The Power of Writing Down Goals

Just got this email from a reader of the blog. I think you’ll appreciate it :)

I just wanted to comment about the power of writing goals down.

For the first time this year, I wrote down eight financial goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

They were:

  • Pay off two credit cards (both already at 0%)
  • Save up and pay property taxes before due date
  • Create new wills and a trust
  • Go on a vacation (first time in four years)
  • Resolve an issue with my husband’s last employer
  • Update both of our passports
  • And install a closet organizer in the den.

I decided to add the financial goals to the same spreadsheet where I track income and expenses, so I could look at it every time I’m in there (on and off all day). I also decided to number the goals in order of importance and time constraints.

I’m happy to report that, as of this weekend, the bills are paid off, the property taxes are paid (six weeks ahead of schedule), we already had the appointment with the attorney to write up the new wills and create the trust (we’re waiting a few weeks for the drafts), I made reservations for the islands in May and paid the deposit, the issue with my husband’s prior employer has been resolved, our passports are in the mail being processed, and the organizer was installed in the den!

Actually seeing the goals in front of my eyes several times a day, and every time I posted a payment, a bill and/or a deposit, really helped keep me on task. Similar to my “to do” list at work, I was constantly reminded of where my money should be spent.

I’m so happy with the results, I’m going to add a few more financial goals to work on (since there’s nearly ten months left in the year).

F’ing love that. Look how much she’s accomplished in only a couple of months?? And they’re not all easy ones either. In fact, the goals themselves aren’t even the important takeaway her. It’s the *method* she used that’s killer. In particular:

  • Writing the goals down
  • Putting it in a place you see several times a day
  • Numbering them in order of importance and/or time constraints

Perhaps after they nag you/excite you day in and day out you’re more inclined to take action? Or maybe our minds are just too packed with info these days that the important stuff gets overridden and forgotten over time? Who knows…

Either way, this girl is killin’ it, and I hope you take a few secs to consider doing the same. It may not be as magical for all of us, but we gotta keep trying out new ideas until we find the one that lights the biggest fire under us. Whatever gets us to our goals faster, right?

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the awesome comments below. There are some pretty clever tricks to helping yourself lose weight, and even pay off bills. Like making your passwords to accounts “Payoffbills” haha… Brilliant!

[Hieroglyphics photo by kevingessner]]

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  1. a terrible husband... March 25, 2014 at 6:02 AM

    So true. And so cool. I write down my goals every year. My issue has been writing them down and filing them away from time to time. But since I’ve written them down and kept them where I can see them I’ve enjoyed the full effect of the goal setting process.

    Love how the reader is CRUSHING it in 2014!

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:29 PM

      Yeah, that 2nd part of being able to SEE them is an important one. Oddly enough it’s what I do with my new coins that I pick up too before I store them away in my collection. Gotta appreciate them before you forget!

      (and now, I shall shamelessly promote my post on it:

  2. Dee @ Color Me Frugal March 25, 2014 at 6:29 AM

    I’ve just started writing down goals (and posting them on my blog) as my new year’s resolution for 2014, and so far it has been a powerful motivator. In fact, the entire reason that I went around my house this past weekend listing items on Ebay was because I had written it on my March goals list and I didn’t want to have to publicly admit that I failed to do it! Which brings up an important piece of goal-setting: accountability. I am accountable to my readers, which provides extra motivation and gets me to do all the crap that at baseline I am too lazy to do :-)

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      YES! Perfect! Blogs are great for this stuff!! (And don’t forget that it’s OKAY to fail too and report it – people like seeing that you’re human just like them as well :))

  3. Catherine March 25, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    It can be so easy to lose sight of what is important for us and having them stare your in the face everyday is key to making them happen. Good for her!

  4. Catina Mount March 25, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    This is awesome! Congrats!

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:31 PM

      It’s a good thing you challenged that doubt then – smarty :)

  5. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer March 25, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Okay, I’m totally motivated now to write down our goals where I can see them every day. Thanks, J$! :-)

  6. Brit March 25, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    I love this because is to true. Goals motivates you and keeps you going. I started writing goals and it sure enough changed my life. Good for her! I’m sure she will enjoy her vacation more.

