A link to a printable version of this blog post and the Excel spreadsheet that contains the printable worksheets can be found at the end of this article.
I wrote this with the idea of teaching how to break down a year long, or multiple year long, goals into manageable chunks using the 3×6 framework. The idea of using a 3×6 system is to accomplish as much as possible in an organized, but intense, way. There might be some ambitious goal seekers that would want to tackle an entire year of setting and achieving goals like I demonstrate in the examples within this post. With that being said, I understand that many people might not have the means or the desire to work so intensely towards a fully loaded, eight session year. I understand that there might be some reading this that would rather take on each session as it comes. This is perfectly fine. I wrote this with the intent for it to be a guideline in breaking down long term goals. While you might not want to participate in every single session, I am sure you might be interested in at least seeing what a year’s worth of accomplishment might look like. Other than the dates of each session, this is a very loose system, and you can come and go from session to session as you please. Regardless of how much you want to participate, if you want to dominate this year, read on!
Introduction to Breaking Down Long-Term Goals
3×6 goals are intense. Accomplishing three different goals over a six-week period is a demanding task. Fortunately, confronting such an undertaking does not have to be difficult. Anything is possible with proper planning and determination. This post will assist with the planning, mapping, and breakdown of ambitious goals. Whether goals are based on daily activities, annual outcomes, projects, events, or any other form of accomplishment, they can all be broken down into six-week periods. The first important topic to delve into is the limitation of time. The second portion of this post will help to classify different types of goals. The final section will detail how each 3×6 session relates to annual goalsetting. Let’s get started.
Time and Its Limitations
Each year has fifty-two weeks, but given the structure of the 3×6 system with sessions running for six weeks at a time, we can only fit eight sessions into a full calendar year. Therefore, a session-based year is really only forty-eight weeks long. But don’t let that confuse you. While forty-eight weeks might sound like a large chunk of time, when broken down into eight, six-week increments, the sessions seem to fly by. Six weeks is only forty-two days, or roughly a month and a half. The six-week period might feel daunting as you work towards some goals, but it might feel motivating as you work towards others.
It’s no secret that there are only twenty-four hours in a day. Unless you have developed a polyphasic sleeping schedule, the typical human needs between six and eight hours of sleep a day. This leaves us with about sixteen hours of useful time to work on accomplishing the things we want and need to do. Factor in a forty-hour work week, basic self-care, and other responsibilities, and that twenty-four hours really shrinks down. With these factors, let’s just say that the average person might have extremely limited amounts of time to work on accomplishing somewhat demanding goals.
I don’t bring up the idea of limited time as a reason to scare you, but more as a means to motivate you to spend adequate time planning out each 3×6 session as it relates to your annual goals. This type of detailed planning should start at the broadest level (annually) and finish at the lowest level (daily). This type of planning doesn’t necessarily have to be “I will do this on this day”, but more like “This is my yearly big picture goal, what do I need to include within my session goals to get there?”. From there it breaks down to session planning, then weekly planning, and if you really want to get your hands dirty, you can get in to daily planning and hourly planning. For some goals, this level of management might be necessary, but most goals might only require a level of planning that only goes session deep.
It is important to remember that the amount of time required to achieve goals varies. Some goals might require fifteen minutes of effort each week, while other goals might require an hour every day. When selecting goals, setting milestones, or breaking your goals into manageable chunks, practice good time management.
I will go deeper into the nitty-gritty of breaking down goals towards the end of this post, but first it is important to understand the differences between the types of goals you might want to accomplish.
Not every goal is the same. Some goals take longer than others to complete. Some goals require intense focus and organization. Some goals consist of simple checklists. Even other goals might consist of finishing an event or project. Using the 3×6 system simplifies planning for and implementing various goals. In order to understand how to implement different types of goals, it is important to know what those types are.
