verybody sets goals, but very few achieve them. A well-structured goal system can help you to be on the winning side.
The trick is to weave habits, actions, and growth in a system to drive the identity changes that are necessary for the goal. In this article, I will explain how to create an advanced Notion Goal System to set, track, and achieve your goals.
A year ago, I created a life operating system that helped a procrastinator like me work on my goals and habits. Since then, I have made substantial progress in my projects, habit building, and learning. I build in public to share my journey, experience and insights so that everyone else can do the same.
###### You can follow along and build the templates or purchase the full system ↗ to save time and support my work.
Feel free to adjust and simplify it fit your lifestyle and personality. It's especially important if you are just starting out. In the beginning, the essential thing is to not overwhelm yourself and start small to make all the habits stick.
## What is a goal system?
A goal system is a framework that reflects all the necessary steps and changes for consistent growth and achievement of goals.
Long-term goals need a framework that can change your identity and align, literally, the behavior with your goals. If you need time, you cut other activities and invest more time for the set goal.
When you only set a goal, you do not consider other changes that the goal requires. For instance, a lot of people want fame, but very few are willing to put in the same effort, sacrifice the same things, and change their personalities.
To understand yourself better and achieve meaningful results, you have to build a system that drives changes. The system helps to do that in several ways.
First, it made my life more specific. Instead of dreaming and thinking about some hypothetical life goals, I started to plan my life both long-term and short-term.
Second, it made me more consistent. Tracking habits and setting actions became easier and more satisfying to perform.
Third, I knew what I have to change in my life, habits and behavior to increase the chances to achieve a goal.
Fourth, I could track progress and adjust my strategy whenever I find an obstacle. I can see whether I do my best or move slower than I could have.
Last but not least, all of that work helped to understand myself better. I realized that most of my life I was following the wrong goal.
## Goals System template: Vision
`Vision` is a top-level overview of long-term life goals. Here I set goals, assign projects, and track the progress. Every goal is a piece of a puzzle that works in tandem to form the image of the life I want.
To find out where you stand, you have to reflect on your life and think about where you want to be in the future.
Here is a set of questions that can help to guide you in the right direction.
- What would be the coolest things that could happen over the next five years in my life?
- The perfect 2021 that could happen.
- What should I improve to advance?
- What do I want to build or learn in the future?
- Review weekly & monthly what is working and what is not.
Vision reflects the changes, projects, and actions that are necessary for the goal. The flow works in the following way.
Vision → Identity → Projects → Goal Outcomes → Actions → Vision
New skills and behaviors imply an identity change to make the learning process successful. Once you establish a habit, you automate the process and take it to another level. The newly learned skill makes the goal easier to achieve because you are in alignment with the task.
For instance, one of my goals is to *Build and grow an audience.* Here is how I break down a goal in the system.
- I set a goal to earn passive income.
- I assigned a project to build a blog to achieve that goal.
- This, in turn, requires building certain habits, such as learning to write and doing it consistently.
- Since it's a long-term goal that will take at least 2-3 years, I have to break it down into smaller chunks to not lose motivation. The first goal outcome was to *Write 20 articles.*
- The last step is, of course, to take action. Analysis and planning alone won't do anything.
Now I will go through the process and explain each step in more detail.
## How to Create an Advanced Goal System in Notion. Step by step guide
### Step 1. Set a goal
Setting goals is one of the most important steps in the system. To achieve anything, one has to give something back in return. Try to understand if you are okay with giving away whatever it takes to achieve the goal.
If you want to be famous, are you willing to invest the same amount of effort and time while also accepting the downsides?
It is important because if you don't shift your identity, then it won't have a foundation for your goal. If you want a million subscribers, be ready to become a more public person that always creates content to stay relevant and increase traffic.
At first, I did not know what I want. I was drifting in some direction that I was not happy with. It lasted many years until a year ago I started this system to bring my life in order. I started to write down my thoughts and goals. It was difficult in the beginning but it was essential to keep going. The more I thought about my life goals, the more I worked on the image of my future self and the more specific and true it became.
That's what aligned means: You align your lifestyle with the imagined future self. The more you reflect the more you'll know about you current self and future self. With that in mind, let's go back to setting goals in the system.
To set the right goal you have to ask yourself a few important questions:
- What is the reward?
- How much effort you are ready to put?
- What values are your goals based on?
- Are these goals yours or someone else's?
- Are you ready for the necessary identity changes?
Think of both long-term and short-term aspirations. Changes you have always wanted but struggled to achieve. After a proper analysis, you can find out why you want it, when you want it and how you are going to achieve it.
The next step is to give them a form.
### Step 2. Assign a project
To give a form to a goal and make it real, you have to assign a project or a habit. A project is a workspace where you set actions, track the progress, and learn.
Habit is a smaller entity than a project. However, certain habits will have to be built to make the goal possible. Your habits are part of your identity. If you want to make changes, start finding habits that can help the goal and eliminate those that hinder you.
For instance, if your goal is to be healthy, then you might want to start doing sport (the positive habit) and start limiting unhealthy food (the negative habit).
Projects are the bigger form of a goal in the system. Habits can also relate to certain projects. If the goal is to learn to play piano, you can use the project space for notes, learning, studying, spaced repetition, and so on.