  7. Camille @ Challenge Mantra March 25, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Get it girl! I did the same thing when I graduated and made my first financial goals spreadsheet. “Get a job, invest in the stock market, buy a car, move out on my own, emergency fund, start a Roth, get married” have all been checked off. Only things left are “double my income by age 30” (I’m close!), “grad school”, and “buy a house”. Goals can be so powerful when you have them in front of you!

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      Ooooh I like that double your income one!

  8. Money Beagle March 25, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Having goals to work toward is the number one key to actually achieving the goals. Writing them down and putting them in an order are great ways to push along that process.

  9. John @ Sprout Wealth March 25, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    Man, she is killing it! Way to go on the goals in such a short span of time. I always used to avoid writing down my goals and was always frustrated when I wouldn’t reach them. I changed that a number of years ago and saw what I had been missing out on for so long. That’s what I love about sharing them on the site as well, you instantly increase your level of accountability. :)

  10. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life March 25, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    That’s great for her! I did the same thing this year and I can say it definitely has helped! Some of the goals that people thought would be impossible I’m still on track to meet. You can’t escape what you see everyday!

  11. Crystal March 25, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Our financial goals are written down, but I should put them somewhere that I’d see them a few times a day. Way to go to your reader!

  12. Melissa March 25, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    So effing inspiring. I’m a list person and this really does it for me. Can’t wait to start moving my goals around and putting them in new places to see if I can actually make them happen! Way to go, lady friend. Crushing it for sure.

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:40 PM

      Try sticking them on your computer screen/laptop – that’s what works the best for me :)

  13. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply March 25, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    Very true…sometimes I’ll make a “mental goal” but I usually forget about it or I won’t accomplish it. There’s something about it being written down where it gnaws at me if I don’t cross it off from my to-do list that motivates me to take action.

  14. Cassie March 25, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    It’s such an effective tool. You don’t even have to know how you’re going to complete the goals either!

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:41 PM


  15. Raquel@Practical Cents March 25, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    Simple but effective. I love that. I like finding simple solutions to problems. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Leslie Beslie March 25, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    Looks like a to-do list to me. There is supposed to be a difference between “goals” and “tasks.” Updating passports is most certainly a task.

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:42 PM

      Even if the tasks lead to the goals you’re shooting for?

  17. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich March 25, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    One of my goals for 2014 is to lose some of the weight I put on while I was on tour. I write it on a white board and slapped it up on the fridge. And I add my weight at the end of each month to it. It’s pretty much the first time I’ve ever committed to losing weight and having it work.

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:43 PM

      Oh woww….. that’s a GREAT idea! On the fridge too – right where all the yummy food is!

  18. Syed March 25, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    As they to us in the healthcare profession, write it down or it never happened!

  19. John Wolf March 25, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    J (and blog reader with the post),

    This is a GREAT idea. I have a white-board at work that tasks get written on and I have some little magnetic frames with things I want in them. …garage, pool, seadoo, etc. Well, while I really would like a garage, I’ll probably not get one unless I get a new house. Same with the pool. The Seadoo just adds to the problem. My debt problem. SO… now, in one of those frames, is a picture of a person jumping in the air with the words “Debt Free”. I’m happy to say that I’ve paid off three of my low-hanging credit card bills so far. I look at that little picture every day. I know it helps. One extra thing I do though, is create actionable passwords to log in to my work computer; such as: “Payoffbills”, “Payoffcredit”, or even “Workoutmore” (that one didn’t work!).

    Keep up the good work J!

    1. J. Money March 25, 2014 at 8:45 PM

      HAH! Super clever!!! I wonder how many times you’ll be typing some of those out until it actually becomes true :) You should make a tick mark every time on a pad of paper, haha…

      Thanks for sharing – brilliant.

