We all value the many different aspects of our lives.
Whether it's our career, business, relationships, health, hobbies, or something else, it's only natural to want to reach "level 10" in each of them.
But in the process of setting and accomplishing goals, we often find ourselves overwhelmed by #allthethings we want to do —
Get a promotion at work. Start your own business. Lose 10 pounds. Run a marathon. Buy your dream house. Find a partner. Grow your relationship with your partner. Start a family. Grow a family. Put your kids through college. Save for retirement. Give to charity. Invest wisely. Travel the world. Go on new adventures. Try new things. Eat different cuisines. And so on.
With so many goals, therefore, a common question that I'm asked by my coaching clients is:
How many goals is too many goals?
Before I answer, let's first consider information that's out there:
01 | Some sources will tell you to only set one goal at a time.
The idea behind this is that by focusing on a single goal, we can rally our resources and direct them all towards the same direction from start to finish.
02 | Others will tell you to only set three goals at a time.
The reason behind this is vague but it could be because of the "rule of three" or perhaps one is too little and four may be too many.
03 | Still others will tell you to set one goal for each aspect of your life.
They say it's best to have one goal each for your health, career, relationships, community, hobbies, etc. which is understandable because as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we all want to maximize each part of our lives.
Of course, there may be other sources telling you different numbers of goals. But what I realized from my research and experience is that it's not about the quantity of your goals.
It's about the quality.
Because no one else is familiar with your goals, no one can presume to tell you how many goals you should have at any given moment.
You might have big, ambitious goals like to earn $1 million income from your brand new business or complete an ultra-marathon within one year.
At the same time, you might have less time-dependent and energy-consuming goals like to read one book a month or start a travel fund.
And even if others do know what your goals are, they still need to be familiar with your unique situation.
Do you have prior business experience? Have you completed marathons before or are you a former professional athlete? Do you strongly dislike reading books? Have you always had trouble saving money? Are you a fresh grad? Are you a single parent with three children and two jobs?
Depending on your situation and background, you may be able to accomplish multiple goals relatively faster, easier, or more effectively. You may even be ready to take on more than one goal at a time, in the same aspect of your life.
Just think of high achievers like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, or Tim Ferriss who have had several accomplishments.
And so, my answer to the question "How many goals is too many goals?" is this:
Consider your constraints.
With each person's varying goals and situations, constraints are what we are all bound by and are what we can all manage.
While there are numerous constraints you can consider, here are the four core constraints that are most important in terms of goal-setting.
01. Time constraint
You know this by now. We all have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. And when it comes to determining how many goals is too many goals, how much time you can allocate and how much time you're willing to contribute are important factors to consider.
For example, a person who's single with one job and no children might have more time to contribute towards starting his/her own business versus someone who is a President of multiple companies and also a parent with three children.
02. Energy constraint
Even if two people work the same hours of 9 to 5, one person's job may be more tiring than the other's. So if you're attempting to set and accomplish multiple goals, consider how much energy you can and are willing to allocate towards the necessary work to turn your goals into reality.
For example, even if you have time at night and in the weekend to start your own business, you could still be exhausted from work during the day/week and therefore have less energy.
03. Attention constraint
Not many people will consider attention as a limited resource but imagine that you are trying to start your own business and you've set aside the entire weekend to work on it. You've even slept 10 hours on Friday night to ensure you have maximum energy.
But what if you have a meeting on Monday morning with several CEOs in your industry. Or if you recently found out that a relative has gotten sick. Or there is on-going construction noise coming from the house beside yours.
In these scenarios, even if you have time and energy, your attention (or lack of it) could be a hindrance to you working on your goals.
04. Money constraint
The fourth and last constraint you should consider is money. While some goals do not require a money investment, there are others that will.
For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, you could opt for free training like running around the park or along the beach. On the other hand, you could hire a trainer or join a paid accountability program with other runners. Another example is if your goal is to start a business, maybe your could begin by being a solopreneur or decide to hire an entire team right at the outset.
Still, other goals might not be too flexible. If your dream is to buy your own house, you definitely need to consider the downpayment and monthly payments (or the full amount if you have it). Or if your goal is to invest in bonds or the stock market, then you'd need to have the money to do so.
Each person's goals, background, and situation are unique. While some people may be able to work on only one main goal, others may be able to manage five or more.
Rather than conform to an arbitrary number of goals, consider your constraints and how much of each resource you're willing to allocate.
And since these constraints are essentially limited resources, the key here is to prioritize the tasks that help you accomplish your goals. Focus on only one task at a time and evaluate how well you can fit each goals' action steps into your daily schedule.
Share in the comments below: What was your biggest takeaway from this post? How many goals are you currently working on right now?