[update August 2021] I've published a tutorial on [setting up GTD in Notion](https://www.maray.ai/posts/gtd-notion) where I cover Projects section as well.
### Step 3. Focus on your identity to support your Vision
A big part of achieving a goal is changing your identity. It has to align with your future self.
People do not get things they wish for because their current identity does not support their goals. The vision and the identity are not aligned. It is like driving a regular car and aiming to win a Formula 1 race. You can arrive at the finish, but the result won't be what you expected.
Therefore, you have to upgrade yourself to be in shape with your vision and goals.
If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to be prepared to spend thousands of hours practicing. If you want to become an entrepreneur, you have to risk and fail multiple times before you succeed. If you want to become the first settler on Mars, you have to be ready to never see the Earth again.
Recently I wrote a blog post on [how I set and track my habits](https://www.maray.ai/posts/notion-habit-tracker) with a dashboard.
Habits Database that is integrated with the goal system.
### Step 4. Identify the current state
Where do you stand now on the path? It is essential to understand your initial position. This step gives you an insight into the timeframe and the resources you need to hit the goal.
Define your current set of relevant skills, habits, and knowledge. What is the level of success you would need to feel satisfied?
You might realize that it is a very demanding goal and alter the course. On the other hand, many goals look like dreams, but all it takes is to change a few traits and habits.
### Step 5. Set the outcome
Besides setting the goal itself, it is important to think about an outcome. The more specific your metric of the outcome is the more likely you'll achieve it.
For instance, 30 podcasts once a week, or read 8 books, or a certificate level, and so on.
Divide the path into actionable steps. Start small to get intermediate rewards. Goldilocks Principle is an excellent rule that can keep you challenged, but motivated. If you always do the same thing, it will bore you. If you start with a too difficult task, it will hinder you from completing it. Find the right balance.
For example, when I started to write, I set a goal outcome of 20 articles, 2 per week. It was just the right amount of work to learn and grow. Once I finished, I set another goal of 40 pieces.
### Step 6. Keep track of the progress
Goals tracking comes to weekly and monthly reviews. During those quick reviews, you can see how much have you done, what was your performance overall, which projects need more attention, and so on.
If you do not take action, think about what hinders you and adjust the goal that you set earlier.
The more you work on the obstacles, the easier your achievements will come. If it's a habit-related issue, focus on your identity change. If you set a too difficult outcome, adjust it so that it feels more comfortable to you.
Setting goals and tracking them always go along. Depending on the current inputs the output or even the original idea and the goal can and will change. When you set the goal, you do not know the full picture. If you play flexibly with the outcome it would be easier to make adjustments in the system and keep going.
Ideally, your reviews are inputs for your projects and goals to always keep them in sync. Sort of endless cycles of analysis and execution. To be relevant one has to analyze all the variables and direct the course of action.
### Step 7. Define the timeframe
Set a specific timeframe. Divide it by your goal outcome to see how much time do you need for the task. It should give you a general idea of when you have to finish the work.
I usually divide long-term goals into smaller pieces depending on the outcome. During weekly and monthly reviews, I verify whether I am on the schedule. If I am not, it is time to analyze what is going wrong and adjust the course of action.
### Step 8. Set a reward
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation occurs when you are driven by primary rewards, such as survival, reproduction, or pleasure.
Extrinsic motivation, on the opposite, relates to external, associative rewards. Examples of extrinsic rewards are money, customer loyalty, or trophies. The benefits of such rewards are learned and translated into primary rewards.
Sometimes you may feel unmotivated and will need a little nudge. Think of both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to improve your mindset.
### Step. 9 Assign Actions to Projects and Outcomes
Now it's time to assign a few actions to make things moving. Make sure each project has at least a few actions assigned. I use a GTD dashboard to track my actions and see if any of my projects stuck. You can read more about setting up [GTD in Notion](https://www.maray.ai/posts/gtd-notion) and implement them in the goals system.
### Step 10. Listen to the feedback and adjust the flow
Now you know that the whole goal-setting structure is designed in a way to give you constant feedback. It is dynamic and flexible. When a link in the system breaks, use the feedback to adjust your actions until you have a flow that works for you.
The most important part of the whole flow is your identity and the changes you are willing to make. After all, it requires a lot of commitment, effort, and learning to succeed. Improve each day, and you will get to your dreams.
## Why Notion is good for setting and tracking goals
As you can see setting goals is not enough. There are more things involved in success. Identity changes, tasks, outcomes, and knowledge make a coherent system that pushes your goals.
With Notion, it's easy to relate to different databases and extract useful information. You can find the tasks that relate to a particular goal or habits and projects that you created as the means towards the goal. Also, it's very handy as a digital tool for tracking your goals weekly and monthly, then adjust and set again your priorities and goals.
## What to do next
Self-reflection, goal setting, and system building will help you to align your actions with your goals. Instead of blindly following a goal that might not make you happy in the end, it is better to understand why do you want it and what do you need to trade-off for it.
- You can support my work by purchasing the full goals system
- Explore my Life OS
- Read about my new GTD in Notion
- Thinking about blogging? Here is a Content Management System with a blog post template
- Also, don't forget about journaling. Here's how I do daily journaling in Notion
Once you build a proper system that integrates well into your life, achieving goals will become a fun journey.