How many times have you heard someone say that they do not remember anything unless they write it down? All types of people write many different things down on a regular basis, but are there tried-and-true reasons for this?

Does writing down your goals really mean you’re going to remember and accomplish them? If you’ve ever wondered why writing down goals is important, here are a few answers to that question, and some may actually surprise you.

How Should You Write Down Your Goals?

Why is writing down goals significant, and does it really improve the odds that you’ll accomplish those goals? Studies have proven that the answer is a resounding “YES.”

To begin with, in order to write down your goals, you have to first know what they are. Knowing that you’re getting ready to write down your goals means you have to first figure out what they are, which is easier to do once you know that they will soon be put in writing.

If you’re not sure what your goals should be, start by writing down a list of questions such as the following:

  • Do I want to learn a new artistic craft?
  • Do I want to improve the look of my body?
  • Do I want to make more money each month?
  • Am I ready to purchase my dream home?
  • What can I expect out of my current relationship?

Once you write down the questions, develop your goals for achieving what you’ve listed in each question. When you write down the details for achieving those goals, it is easier to make them big, lofty goals. Don’t be afraid to set big goals that you might consider unachievable right now. Once you start writing down those goals, this should be easy to do.

A sketch of a person's goals

You should also set very specific goals if you wish to achieve them. Saying, “I will lose 10% of my body weight in the next month” is better than saying “I want to lose 20 pounds sometime in the next year.” The more specific your goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them. They will also be much easier to measure when the time comes.

You should also add the following information to each of your goals:

  • Specific deadlines for reaching a goal, e.g., next month, within a year, etc.
  • Add a specific three-step plan to achieve each goal, e.g., “I will eliminate 500 calories per day from my diet”

If you list three specific steps to achieve a goal, you have something to shoot for. It also makes meeting those goals much easier and even quicker.

You should also write down your goals on paper. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many people attempt to write down their goals on envelopes, napkins, and many other items. This won’t work. Buy yourself a journal and use it specifically for your goals. This way, you can look at your list daily and revise it when needed.

Another tip that can make meeting your goals a lot easier is to cross them off your list once you’ve achieved them. If you’re like most people, your list of goals will be a long one. Crossing off the goals you’ve met makes you feel good about yourself. It also helps keep you motivated regarding the rest of them.

Here are a few other tips that can help you write down your goals:

  • Always use positive language
  • Look at the big picture and the small picture
  • Believe that you can achieve your goals before you write them down
  • Make a board with pictures describing your goals
  • Forgive yourself if you miss a goal

If you’re still not sure how to get started writing down your goals, use the SMART method. This means writing down goals that meet the following criteria:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-bound

Simply put, the SMART method increases the odds of writing down great goals and eventually achieving them.

Use the SMART method when writing down goals

Make sure your goals have a lot of details in them. They cannot be vague or the steps it takes to reach them will be vague as well. The more detail you have in your goals, the better the chance you’ll eventually be able to meet them.

Don’t let any goal contradict another one. Set your sights high but be realistic. If you make $40,000 a year, you cannot have the goal of buying a $1 million home. It’s not going to happen. You can set your goals high without being unrealistic. That’s what you should aim to do.

Finally, make sure your goals are something you really want – badly. Don’t write it down because it sounds good. It has to be something that you would love to see happen; otherwise, you’ll have trouble meeting your goals.

Why Written Goals Are So Important

In addition to clarifying your goals, writing them down also keeps you more motivated to take specific action to accomplish those goals. Every goal needs an action if you are going to achieve it. Writing down your goals means they are always in the back of your mind, keeping you motivated from then on.

Writing down your goals also helps you keep tabs on your progress. You’ve heard of people posting copies of their goals on the mirrors in their home. This is a great way to keep your goals in front of you at all times, which is a perfect way to keep track of the progress you’re making.

Your goals are also easier to visualize when you write them down. If you can see them in your mind, you are more likely to achieve them, and this is made possible by making sure all of your goals are in written form.

On a related note, written goals also keep you more focused until those goals are achieved. Distractions will always come your way, but they are easier to ignore when you’re focused. Writing down your goals increases your focus so those distractions aren’t such a game-stopper.

Writing down your goals also helps you set benchmarks for success. After all, few people achieve their goals in one fell swoop. Instead, people see their goals being met through several small achievements. All of these achievements should be celebrated, and writing your goals down helps you set those achievements from the beginning.

