How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Homestead


A hillside of yellow flowers with a red barn at the bottom of the hill. Knowing your purpose for gardening or homesteading will help you set realistic goals.

 

Have you set goals or resolutions in the past but failed utterly at reaching them? Learn how to set realistic homestead goals and how to achieve them. 

Updated April 2022

How to set realistic goals you will actually achieve


If you're like most people, you might set a goal when you start a project, or make a resolution or two at the beginning of a new year, but most of us have forgotten what that goal was before a month has passed.


There are secrets to setting goals, whether they are for your homestead, your career, your finances, or your personal life. Secrets that will help you actually achieve the results you're after.


All the homesteading activities


It's too easy to jump in with both feet and try to do everything all at once, especially when you're homesteading.


Homesteading has so many "things"!


We want to have a big garden, chickens, goats or maybe a milk cow, to be self-sufficient and never have to go to the grocery store because we're producing it all ourselves, right?


My friend, if we try to do that all at once, it's a sure thing that we will be burned out in a year and ready to chuck it all.


Making a plan to start small and build on your success each year is actually a form of self-preservation.


To read more about making a long-term plan, see my post on how to start a homestead, or where to go from here. It will help you define your purpose and help you make a homestead plan.


Then you can choose the projects that should be worked on first.


Goal setting tips


Here are some tips on setting up your goals for success


Don't work on too many goals at one time


First, don't overcommit yourself by setting too many goals for yourself. Experts say you shouldn't work on more than three or four goals at one time.


Write down all those things you want to change, or accomplish, or finish. 


After you write down all the things you want to do, all the areas of your life that you want to change for the better and the big plans that you want to accomplish, take a realistic look at your list and choose the three goals you want to work on first.


This is enough for right now. But save the long list of all your goals and dreams. When you've reached your current goals, you can choose three more.


The secret to achieving your goals is to focus on what needs to be done and to work on it without distraction. Choosing too many goals will prevent that from happening.


Instead of being focused, you'll be spreading yourself too thin, jumping from one project to another, and according to experts, you are less likely to reach any of your goals. 


So let's stick to just three, ok?


If you really must set more than three goals, try this.


Break the year into quarters and work on just two or three goals during each three-month period. This works best for short-term goals that will take no more than three months to accomplish.


Fitting goals into your life


If you're in a busy season of life - perhaps working a job, raising small children, being a caregiver for a loved one, and trying to garden or start a homestead - please be kind to yourself. 


This might be the year to set a couple of small goals but certainly not the year to go overboard and try to do it all.


But it's important - to me, anyway - to have a challenge or two, a direction. Life isn't about being stagnant, it's about stretching and having a plan.


Otherwise how would I know what to do when I wake up in the morning?


Life is also about being flexible. So when you're in a very busy season of life, your health gets in the way, or your finances just aren't working out like you'd planned, it's ok to change your plans, and scale things back a bit. 


Take into account how much time you have this year and make your plans accordingly. You can revisit some of those goals in the future.


We don't have to get them all done now. 


So, without being over-ambitious, let's take your wishes and dreams and turn them into attainable goals, shall we?


The right way to set goals


An achievable goal should have four key parts.


  1. It involves action
  2. It should be specific
  3. It has a measurable outcome
  4. It has a deadline


A goal should begin with a verb, an action word. This action word specifies what you will DO to achieve your goal. For instance, "preserve tomatoes."


A goal should have a measurable outcome. Without a measurement, how will you know when you have accomplished your goal? How will you preserve those tomatoes? How many tomatoes do you want to preserve?


Will one jar or half a dozen be enough? Get specific. Perhaps you want to "preserve 50 quarts of tomato sauce," which will give you one quart of tomato sauce for almost every week of the year. Make your goal as specific as possible.


And finally, a goal should have a deadline. In this case, you might want to preserve all those tomatoes this year, or in gardening terms, this growing season. 


Your final goal might be "I will can 50 quarts of tomato sauce before the end of the year."


This goal has a verb, or action word, "I will can" (preserve)." It contains measurement, "50 quarts." It is specific, saying that all of those quart jars will contain tomato sauce. And it has a deadline, "by the end of the year."


Make a plan to accomplish your goal


Many people make goals or resolutions, but most of those people have already abandoned or even forgotten about them before a month goes by.


Why? Because they don't have a plan to accomplish that resolution or goal. They don't have any accountability or support to help them reach their dream.


Here's how to get a head-start on reaching your goal.


Write it down


After you decide on a goal to work on right now, write it down. Writing down a goal is powerful.


The simple act of writing something down helps it "stick" in our brains. It gives your goal substance and importance.


Let's look at a few sample goals.


Borage flowers help to repel tomato hornworms. If your goal is to grow tomatoes, borage is a great companion plant.

Example one: a gardening goal


Be specific with your goal. Instead of deciding you want to grow all of your family's food (which is a great long-term goal), narrow your focus into a short-term goal.


