What is 5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method & How to Use it Effectively?

5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method has been popularized by Ryder Carroll in the book The Bullet Journal Method. It is a simple method that allows you to categorize and break down your goals in order to make them more manageable. This in turn means that you are more likely to actually achieve them.

Before You Start

Before you start using the method it is important to actually know what your goals are. To get started you may want to write down a list of all the things you would love to accomplish. You can include short-term and long-term goals. The idea is to come up with as many goals you’d like to achieve in the next five years as possible.

Categorize Your Goals

Once you completed the entire list, rewrite your goals under different categories. Most common categories include:

  • Personal Development / Education Goals
  • Personal Goals
  • Career Goals
  • Side Hustle Goals
  • Financial Goals
  • Social Life Goals
  • Travel Goals
  • Self-Care Goals

If there are other categories that are not listed here, but are important to you, add them to the list.

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Narrow It Down

Go over your list and see which goals from each category you’d like to concentrate on first. Pick five goals and arrange them according to priority or category; whichever makes more sense to you.

Identify Your WHY

Now, Identify your ‘why’ for each and every goal. Think deep. What will you gain from achieving this goal? How will it make you feel when you are successful?

When you identify and express why you want to do something, it is much easier to achieve it. The ‘why’ inspires and motivates you to take action. Your ‘why’ will serve as a reminder of the importance of this goal to your life. 

5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method

You’ve heard the saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

In a nutshell, the 5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method is just that.

It helps you divide your goals into smaller, more manageable goals and actionable tasks. Keeping your goals small and achievable will help you reach them faster.

5 stands for your 5 year goal.

4 stands for smaller goals that support your big goal and can be achieved within a 4 month period.

3 stands for goals or tasks that support your 4 month goals and can be achieved within 3 weeks.

2 stands for tasks that can be completed within 2 days and help you to get to your 3 week goal.

And finally, 1 stands for the tasks that will support your 2 day or 3 weeks goals and can be finished within 1 hour.

Let’s Break It Down!

5 Year Goals

You have decided on your most important goals for the next 5 years, now what?

Write each goal on a separate piece of paper. State your ‘why’ right underneath the goal. Your ‘why’ is a reminder of the big picture and the importance this goal has to your life.

Divide each page into 4 columns and on the top of each column write: 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days and 1 hour

Working backwards, divide your 5 year plan into 4 month goals. Then set 3-week goals within each 4 month period. And further narrow down tasks that can be completed within 2 days or 1 hours to reach your 3 week goals.

4 Month Goals

Look at your 5 year goal and break it down into smaller goals that need to be completed in order to reach your 5 year goal, but can be achieved within the next 4 months. Write those goals under your ‘4 Months’ column.

If you want to see the big picture, you can divide your entire 5 year goal into 4 month goals. You may consider dedicating a couple of pages to this process. In the end you will have 15 smaller, 4-month goals that you will strive to achieve during each period.

3 Week Goals

Once you have decided on the 4 month goal that you want to start working on immediately, identify even smaller goals or tasks that can be completed within 3 weeks. Set about 4-5 smaller goals. This will give you the flexibility to decide what you need to get started on first. In addition, it will allow you to proceed with confidence.

The goals that you’ll be setting here are much more tangible. The tasks that you set for yourself for this period of time should be actionable and measurable. When completed, they should provide you with visible results. Keeping your 5 year goal in mind, achieving your 3 week goal will motivate you to move forward.

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2 Day Goals

Now, list specific tasks that support your 3-week goal and can be accomplished in less than two days. 

Depending on how much time you have to dedicate to the 2 day tasks, you can schedule up seven of those for the next three weeks. Keep them specific, tangible and measurable. Be sure that they can be finished within that allotted time. Once done, check them off from your 3 week plan.

1 Hour Goals

Many of those 2 day goals can be further divided into 1 hour tasks. It would be beneficial to you to look at all of the 2 day goals you set for the next three weeks and turn them into several, 1 hour tasks. Write them down as they correspond to each of the 2 day goals and check them off as you complete them. The checking off process is very satisfying as it allows you to see how much you have accomplished already.

If you struggle with motivation to complete the required work, use Pomodoro Productivity Technique to get started. It will help you to chunk your time and set up a work plan that will improve your productivity in no time.

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Planning vs Producing

Once you use 5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method and go through the process and set up the plan, it is important to act on it. The plan itself won’t get you there on its own. So get started on your 1 hour and 2 day goals all the while keeping your 5 year goal and your ‘why’ at the back of your mind. 

Reflecting on Your Goals and Reviewing Your Tasks

When using 5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method, it is also important to review your tasks on a weekly basis. Writing them all in one place and checking them off as you complete them will bring you a sense of accomplishment. It will also serve as a reminder of all the things you have done, no matter how big or small, to move closer to achieving your goal.

Reviewing your goal will also allow you to see if you need to make any changes to the timeline. This is a perfect opportunity to add some tasks or removing small goals that no longer serve this goal. 

When things get tough and you feel like you may not be able to reach the goal, but you still really, really want it, don’t change your goal – change your process. Adjust your 3 week plan or your 4 month plan, to make it more manageable, but keep your goal. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

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4 thoughts on “What is 5 4 3 2 1 Goal Setting Method & How to Use it Effectively?”

  1. This is so awesome! Great tool for bloggers to map out their goals and get things accomplished. I feel like I already somewhat do this but without writing it down!

  2. Thanks for sharing this goal setting method. I’ve never liked the idea of setting goals because majority of the time I have difficulty following through on all of them. I tend to get overwhelmed by everything within a short space of time and then eventually forget about some of my goals. I really never thought of writing why I want to accomplish a particular goal. I believe doing this will help me to really focus more on setting and achieving my goals.


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