Sometimes it’s hard to keep motivated with our financial goals. Sure, we have nothing but the best of intentions, but how many of us actually abandon our goals even if we write them down? And this is after many studies have shown that those who are consistent with goal setting are the ones with the most success.

Instead of making it for long stretches, have you tried breaking it down into 90-day segments? Not only is this a more approachable way to set goals, but it may be a more effective way to help you achieve them. Even if you don’t know right now what you’ll do to achieve this goal, writing it down and giving it a 90 day deadline will help you focus on the results.

Why 90-day goal setting works

When we plan out what we want to achieve, we actually underestimate how much we can do in a year. Not only that, but we overestimate how much we do in a day or week. Has anyone tried to cram so much into their day that you’re still left with items on your to-do list? If so, you can definitely relate.

All this to say that looking at long stretches of time gets us extremely overwhelmed. We’re also not realistic in terms how much we can achieve with our time. That’s why 90-day goals are so effective. This timeline is long enough to make meaningful progress on a goal, yet short enough that you’re not overwhelmed.

To prove that point even further, 90 days will encourage you to map out concrete actions to help you achieve your financial goals. You’re able to better estimate about what you can get done within that time frame. Besides, many people don’t achieve their goals because of a lack of clarity as well. How are you going to achieve your goal if you have no clue what you need to be doing in the first place?

Looking ninety days out, you have a good idea of what you can actually get done in that time frame, so your capacity estimations are about right and yet you can make some very substantial progress towards a big goal.

You’re able to measure your progress because there is a specific timeline and an end in sight.

What if my goal takes more than 90 days

There’s nothing wrong with you if a goal lasts longer than 90 days. Life happens, and there are many things outside of our control. If it happens, simply set another date when you can realistically achieve it. For example, let’s say you fell behind on your tasks for two weeks. Simply extend your goal for another two weeks and you should be fine.

There may also be goals that you want to achieve long-term that will definitely take longer than 90 days. If that’s the case, then look at how it’ll realistically take you to complete, then break major milestones into 90-day segments. For example, you want to be able to save $20,000 this year. You’ll then break down this goal into saving $5,000 every 90 days.

How can I create a 90-day goal

Luckily, creating a 90-day goal is a very simple process:

  • Set aside time to brainstorm some goals – Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed and think of all the financial goals you want to achieve. Don’t worry about whether or not these are even realistic or how you will achieve them. You’re just brainstorming and writing any ideas that come to mind. As for goals, don’t limit it specifically to purely financial ones. Think about life goals such as ones to do with family, your social life and even hobbies. All of these will affect your financial life.
  • Prioritize – Grab your list of ideas and narrow it down to a few. Take a look at these goals and cross out the ones you know will take longer than 90 days as well as ones that you’re not interested in anymore. From there find a few you want to focus on right now. Don’t choose any more than five goals because then you’ll get too overwhelmed. What goals you want to achieve are up to you. Some like to balance it out with some life and career goals, while some only focus on one area in their financial life.
  • Create action plans – Once you have the goals all laid out, write them down on another piece of paper. For each goal, you’ll work backwards by figuring out the end date for your goal and all the action steps to get there. In other words, what actions do you need to take to achieve your goals and what time do you need to complete each by so you can get it all done within 90 days? When doing this, make sure you write any and all steps down. Nothing is too small or unimportant.
  • Commit to the action – Just because you make a plan, doesn’t mean you’ll act on them. You need to form a habit to look at your goals and the actions to reach them. Set aside some time every day (preferably in the morning) where you can review your goals and what you need to do that day. As long as you commit and focus on what you need to do, you will achieve your goals.

An example of a 90-day goal

Let’s say you’ve decided that as wanted to travel more as one of your goals but you may not have a lot of money to spend on a domestic or international trip. Instead, you decide that for your 90-day goal, you’re going to try out traveling for free.

At this point, you map out an itinerary on the places you want to go, including flights and hotel. Then you go look at how many points you’ll need to be able to get free flights and hotel rooms.

Once you do that, you’ll then map out an action plan on the types of travel credit cards you want to apply for. These cards will ideally have large sign-up bonuses so that you can maximize your spending.

Since many of these cards help you earn these extra points during the first three months, it fits well into your 90-day goal timeline.

Here are examples of some cards with good sign-up bonuses:

Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 on qualifying purchases within the first three months. You also get a $300 travel credit reimbursement and access to more than 900 airport lounges.

Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card – If you spend $4,000 within the first three months, you get 50,000 reward points. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus an extra 5,000 if you add an authorized user.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® from American Express – Get 25,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months.

After applying for the card or cards, you’d then create action steps on how to ensure you get the sign-up bonuses. Of course, it’s always a good idea to make sure you can pay off the balance every month. Most people like to use one card for everyday purchases to meet the minimum spending requirements.

Here’s a sample plan:

  • You decide to fly to California to visit your friends for holidays;
  • After research, you estimate the airfare to be $300 and hotel to be about $325;
  • You sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and make a plan on how to spend the $4,000 within the first three months;
  • You put your rent, utilities, groceries and upcoming birthday gifts for the next few months to make your minimum spending amount;
  • You get your points and redeem them in the Chase portal.

And that’s it! It’s really that simple to achieve a financial goal within 90 days. As long as you stick to your plan, you can save up for an emergency fund or even go on a trip like in the example above.

The bottom line

You can do anything you put your mind to. The key is to make your goals manageable. That’s why the 90-day goal setting method is so effective as it helps give you a timeline of what you can achieve. Start with a goal you’ve been putting off for a while and apply the 90-day method to it. Here’s hoping you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you accomplish.