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Essentials for Navigating Multiple Systems

How do I set goals and make a plan?

Goals and Plans

When engaging with any member of the human services system, whether a school official, social worker, medical professional, or someone else, it is important to know what you are looking to achieve. This helps focus the engagement. Working together to develop goals fosters cooperation. Making a plan means identifying practical options (such as different routes to take and ways to get there), comparing the pros and cons of options, and choosing a preferred approach with specific actions and responsibilities.

How do I set goals and make a plan?

Good Things to Know

  • The expression "S-M-A-R-T" is a useful guideline here. That is, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
  • Goals are not always the same as one's hopes and dreams. Goals may be ambitious but should also be specific and realistic.
  • Goals and objectives are most useful when it is possible to gauge progress in meeting them.
  • Goals may be about what you want to achieve from a particular service or from a mix of services.
  • Goals only come alive when backed with a strategy or action plan. Goals are the "what" and plans are the "how."

Things You Can Do

  • Write down your goals, objectives, and action plans and keep them with you as you meet and talk with service system people. It will help keep you and others on track.
  • Recognize that even the best of plans may need to be adapted in the face of new information. Establish a timetable for reviewing and refreshing the plan.

Things Others Can Do

  • A friend or peer can be enlisted to sit down with you and help focus your thinking about goals. Possibly, they can do the writing for you, and give you additional ideas for your plan.
  • A service professional should listen first, so they truly understand what you want to accomplish. Their expertise can help sharpen the plan. They can contribute alternatives, and help you weigh alternatives. They can put the goals and action plan into language others "inside the services system" will use and respond to.

Best Sources for More Guidance

  • Goals on Track provides a dashboard that lets you know at a glance where you are with your SMART goals and what needs to be done today.
  • Week Plan (Inspired by 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is a free weekly planner that keeps track of your achievements and goals. You can use it on a laptop, smartphone or tablet. You can also print your whole weeks worth of plans and carry them with you.
  • Stickk allows you to set up a "commitment contract" that binds you to the goal. You can lay money on the line and designate a referee to confirm that you have successfully reach your goal.
  • SuperViva allows you to create goals to share with this "life" tracking site or keep them private. You can also establish weekly reminders to check in with your goals, group your goals, assign specific goals within different lists, and set completion goals and priorities.

Essentials for Navigating Multiple Systems


In an Emergency, Call 911

Looking for help in
non-emergency situations?

Call 211 or 311 in New York City

Suicide Crisis Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) Toll Free
1-800-799-4889 TTY

Child Abuse & Maltreatment Hotline
1-800-342-3720 Toll Free
1-800-638-5163 TTD/TTY
1-800-342-3720 Video Relay

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