By Serenity Gibbons, local unit lead for NAACP

All of my accomplishments to date related to professional and personal development have come from setting specific short- and long-term goals. Without formalizing them, it's easy to let the daily routine and unexpected take over. Then, before you know it, years have passed without achieving the goals you had in mind. Here are four tips that I've used that might be helpful to other entrepreneurs who want to see their goals through.

1. Use a systems approach.

A systems approach segments your goals into different areas of your life. This goes beyond your average goal setting because it aligns an area where you want to get something done with the value that will be realized when it's accomplished. For example, my systems approach includes a project system, skills system, health and wellness system, home maintenance system and organization system.

With my skills system, when I achieve the items within this category, I will have improved my capabilities at work, contributed more to my organization and made myself a more attractive candidate in my career. With my health and wellness system, when I set aside time for the gym, meal planning and rest, I am more productive, energetic and less likely to get sick.

2.  Leverage technology tools.

I used to write all my goals in a journal. For some of you, that might still work. However, my travel schedule and free time don't always align with where I last left my journal. That's why I've switched to apps on my phone that allow me to track, update and reflect on my goals whenever I can.

While I have a digital journal within my notes app on my smartphone, I also use Trello boards to visually map out my goals and see achievements to date. Being able to add pictures and see a visual display of each goal makes them feel more real. That deeper connection through visuals is inspiring when it comes time to hold yourself accountable and get them done.

3. Simplify your goals.

It's human nature to make things more complicated than they need to be. We design complex goals with a million steps, which causes us to become overwhelmed and frustrated. Finally, we just give up on them. Let's take the example of losing weight. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, drop three dress sizes and run a 5K all in two months, it's not going to happen.

Instead, create more simplistic goals. These become small steps that eventually create real change in your life. Start with simple goals, such as joining a gym. Get to the gym three times a week during the first month, and then progress to five times a week in the second month. Put the weight and dress sizes on the back burner. When you start off with simplistic goals, the other accomplishments will follow.

The same can be done with professional goals. Don't make your goal to start a company or get promoted to an executive-level position right off the bat. Instead, identify skills and areas of improvement. Start with one of those by taking a course, working with a business advisor or doing research. These relevant steps will help you on your way to that larger, more complex goal.

4. Turn it into a competition.

I tend to be a competitive person, so it's helped me to turn my goal-setting into a competition with myself. While many people may not think they are competitive, you might be surprised once you create a competition that gives you something to beat. A good example is the 100-day challenge, often connected to fitness such as 100 days of planking or push-ups.

Now, those aren't my thing, but I did realize I could use it for just about anything in my systems noted above. For example, I gave myself the challenge of 100 days of learning a new skill and spent 100 days learning a programming language. It was well out of my comfort zone, but by the time the 100 days were up, I knew something new that I could put on the skills list of my resume. Try 100 days of reading more or being thoughtful to others.

Whatever you feel you want to improve on, setting specific goals over the short and long term will help you turn your aspirations into reality.

Serenity Gibbons is the local unit lead for NAACP in Northern CA. She is a former assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Published on: Aug 17, 2018