How to Achieve More with Bundled Goals

Two Methods:Planning Your GoalsAchieving Your Goals

You've probably heard the expression "one thing at at time." Indeed, trying to pursue too many goals at once can make it hard to make progress on any of them.[1] In some cases it can reduce your overall productivity.[2] But, in some cases, working on a few related goals can result in achieving more. Make sure your goals compliment each other, and you may find that having several goals can lead to bigger achievements.

Method 1
Planning Your Goals

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    Make a list of specific goals. In any goal-setting process, it is important to be as specific as you can about what you want to achieve. This is doubly important when trying to set complimentary goals. That's because you need to be able to look carefully at your goals to see how they can work together.
    • Make a list of potential goals. Don't worry at this point about how many it will be possible to achieve.
    • For each major goal that you have, try to make it very specific, defining your terms as well as you are able.[3] It's not enough to say you want to be healthy, for example. Most people want that. But what does that mean to you?
    • It's important to be as detailed as possible. If one of your goals is to learn to dance and the other is to get in shape, those goals might work well together. It will be easier to make that judgement if know what kind of dancing you are hoping to learn. Likewise, the fitness goals you want to achieve can also be better specified. Are you interested in losing weight? Building muscle? Both? Some dance styles will contribute more to one of those goals than the other.
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    Look for overlap. Once your list is complete, look for goals that relate to one another. You should make note of any goal that could contribute in some way to another goal on the list.
    • At this point, you can start to create potential goal bundles. You should indicate these on your list. You can use different symbols or different colored highlighters to note which goals might go together.
    • For example, you might have a set of goals that all contribute to physical fitness. Or, you might have a cluster that all contribute to career or intellectual development.
    • Some research has shown that working on goals that compliment each other simultaneously can lead to better results and more more follow-through.[4]
    • You can leave aside goals that don't seem to fit in any bundle for now.
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    Break your goals into steps. You can achieve almost any goal more easily if you break it down into its component parts. This gives you a list of tasks that are more manageable. It also helps you develop a concrete plan for achieving the goal.[5]
    • For example, if your goal is to lose forty pounds, you would have some steps related to diet, such as eating fewer sweets, eating more vegetables, etc. You would also have some steps related to exercise, such as getting a half an hour of exercise every day, possibly joining a gym, etc.
    • Once you've broken your goals into steps, see if any of your goals have steps that are the same or very similar. Hopefully, some of your bundles will include steps that allow you to make gains on more than one goal at a time. These are called "multi-final" tasks.[6]
    • For example, you might note that your goal of learning to dance involves taking a 30 minute dance class twice a week. This could become your workout for your weight loss goal on class days. Thus, these classes could advance both goals at once.
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    Set priorities. Before you start working on your goals, determine which ones are the most important to you.[7] Rank them if possible.
    • This will allow you to set work priorities if you don't have time to work on all your goals each day.
    • This is also a good opportunity to narrow your list down a bit. Trying to work on too many goals at once can be counter productive. The right number of goals will be different for each individual, but some people find about 10 to be manageable.[8]
    • Consider removing some of your less important goals, especially if they don't fit into any of your bundles of complimentary goals.
    • It is also important to be realistic about what you can achieve. Setting too many, too challenging, or downright impossible goals will make it harder to stay committed.[9]
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    Write a plan. Create a plan listing the steps for all the goals you plan to work on at once. Make sure to make note of places where you can make progress on several goals via the same steps or tasks.
    • Its a good idea to have a timeline and/or deadlines built into your plan. This will help you stay motivated and accountable. It will also help you track your progress so you have a sense of how well your plan is working.[10]

Method 2
Achieving Your Goals

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    Plan each day. Making steady progress on many goals requires you to be organized every day. Every morning (or the night before) decide on the tasks you want to work on that day.
    • Ideally, you should have at least one task related to each goal so that you make headway on all of them every day.[11]
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    Rank the day's tasks. Some days, you will not have enough time to work on every task you planned. Because of this, it's important to prioritize these tasks. That way, you are certain you are investing your time efficiently.
    • Your prioritized goal list and timeline will both help with this. Often, you'll want to put tasks related to the most important goals at the top of the list. Sometimes, you might need to prioritize another task that has a deadline that's fast approaching. Other times, you might want to prioritize a task that can help you make progress on more than one goal.
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    Start a routine. Dedicating specific windows time to work on your goals is a good way to ensure steady progress. It also helps you form good work habits that will make working on your goals easier.[12]
    • At the same time, be prepared to be flexible with your routine. Sometimes, the tasks related to one goal may have to take priority over others for a while.[13]
    • For example, imagine you are working on three related goals: a bachelors degree in drama, getting paid acting work, and rehearsing for a play you have already been cast in. You might set aside the hours of 3pm to 6pm for homework. After a dinner break, you set aside 7pm to 8pm for looking for jobs and scheduling auditions. You set aside 8pm to 9pm for practicing your lines for the play. These tasks work together and have the potential to contribute to one another sometimes. Your acting classes, for example, might help you be more successful at auditions. So, this is probably a good routine. But, right before the play opens, you might need to prioritize rehearsals over looking for work. Right before an important assignment is due, you might have to prioritize class work, and so on.
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    Track your progress. For any goal, keeping track of your achievements helps maintain motivation and steady progress.[14] This is especially important if you are striving for several goals at once, because it may be harder to keep track of your work on all of them.
    • Use a journal, app, or calendar to keep track of your progress. Track the work you've put in and the tasks you've achieved, and compare this to your plan.
    • If you are falling behind on one of your goals, you may need to prioritize it for a while. You may also need to revise your routine to ensure that you dedicate enough time to this goal.
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    Stay motivated. When working on many goals at once, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Thus, keeping your motivation levels high is crucial. Motivation and perseverance are essential to goal achievement.[15]
    • Use reinforcement to help keep up your motivation. Giving yourself little rewards for achieving tasks helps build a positive associations with working toward your goal.[16]
    • For example, after completing a major assignment for school, you might take yourself out for fancy dessert.
    • Make sure to build some down-time into your plan. It's easy to get burned out if you are always working on goals and never take a break. Burnout can lead you fall behind or give up.[17]
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    Be flexible. If you find that your goals aren't working as well together as you had hoped, be prepared to change your plan.
    • Working on complimentary goals can boost creativity, efficiency, and success.[18] But, trying to achieve competing goals can have the opposite effect. It can lead to none of the goals being achieved as well as you would like.[19]
    • If you goals end up being competing and not complimentary, use your priorities list to decide which ones to focus on.
    • If you decide one of your goals is actually not that important to you, drop it. You can switch it out for another on your list, or dedicate more time to the remaining goals.[20]


  • Refer frequently to your plan and priorities list. Especially on days when you don't have time for everything, this will help you make sure that progress is happening in the right places.


  • Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. This can become overwhelming, leading to less progress. It may even lead you to give up on all the goals you are working on.

Sources and Citations

  3. Fischhoff, B., Slovic, P., & Lichtenstein, S. (1988). Knowing what you want: Measuring labile values. Decision Making: Descriptive, Normative and Prescriptive Interactions, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 398-421. (Chapter 18)
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Categories: Goal Realization & Problem Solving