how to achieve goals with a support system

How do you stay on track with your most important life and career goals? Do you have people cheering you on and keeping you accountable?

I’ve achieved a lot in the past few years thanks to a core group of friends, some Trello boards, and a weekly meeting. We call it “Life Watchers,” and it’s changed our lives.

It may seem like a lofty undertaking but it’s an easy thing to set up and  it can mean all the difference in the world if you’re looking for a fun, supportive way to stay on track with your biggest aspirations. 

How Life Watchers Began

After college, a group of my school friends and I started working at the same creative agency. We grew and learned a lot together, but soon enough, it was time to go our separate ways.

While discussing how to stay in touch and keep supporting each other, we started to talk about our life goals in general, and my friend described their weight loss program. They shared how the program is not only about counting points, but also meeting with a group to stay accountable to goals each week.

However, the idea fits so much more than weight loss. You have an ultimate goal, but you have to acknowledge every milestone along the way, including wins and losses. 

We saw an opportunity to apply this idea to our own life goals and it was a great way for us to stay connected and also help each other find our next career moves. We called our meetings “Life Watchers” complete with cheesy slogan: “it’s like Weight Watchers, but for your life!”

Life Watchers: Rules To Grow By

We agreed early on that we didn’t want  Life Watchers to feel like a chore, or feel overwhelming like most goal trackers do. 

Based on this, and what we learned from Weight Watchers, we determined this list of principles:

  • Break your goal into milestones. Your milestones should be measurable or otherwise they’ll never be reached!
  • Celebrate every win, especially the unplanned ones! They’re your reminder of how great you are, and why you should keep going.
  • It’s okay to sometimes make no progress. Don’t dwell on it or be hard on yourself. Just acknowledge it, accept, and keep trying.
  • Effort, no matter how much or little, is still progress. Even thinking about your goals during the week counts as progress!
  • We hold each other accountable, we lift each other up, and we offer advice, but we never judge each other.
  • Each other’s success is also our collective success. 

I tried and therefore no one should criticize me GIF

Using Trello To Track Goals As A Group

We were already using Trello for managing projects at work, and then learned how Trello can be used to track personal ideas and projects, too. We adopted the idea, and created a Trello team for the Life Watchers crew. Each person created their own goals board, and created a few guidelines inspired by the Weight Watchers accountability premise.

Combined with Slack and Google Hangouts, we decided that we’d meet either in person or over video conference each week to review our boards and track our progress. 

We committed to some principles to make this a safe, non-judgmental space, and established our intentions for meeting. Life Watchers wasn’t really about setting goals and trying to achieve them, it was about supporting each other through our lives, no matter what that entailed. 

“What I love most about Life Watchers is that I never feel like I’m in it alone or that I’m the only one who is going through struggles in life. I realized that my friends are going through similar struggles sometimes and it feels good to just talk about my successes and failures and really feel like they care about what I’m going through, who I am and what makes me happy in life.” — Veronica-Ronit Bliman

We use our boards in a way that’s not your usual kanban flow. Rather than looking to empty “To-Do” and “Doing” lists as markers of progress, we create long and healthy list of cards in a “Wins” list and “Done” list to signify our  success. 

In a typical kanban flow, cards move through each list until the reach the end. Instead of moving cards to the end of the board to complete them, we keep the “Wins” and Done” lists front and center on the board.  By moving cards up to the front of the board, we can always be reminded of what we’ve accomplished. 

Disclaimer: We don’t usually finish all of these goals in a year! We’re human too, and have big dreams and a hundred little things we want to do on the side. We copy our unfinished cards into new boards every year. Some of these goals have been on our boards for several years—and still have yet to move forward, but that’s okay!

The point is that you have your goals and evidence of progress available to you, and you’ll get to most of them… eventually! 

there was an attempt GIF

Setting Up Your Life Watchers Trello Board

Everyone’s boards are a little different, but we have a template you can use to make your own! Here’s how to set it up with your Life Watchers team. 

