Backward Goal Setting.

In planning, most of us would usually start building our plan from start to finish. What do you have to do first, second, third, and so on?  What milestones do you have to reach before you can continue on with the next step in the plan? By what does each step need to be completed?

A New Approach.

A simple but lesser-used method of goal setting that can be equally as powerful – is called backward planning, backward goal-setting, or backward design.It’s used quite often in education and training. The idea is to start with your ultimate objective, your end goal, and then work backward from there to develop your plan. By starting at the end and looking back, you can mentally prepare yourself for success, map out the specific milestones you need to reach, and identify where in your plan you have to be particularly energetic or creative to achieve the desired results.

The Backward Planning Process:

  1. Write down your ultimate goal. What specially do you want to achieve, and by what date?
  2. Then ask yourself what milestone you need to accomplish just before that,  in order to achieve your ultimate goal. What specially do you have to do, and by when, so that you’re in a position to reach your final objective?
  3. Then work backwards some more. What do you need to complete before that second-to-last goal?
  4. Work back again. What do you need to do to make sure the previous goal is reached?
  5. Continue to work back, in the same way, until you identify the very first milestone that you need to accomplish.

When you read a backward plan, it doesn’t look much different from a traditional forward plan. However, creating a backward plan is very different. You need to force yourself to think from a completely new perspective, to help you see things that you might miss if you use a traditional chronological process.

This can also help you avoid spending time on unnecessary or unproductive activities along the way. Further, it highlights points of tension within the plan, showing where you’ll need to be particularly creative to make the next step successfully.

On the whole, backward planning doesn’t seem much different from traditional-goal setting processes. You start with a basic vision, and then you ask yourself what needs to be done to achieve that vision. You can read your plan from the  beginning to the end, or from the end back to the beginning.

Backward planning, however, is more than reversing the direction of your traditional plan. It’s about adopting a different perspective and, perhaps, identifying different milestones as a result. It’s a great supplement to traditional planning, and it gives you a much fuller appreciation for what it may take to achieve success. After all, the more alternatives you have, the better your final plan will likely be.

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