First and foremost, faux-milestone goals are the types of goals that people always make around New Years. “I want to buy a house by the end of next year”, “I want to hike more”, or “I want to focus on doing more art” are all phrases I heard leading up to the end of 2018 and these are all excellent goals! However, when asked for further details about what type of house and where, or what kind of hikes, or even how much art, the ambitious goal seekers were clueless. This isn’t their fault, as New Years is a time to think ambitiously about the possibilities of the upcoming year. Unfortunately, these ambitious goals are just dreams and wishful thinking. These are destinations with no real milestones or set routes. Real milestone goals have clear destinations and a set route to reach that destination. The 3×6 framework is excellent for milestone goals as it quite literally provides an itinerary detailing the path to success. Traditional faux-milestone goals rely on a daily or weekly succession of activities or events, where a real milestone goal breaks the trip into manageable distances. The following example gives a brief overview of the differences between the traditional faux-milestone goal and a well-planned milestone goal.
As an example, if I want to set aside money all year with the prospects of having $10,000 of side money by the end of the year, to realize this goal, I would actually have to figure out how much money I would need to make each week in order to make that goal a reality. Traditionally, using a fifty-two-week year would require me to earn an extra $835 a month, $193 a week, or $27.50 each day. Now, using the traditional method I might tally the money up at the end of each month, week, or day, but what happens if I fail to make the proper amount by the specified time? What accountability would I really have? As most people are aware, missing one day might lead to missing two days, then a week ends up passing, and a month, then the next year rolls around and you never made the $10,000 you hoped to. How do you avoid these pitfalls?
Using the 3×6 system is a possible solution to these kinds of pitfalls. Separating the year into eight, six-week chunks will allow you to stay on track and take corrective action before you completely forget about your goal. As mentioned earlier, the 3×6 system really equates to working at your goal eight different times over the course of forty-eight weeks. True, you will have to earn more per session/week/day in order to hit the $10,000 goal ($1,250/$209/$30), but the start of each session allows for a new monetary goal, and the end of each session allows for a time of reflection to correct past problems if needed. Breaking the goal up into sessions also allows you to analyze what more is needed in the next session if you fell short in the previous session. It is true that throwing money into a jar with no real plan might net you an extra $10,000 at the end of the year, but using a set framework such as the 3×6 system will dramatically increase the chance of success.
Given the previous example, it is possible to achieve a faux-milestone goal, but having a real milestone goal that will help you understand the end point is vital to a goal’s achievement. The time limit mentioned earlier is real. If you have a limited time to travel from point A to point B, I am sure you would check a map or a navigation system periodically to ensure you were at least on track. Why wouldn’t you do the same for a goal? The 3×6 system allows you to do this as long as you have a solid understanding of your milestone and what it will take to reach it.
Habit Forming Goals
Habit forming goals are probably one of the most widespread goal types, especially when it comes to New Years, personal goals, and people that have set schedules, whether at work or home. Habit forming goals consist of goals such as working out every day, eating less, reading more, or anything that sounds similar. These goals are typically continuation goals where people want to perform a task or action consecutively in the hopes that it becomes a habit or major lifestyle change. There are hundreds of checklists online that help cater to these goals with the hopes that a user might be able to track their progress and follow through with abstaining from, or practicing, their desired “thing” every day for an entire year. That works sometimes. Sometimes the little bit of change and formality a checklist brings is enough to help someone make it an entire year! Unfortunately, if the only planning that goes in to a yearlong accomplishment is a single checklist, the odds are against the goal seeker. In all honesty, many of my personal 3×6 goals are contrived from habit forming goals, but I adapt them to work within the 3×6 system. This can be done by creating an end goal, and then working backwards from that point. In short, turning a habit-forming goal into a milestone goal. By applying the 3×6 framework to a known endpoint, the required work becomes apparent and you can take a realistic approach to achieving your end goal. In using this system, your original annual goal becomes eight smaller goals.
