals which you feel like you should do, but which you aren't really keen on.

Why not share your top goal with us in the comments? And let us know what you'll be doing to make sure you do achieve it.