Life Watchers Missions listOur “Life Watchers Missions” list is our version of an “In Progress” list. These are the goals we’re tasking ourselves to make progress on (not necessarily complete) between each time we meet.

Sometimes you have to put something on the back burner because life happens, and that’s more than okay. We love Trello for this because there’s no consequence to leaving the cards hanging around or moving them back into another list for safekeeping. 

“Wins” are to be celebrated! Add them to this list to remind yourself to keep going. We keep “Wins” close to our missions and toward the front of the board as a motivator and source of inspiration when things get hard. 

Life Watches Wins Card

You’ve finally opened that high yield savings account and bought tickets for your first trip to London! Add a  ✨or emoji to the list name to see confetti every time you complete a task. We keep the “Done” list close to the front of our board to remind us to always focus on what we’ve already done versus what we’ve yet to do.

For every other goal, idea, or challenge we’ve yet to tackle, most of us keep them in categorized lists. We’re often adding to these lists more often than we’re moving cards to “Done” because we always want to strive to accomplish more!

Sharing Your Success With Others

Most importantly, Life Watchers isn’t just a Trello board! It’s about sharing your journey with people you trust on a regular basis and being held accountable to your own aspirations for yourself. This is how we watch our life goals together:

  • We have a Trello Team which gives us automatic access to each other’s boards. We also use this team space to plan trips together and other fun stuff.
  • Every year, we make a new Trello board, usually copying last year’s board and updating it. This way you have a record of what you accomplished year over year, like a journal!
  • We have recurring video chats to do our check-ins in person, when we can. Ours are bi-weekly but choose the cadence that works best for your group. To make it even easier, add the Google Hangouts Power Up to your Trello board and everyone can jump onto a call right from your board.
  • During the call, everyone takes turns going through their board, discussing their progress since our last meeting,celebrating wins, and setting missions for the following week(s). If we didn’t make any progress on any of our goals, we acknowledge the reason why and how we intend to move forward.
  • Between check-ins, we’re usually bantering on Slack, sending each other articles about each other’s goals, or asking each other for advice. Remember, this is supposed to be fun! Slack Life Watches
  • If anyone can’t join the call, they update their boards and ping Slack to share their updated asynchronously. Automate this process by using the Trello Integration For Slack to send Trello updates straight to Slack.

Where We Are Today With Our Life Goals

Several years since we’ve all moved onto other jobs, we’re still doing Life Watchers! 

Life Watchers group

Our meetings have changed from weekly to bi-weekly. We’ve also added one of our other close friends from college to the group even though she wasn’t there at the start. Sometimes we meet for coffee, over dinner, or combine it with a holiday or birthday celebration. It’s mostly an excuse to catch up, or hang out—but that’s always been the goal of this group. 

We love using Trello because it’s so adaptable to how we’ve changed as a group and also for our growth as individuals. It’s flexible and forgiving to how we want to organize our own thoughts, but it’s still easy to understand to whoever we share it with. 

There’s no consequence to making a card for a goal and never doing anything with it, and it’s always there for us when we want to come back to it. If, say, I needed to rearrange my entire list of goals for the year, I can do it in Trello with no hesitation.

”Last year I set a goal to eat healthier, workout more per week, and pay off my credit card debt and every week we figured out where I was and how close I was to achieving my goals and what’s stopping me from getting there. We are also very empathetic towards each other and sometimes all you need is someone to listen to how your week went.”  – Life Watchers member

Upon reflection, we’ve realized that we have accomplished so much more together through Life Watchers than we probably would have if we had tried to reach our goals alone. By having each other as shared resources, we learn from each other’s accomplishments and failures, avoiding repeated mistakes. We also are each other’s moral support, amateur advisors, and ultimate hype team.

You can do many things by passively keeping your goals in mind, but, as we’ve discovered, you can accomplish way more by looking at your goals on a regular basis and having a group of people you trust tracking them with you. 

Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!

Next: Unleash Your Life: How To Achieve Big Goals With Trello

Life watchers: how to achieve more life goals with a support system