If the goal is to work out every day, maybe that translates to wanting to work out for at least thirty minutes a day. To find the “milestone” see how many minutes you would have to work out if you worked out for the entire life of your annual goal. If you use the eight 3×6 sessions as the year you want to base your “milestone” off of, then you would simply multiply thirty minutes by three hundred and thirty-six days (the total number of days in all eight sessions). Instead of your goal being “I want to work out everyday” your new goal would be “I want to work out for 10,080 minutes before December 8th”. In the spirit of the 3×6 framework, you would then break that goal down into session sized samples, so the goal of each session might be “By the end of this session, I will work out for 1,260 minutes”. If you used this same goal for all eight sessions, you will have achieved your goal of working out every day for a year.
A question that comes up with highly motivated goal seekers is what to do after a goal becomes a habit. For many people there are multiple habits they would like to form over the course of the year, and they do not want to waste their sessions on just habit-forming goals. For this reason, I suggest starting Session 1 with one habit forming goal, and then adding new habits each following session. This makes somewhat of a daily habit routine and by the end of the year, you could have eight different habits stemming from one goal. You could also opt to keeping a tracker in which you track habit-based goals separate from the typical 3×6 sessions. Habit forming goals should be highly individualized and you should do what works best for you. (I personally keep my habit-forming goals separate from my 3×6 goals and I treat them more like job tasks that I continuously add to, but that will probably be a separate, future post.)
While performing a habitualized task is not a goal, one can develop a road map to hit specific milestones. Even though it is virtually the same concept as performing a task on a daily basis, breaking a large, year long goal into sizeable chunks provides you with a greater feeling of accomplishment after each session. This also allows you to pick up again if you fell off the wagon in the middle of a session. There will always be another session that you can crush!
What happens when there’s a goal that will take less than a year to complete, but longer than six weeks? For the sake of the 3×6 framework, these are called project goals. Project goals can encompass anything that takes longer than a session, but shorter than a year. Events, shows, work projects, writing a book, publishing an academic paper, or even completing a workout regimen could fit into this category. Like the other goal types mentioned prior, project goals should be broken down to fit within the scheduled sessions. This works well for those working on continuous projects where there might be multiple stages of preparation, implementation, and maybe even a marketing or promotional period. An example of an artist using the 3×6 framework to accomplish multiple project goals is shown in the table below.
As you can see, each goal is broken into three different segments: planning, showing, and marketing. The artists three goals for each session are planning an art show, showing an art show, and then marketing an art show. This works well for this artist, as she can continuously show her work while staying on track for her next show. There is never a period where she does not either have a show lined up, is active in a show, or is marketing to the connections she made at the previous show. As an example, when she is showing her Red show, she is also planning her upcoming Green show, and marketing the previous Blue show. If she continuously used this same frame work from year to year, the other “Random Goal” cells could contain last year’s shows and the future year’s shows.
To simplify this idea, in Session 6 her three goals are “Plan the Pink show”, “Implement the Orange show”, and “Market the Yellow show”. Her annual goal may be “Produce six art shows by the end of the year”, but the 3×6 framework allows her to focus on the individual parts of producing an art show which not only allows her to focus in on the important aspects of planning, showing and marketing, but also to multitask and continuously work on multiple shows at once.
After explaining the different kinds of goals, there are a few ideas that are consistent throughout each goal type. The major common theme is that goals must be SMART. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Constrained are much better than open ended “challenges” or continuation checklists. Even though goals might be vastly different, it is important to break goals down into milestones that can be worked towards on a periodic basis rather than an annual basis.
3×6 Goals and Annual Planning
Transposing annual goals into the 3×6 framework allows goal seekers the opportunity to gain a firm understanding of each one of their goals. While I have already discussed the process of breaking large goals down into smaller, more manageable chunks, I want to reiterate the importance of converting large goals into smaller goals. The whole process revolves around the idea of having eight, six-week sessions where three different goals are achieved within each session. This allows for twenty-four different goals, or segments of larger goals, to be completed each year. Breaking these larger goals down into smaller goals that can be accomplished within a six-week session makes weekly planning much simpler. Furthermore, breaking the six weeks into days might even be of further benefit to those with extremely busy schedules or highly demanding goals.