It might look like this:


 "This year I will plant a salad garden with two kinds of lettuce, radishes and green onions in one raised bed in that sunny corner of the yard."


This is a manageable goal, and right away you can see that there are several steps to accomplishing it. The steps are measurable and achievable. You can always add more raised beds and plants next year.


Break down the goal into steps


Break your goal down into several steps:


Step One is to build a raised bed in that corner of the yard. (I wrote about building a simple raised bed on my own in this post.)


Step Two is to obtain the seeds or transplants needed: two kinds of lettuce, radishes and green onions. 


  • Will you plant seeds or buy plants and onion sets? 
  • Where will you buy them? (My favorite place to buy seeds is Mary's Heirloom Seeds.)
  • How many of each type of plant will you grow, or how many feet of row will you plant?
  • When should you plant them in your growing region? If you don't know what gardening zone you live in, you'll need to research that.


Write down all the questions you need to research, and the decisions you need to make. Plan a deadline to complete this part of the project so you can move on to the next in a timely way.


Set deadlines


Deadlines are one of the secrets of goal-reaching. Don't just set a final deadline for your goal, decide when you'll complete each step along the way.


Procrastination won't help you reach your goals!


Then tell someone about your goal and your plan to reach it.


Accountability is another secret to reaching your goal. Choose someone who is supportive and encouraging, and who will enjoy hearing about your garden as it grows. Make a note to share some of your produce with this friend.


Step Three is to nurture your garden. Once you get those plants in the ground or your seeds have sprouted, you'll need to keep the garden bed weeded and watered. Make time in your schedule each week to do this garden maintenance.


"Nurturing" is an important step on the way to your goal - and where most people drop the ball on reaching their goals. Not just gardening goals, any goal!


No matter what your goal is, you'll need to keep "watering and weeding" it. Keep on keeping on, my friend.


And when the time is right, enjoy those salads with your family and friends. You did it!


Since a salad garden only takes a few months to grow and harvest, you can now start working on another goal.


Several cans of food showing expiration dates. An example of a food storage goal.


Example two: building a food pantry


Let's say you want to stock up on emergency foods, just in case. You might write your goal like this:


"I want to have three months' worth of food in our pantry by the end of June, and I can spend $xx a month to do so."


Start out by answering these questions:

  • Will I store canned and boxed food from the grocery store, or a combination of commercially-canned, home-canned, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
  • Will I include staples such as rice, sugar and salt, or concentrate on ready-to-eat meals?
  • How many people are in my family? 
  • How many cans or boxes or pouches or ready-to-eat meals will I need?


The next step might be to make meal plans and figure out how many cans or boxes you'd need to make each meal. 


Or research sources to buy freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. 


Some of these emergency food companies offer free samples, so you'd be sure to order some of those and try them, so you know if you like the food, and how many servings each actually provides


Then you can make a plan to order or purchase a certain amount each week or month, and use a spreadsheet or reminders on your phone or calendar to make sure you stay on track. (There's the "nurture" part of this goal.)


Now go do it.


A raised bed planted with onions.


My real-life, finish-the-garden goal


I've added raised beds to my garden each year. I still have plans and space to add more, but this year I have too many other things going on, so I'm trying to be realistic.


This year's garden goals are to finish fencing the last 25-feet of the garden, and to fill the bed we built last year with soil and compost and plant tomatoes in it.


That's it. Two simple, smaller, short-term goals. Small goals that are also steps towards my long-term, multi-year goal of a larger garden.


They are my springtime goal, so that I can plant in the newest raised bed, and so that last section of fencing will keep the rabbits out of my garden this year.


Here are the steps I'll need to accomplish:


Fencing:

  • Gather t-posts, fencing material and gate (we have these items on hand)
  • Install t-posts
  • Install the fencing (a two-person job)
  • Buy gate hardware
  • Hang the gate


Fill the raised bed:

  • Remove the weeds currently growing in this bed
  • Put down a thick layer of cardboard (I have a large stash of cardboard in the shed)
  • Fill the bed with layers of compost, aged manure, last year's fallen leaves and soil
  • Finish by March 1st so the bed can rest a bit before planting (I always plant tomatoes in the newest bed because they are the last transplants to go in the ground, giving me a bit more time to accomplish my goal.)


I have a deadline, a measurable goal, and a plan to reach it. Now I just need to do it.


And when I've reached these two short-term goals, I can focus on another of my goals.




You might have a one-month-long goal, a one-year goal or one that's even bigger than that, but at the end of the year I hope you'll have made some progress and that some of your dreams have come true. 


Keep going. You can do it!


For more simple living and gardening ideas, subscribe to The Acorn, Oak Hill Homestead's weekly-ish newsletter, and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.




Related Post:

How to Build a Self-Sufficient Homestead

How to Find Homestead Land
How to Plan and Plant a Homestead Orchard





A field of wildflowers with a homestead barn in the background.




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