Time-Tested Truths About Goal Setting

Time-Tested Truths About Goal Setting

Joe Pulizzi

Episode Summary

If there’s one thing we all wish we could have learned sooner, it’s the value of writing down your goals. Probably the simplest advice you could ever get, and certainly the reason for the tendency to ignore or undervalue it.

This is what Joe Pulizzi, entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, and founder of multiple startups, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) swears by as a huge mistake we all continue to make: not setting up our goals and seeing them written down in black and white. 

Whether you’re a visual person or like to get into the nitty-gritty of every detail, setting up your goals is preliminary and essential in every move you need to make and every dream you want to achieve.

Looking at your goals sets you up in the right place every day to do what you need to do for you or your life, not just for your business, because that all depends on your goal. - Joe Pulizzi.

Goals need not be rigid - you can change it. As with anything in life, goals can always change. It might even change on a daily basis. But the frequency of how your goal changes doesn’t lessen the value of writing them down.

Because if you don't have an idea about what you're running towards, why run? What’s the race even about?

In the same mentality that Stephen Covey brings, “Begin with the end in mind”, Joe shares the three R’s in setting up your goals, establishing an exit strategy for important aspects of business and life, and having the right support system of family, friends and peers.

Practice the 3 R’s

It’s always best to apply systems to maintain a level of efficiency and success. Translate this into goal-setting and you’ve got Joe’s three R’s that he recommends: record, repeat and remove.


Goals can be written down into categories. You can have as many as you want, but Joe recommends six key ones: financial, career, family, spiritual, mental, and philanthropic.

Under each key category, write down another achievable goal that’s quantifiable. Something you can actually count. If you have a health goal, write down a numeric equivalent to losing weight or running x number of miles. It helps keep you focused and allows your brain to work out the specific of your goals.

Create your categories. When you put one down, you want to write it so that it's either in the present tense or it's already happened. - Joe Pulizzi


There’s value in repetition because as creatures of habit, a repetitive action doesn’t only increase our mental recall but forms part of our periodic routines.

Joe reviews his goals in the morning before his day gets going and also at the end of each day before he goes to bed. It’s the perfect way to bookend your day. 

I read my goals every morning when I wake and before I go to bed. And it's inhabiting me and everything I do. - Joe Pulizzi

As you repeat and recite your goals to yourself, it now becomes ingrained in you. Every course of action will now be geared towards achieving your goals simply because you’ve conditioned your mind properly by revisiting your goals regularly.


Every journey of success requires a certain level of sacrifice. With goal-setting, you must be prepared to remove what's in your way. Removing obstacles in your way allows you to be more headstrong about accomplishing your goals.

You have to really start to look at the obstacles in front of you and get those out of your way that's impeding your view of your goal. - Joe Pulizzi

To do this, you have to actually audit what it is you do and where you spend your time. An exercise Joe recommends is to log your time and what you do and by the end, average those out and really take a hard look at the activities that consume your day. 

When analyzing the results of your time log, be honest with yourself and ask “Where am I going to get the time to do what I need to do?”

Once you see what you're doing, put right next to it the ideal time it will take for what you want to happen based on what your goals are. And then you've got to be prepared to make adjustments. 

It's a careful dance of time management and prioritizing the goals that you have. It’s basically the first thing that you have to do with anything to just be a little bit more productive.

Have an exit plan 

What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be?

These are questions that “plague” each of us. But they don’t have to be perilous questions. Rather, they can be guideposts to help us plan ahead and have a strategy to wrap things up if we want to take something to the next level.

An exit plan doesn’t always have to equate to a closure of something, say a sale of a business or retirement from a life-long career. An exit strategy can also mean your vision for that achievement when you do reach that goal.

What an exit plan does is it gives you that extra layer of comfort and peace of mind knowing exactly what the answers are going to be. And while those answers change every year, it’s definitely easier to update your established goals than to start from scratch.

We're just sleepwalking through a lot of these things. I don't know how you survive waking up in the day and not knowing where you want to go. - Joe Pulizzi

Having an exit plan is not akin to being a doomsday prepper -although there are similar elements of planning for the worst. The good thing about having an exit plan is you do want to use it because it’s intentional to reach your goal, whereas a contingency or emergency plan is something you hope you never, ever have to use.

Surround yourself with the right people

There’s a practical and conceptual side to applying this principle. The practical side involves taking a couple of people that you really know and trust and telling them your key goals so they can help you keep accountable.

The conceptual side equates to analyzing the company of friends, family and especially your peers that are in your circle. This is critical since they have a huge influence in how you think, act and decide. They can either inspire you or distract you. So take careful stock of people who are there to help and who are there who might do harm, although unintentionally.

Choose to be with people who are going to support the goals that you’ve set for yourself. Whether they walk with you on your journey or are your cheerleaders, they have to be people you can actually trust and rely on.

The most important thing to me is trust. I don't want to be controlling. I want to say here's the job that needs to be done. My job is setting the vision. Your job is to go ahead and execute this thing. - Joe Pulizzi

Be smart about who you spend your time with. Choose to work with people that don’t just have complimentary skills but must also be willing to share your goals and values so you can nurture working well together towards achieving your goals.

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