In the following figures and worksheets, I will show how I planned my year using documents that I will share. I will try to give an example of the different types of goals and my line of thought when it comes to specific goals.
Goal Master List
The first step is constructing a “Goal Master List”. This step required figuring out which goals I wanted to complete, how many sessions each goal might take, and what time requirements I needed to recognize. This might be the easiest part of the planning process, but remember to be honest with yourself when you determine how long each goal might take. Keep in mind that there are twenty-four slots to fill in the next form, so the total for the “# of Sessions Needed” column should be less than or equal to twenty-four.
The “Time Requirements” column can be used to determine which part of the year would be best to complete each goal. This could also work to help place sequential goals in order.
Session Goals Calendar
The next step is placing your goals into a session long planner, or “Session Goals Calendar”. This helps to show your goals as one big chronological picture. This step is important because it allows you to get a feel for the various goals you might be working on at one time. If you note the dates at the top of each column, you might be able to see how you can use this to plan out important events through the course of the year. For instance, since I plan on writing the majority of my first academic paper during May and June, I might not want to schedule other major events, trips, or projects during that time.
Since I mentioned breaking up project goals earlier in this post, I thought I could show how that works in this chart by color coding my various project goals. During this year, I have five different projects planned but instead of just stating the overall project goal in each session, I broke the project into parts that I plan to complete in their respective session.
Also, of note are the single session goals with asterisks. These goals are based on external time restrictions that I have no control over, such as the drone license testing which is only available on specific test dates. I can swap these goals around to fit in where they need to based on external scheduling.
The last step I take is developing a “Session Worksheet”. This is a breakdown of an individual session into six weeks. Each color-coded column shows the three goals that are to be accomplished during the session. The first row titled “i” is where you can write out your specific goals for the session. The rows running down the page allow for a week by week plan for each goal. I try to be as specific as possible in this section, but the amount of detail you include is your choice.
The tables on the right side feature an area to jot down daily habits that you might want to work on or are struggling with, as well as hindrances that might impact successful completion. The “Hindrances” table is broken down into two sections: Major and Minor. Each goal has a major hindrance and recognizing the hindrance is vital to successful goal keeping.
Major hindrances are issues that have to do with the very nature of your goal. For instance, my hindrance for Goal 1 is that I need good content to post each day. If I do not have good content, what would I post? My hindrance for Goal 2 has to do with hosting issues. I could build my entire site, but if there is a problem with hosting or domain registry, my goal will not be completed.
Minor hindrances deal with schedule conflicts, unexpected responsibilities, or other setbacks. Keep in mind that these should not be used as excuses, but instead as explanations that can be learned from for future sessions.
The forms I have posted and provided are the principle forms I use. I often keep an open-ended checklist in my phone that helps me ensure I am completing each task throughout each week, but sometimes it helps to have a physical weekly, daily, or even hourly planner. Since these are prevalent and readily available in other places, I won’t create one specific to the 3×6 process.
Hit the Ground Running!
Sorry for such a long-winded post. I truly feel that this amount of preparation is critical to achieving success in accomplishing your goals. While it may seem like a ton of information, once you start breaking your goals down using the forms I have provided, you will find that it is much easier than I have made it out to be. I wrote this in order to ensure that there is a basic understanding of what goals are and how goals fit within the program I am using and guiding you with. If you have any questions pertaining to these forms, different types of goals, or help prioritizing and scheduling the different sessions, feel free to contact me.
Link to Worksheets
You can find the link to the Excel worksheet and the printable version of this post here: Accomplish Everything! 3×6 2019: Breaking Down Goals