Having goals that are written down can also relieve a lot of stress. Achieving goals is wonderful, but it can be stressful as well. When you write down your goals, a lot of that stress can be eliminated once and for all.

It also helps you create a system that helps you achieve your goals. Whether you choose to automate, outsource, or perform tasks in a certain sequence, these systems help you achieve your goals. When you don’t write down your goals, these systems can’t be developed or utilized.

Writing down your goals also makes those goals tangible. Tangible goals are easier to measure and easier to fulfill. You can’t measure an abstract, but you can certainly measure tangible goals that are written down.

It also leaves no room to be uncertain about your goals, especially if you’ve been very specific with them. Writing down specific goals means you’ll know exactly what to do and when to do it. This way, there is no room for thinking, “what if I … instead?”

This doesn’t mean that goals can’t be revised or changed. It just means that once goals are described the right way in writing, you are less likely to fudge on one of the steps or eliminate it altogether.

You can also check your goals regularly if they are written down. You can measure your progress at these checks, and if you’re meeting your goals, you’ll have a reason to celebrate your achievements. If you’re not, you may need to revise a goal or decide to keep moving forward until you’re successful.

Having goals that you know are written down will make you want to look at them regularly. This gets you into a routine, and that routine can go a long way toward helping you achieve your goals. Routines are great devices for keeping you focused as well, which also helps you meet your goals.

Writing down your goals can clear your mind so that you can move onto the next step. It eliminates fogginess in the brain and enables you to concentrate only on what is important. In other words, it gets rid of what’s unimportant so that you can concentrate better on what is important and what you wish to accomplish.

Writing down your goals can even help you discover new things about yourself. If you are honest and do it right, writing down your goals will reveal to you what is really important in your life. It tells you when to slow down or speed up. It also shows you the areas you need to focus on and the areas that aren’t so important anymore.

When you write down your goals, those goals go from something you want to something you have to have. This gives an urgency to them, which means you’ll work harder to accomplish the goals. It may even become an obsession, which is not such a bad thing.

How Does Writing Down Goals Work?

Researching why writing down goals is important will bring you to the “how” of how writing down your goals works. Writing down goals directly affects your brain. Developing goals and writing them down allows you to use both sides of the brain. This includes the left, or literal side, and the right, or imaginative side.

Writing down goals directly affects your brain

Because you’re using both sides of the brain, you’re more likely to remember, strive for, and achieve your goals in the end. It opens up your subconscious mind and allows for more productive thinking and behavior. The more parts of your brain you use, the bigger the chance of being successful in the end. It is just that simple.

Writing down goals affects two levels of your brain: by using encoding, and by using external storage. Think of the external storage as the paper or journal you’ve used to write down your goals. They are visual cues that make viewing your goals regularly an easy task. They also keep them right in front of you, constantly reminding you of what you hope to accomplish.

Encoding refers to the process the brain goes through to consider what information is important and what is unimportant. When you write something down, it gets encoded into the brain as something important. This means you’re very unlikely to forget it. Moreover, when you remember something, you are much more likely to achieve it.

Some Final Points

In a very important study done in California at Dominican University, it was found that people had a 42% higher chance of accomplishing their goals if they wrote them down. That is not an insignificant number. This finding is particularly true if you write down your goals on a regular basis.

If you set goals and write them down, you achieve more of the following:

  • Confidence
  • Energy
  • Charisma
  • Purpose
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Purposeful life
  • Growth
  • Joy and happiness

Understanding why writing down goals is important also makes you realize that doing so will help you accomplish them in your life. Successful people set goals, and these goals are always in writing. Writing down your goals unlocks your potential and makes things happen for you. Some of these things may be things you never thought possible, but they are possible once you write them down.

It seems odd that simply writing down your goals can help you achieve those goals, but it works. If you make it a habit to write things down regularly, you’ll notice a pattern in your goals, likes, and desires. You don’t need a lot of time to do this, either. By simply writing things down for 15 to 20 minutes per day, you can keep your goals in perspective.

You’re also likely to find that the more you write and revise, the easier it becomes. In addition, if you visualize your success, it will become easier to be successful in meeting your goals. This is because once you believe you can do something, you are much more likely to achieve that particular goal in the end.