  20. prosperousnotforprofit March 26, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    Great post and great ideas! I personally make monthly goals that fit in with my big year ones and check up on their progress every month, but maybe I should start just writing them write next to (or in) my spending tracker. And I thought I had the spending tracker mastered! Thanks for the great tip

    1. J. Money March 26, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      It’s all about tweaking it for better efficiency over time!! Do it DO IT!!!

  21. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen March 26, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    To do lists! I love writing everything I need to do down because then it’s so satisfying to cross them off. It also reminds me too and gets me motivated. Sometimes it’s a drag because the list keeps growing no matter what I do, but I keep plugging away.

    1. J. Money March 26, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      One of the best feelings in the world, crossing those off :)

  22. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance March 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    I’m all about writing down goals. Sad but true, I used to be a bit chunky (read: fat) and one of the best things I ever did was write down my weight loss goal and stick it somewhere I would see it everyday. It obviously wasn’t the reason I lost weight, but was a motivation for me to stay the course. I do the same thing now with finances. I hope it pays off and my bank account grows fat. I don’t mind if that sucker balloons up.

    1. J. Money March 27, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      HAHA Love it.

  23. Mr Ikonz @ Project Ikonz March 26, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Writing down goals is certainly powerful…
    Putting them online is even more powerful! If you have people regularly following your blog, you’ll absolutely try to achieve your goals.
    By posting my net worth update online each month, it keeps me on track (especially now that you and I are racing towards $1m!).

    1. J. Money March 27, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Agree with that, brotha!

  24. Jacob March 27, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Love this. I need to write “Pay off student loans” on like 100 sticky notes and put them EVERYWHERE. I’m talkin’ computer screen, back of smartphone, toilet seat, baby’s head….EVERYWHERE.

    Thanks for the inspiration :)

    1. J. Money March 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      Don’t forget the undies drawer too. That’s the magical one right there ;)

  25. Mortgage Free Mike March 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    These comments are awesome.

    In addition to just writing down my goals, I post a picture on my refrigerator. I’m a visual person, so that picture (of the beach) helps.

    I love the password trick as well.

    My passwords include positive affirmations. Think: urWORTHY, urSMART, urLOVED. My friends think this is crazy, but it’s a good way to remind yourself to stay positive throughout the day.

    1. J. Money March 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      Love that!!! And obviously it’s working for you so no one can hate on it ;)

  26. Jenni Tulip March 28, 2014 at 5:50 AM

    I strongly believe in writing goals down or having something visual as a reminder in a prominent place. We are saving up for a plot of woodland and have a picture of woodland on our wall given to us my sister-in-law as a reminder of our goal. It really works. We look at it every day. When one of us is tempted by festival tickets or holidays the other points to the picture and suddenly the β€˜want’ for other things slips away :)
    Miss Tulip
    The Thrifty Magpies Nest

    1. J. Money March 28, 2014 at 12:00 PM

      Perfect :)

  27. @freepursue April 30, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    Thanks for sharing your reader’s email. How inspiring!

    I think what’s key about your reader’s story, and Frugal Fringe’s post you linked to above, is constant focus. She developed a very specific list, kept track and had a deadline. What you focus on gets done. Period.

    I love using graphs to track progress and stay focused. I find they help visually. I first started using them for personal goals when I read “Your Money Or Your Life”. In fact, I’m starting a one-month decluttering challenge tomorrow and will be tracking my progress daily. If the trend lines are not going the way they’re supposed to, I know I’m in trouble and I’d better shape up.

    1. J. Money May 5, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      Nice! I love decluttering challenges cuz you get rid of sooooo much! And it frees up the brain even more so. I hope you stick with it and come out on top my friend :)

  28. Sher@FatGuySkinnyWallet April 30, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Very inspiring, J! I love lists, and I write a lot of goals down. Unfortunately, sometimes I ignore the lists :-). The one thing I believe is that I should be faithful to the things I set out to do, and so I’ve recently started to look through the lists and cross things off. It has been wonderful, and I hope to keep going.

    1. J. Money May 5, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      It’s always a work in progress, right? Keep doing your best and hopefully the habit will stick :)