Having too many goals at once can distract you from your main goal and may lead to burnout. To avoid having too many goals, determine what is important to you, learn to prioritize, and slow down if necessary.
Successful people know they need to get many things done — and done effectively. Therefore, they concentrate their time and energy on doing one thing at a time and on doing first things first.Peter Drucker
Set aside time to plan how you will spend your time. Think about what is most important. Then do those things first.Frank Bettger
How many goals is too many?
Consider this: if you can’t invest as much time, energy, and attention in your main goal, that’s usually a sign that you are having too many goals at once.
There isn’t such a thing as an optimal number of goals simply because this would depend on too many different factors — including your own willpower and willingness to work toward those goals.
So the key is to look at your number one priority, your absolute most important goal, and see if other goals interfere with it. Examples:
- Your main goal is health but because of other goals you often end up sacrificing your sleep, diet, or emotional wellness. You may have too many goals at once.
- Your main goal is to finish a certain project as soon as possible, yet other goals take up several hours of your time each day. You may have too many goals at once.
How many goals should you have at once?
One would think that having just one goal and focusing all your attention on it would be the absolute best case scenario. And it is for some, but in general it’s not the optimal strategy.
Because the truth is that it’s virtually impossible to be dedicated to a single goal 24/7. If you make that your only aim, you’ll almost inevitably find yourself wasting a lot of time.
There is a sweet spot where you have one main goal, then one or two more goals, and enough free time for fun, relaxation, and wellbeing in general — that’s important too, you’ll burn out otherwise.
So my advice would be to start off with just one goal and then try to add more as you get comfortable. And if you only have limited time (e.g. because of your job) then guess what, the ideal number of goals could be one.
Having contradictory goals
Another thing to consider is whether your current goals or desires contradict each other (pull you in opposite directions). You want to be aware of this otherwise you may self sabotage. Examples:
- You are big into minimalism and want it to be your way of life, yet one of your goals is to own items that require excessive maintenance
- It would be easier to reach your financial goals if you moved to a different state or country, yet you also want to spend more time with your friends
- You get the chance to get hired for your dream job yet this would mean more work hours and less time for your hobby, which is also a goal of yours
That’s not to say that different goals cannot coexist. You just want to make sure all your goals don’t pull you in opposite directions and don’t cause any form of inner tension.
It’s hard enough to deal with external obstacles — you don’t want to be your own obstacle by having conflicting aims or desires.
Overwhelmed by too many goals? Do this
- Prioritize. And be realistic if necessary. You only have about 16 hours each day, 7 days each week, 360 days a year — that’s excluding time off, work that is unrelated to your goals, and whatever comes up unexpectedly. Time really is finite and you need to prioritize as much as you can to maximize chances of success.
- Go with your gut. When it comes to setting a certain number of goals, try to use your intuition and imagine a certain threshold. Perhaps five goals is too many? Maybe two goals is pushing it? Your intuition almost always knows because it sees factors that your rational mind alone wouldn’t take into account.
- Slow down. If time is never enough but you do want to achieve all your goals, because they all mean a lot to you — relax, there is no deadline other than the one you created. It is the goal itself that’s important, not how or when you accomplish it. Not only that, you’ll find that goals you thought were “too hard” can actually become easy if you give yourself more time.
- Think again. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate or even get rid of some of your current goals if this means more growth, progress, and happiness overall. Again, you have to know your priorities right now. Perhaps one of your goals isn’t as important as it used to be and if that’s the case then it may be wise to say goodbye to it.