posted on January 13, 2012 11:26
So we're two weeks into the new year. Have you had any extended time to set goals yet? If not, consider taking 20-30 minutes this weekend to consider what you'd most like to accomplish this year. If so, have you created a plan to make sure your goals happen?
I've been mulling over goal setting lately. There are innumerable plans for creating goals. For example:
Heather Whaling of prTini suggests a "3-2-1" process: 3 greatest accomplishments, areas to improve, personal goals; 2 company-related goals, things you need from your superior to achieve these goals; and 1 thing you’re most looking forward to in the new year.
Guy Harris suggests "A goals, B goals, and C goals," much like a teacher's grading rubric: for each item, a comfortable goal, a believable goal that's a bit more of a stretch, and an awesome goal that would require much more effort.
And many people are familiar with the idea of creating "SMART" goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).
It seems that the problems are two-fold: how do I create useful goals, and how do I create an environment in which I'm most likely to achieve them?
So here are the 5 tips I've come up with for solving these problems.
- Accept that I have limits. I'm not going to achieve 200 goals in 2012. I'm not even going to remember 200 goals! I need to pick the handful of things that will really matter to me and focus hard on those. Research suggests I'm only going to do a good job of remembering 1-4 things, after all.
- Pick some areas I really care about to make goals in. I should be able to handle 1-4 things in each category as long as there isn't an overly large number of categories. Here are some examples of categories people have picked:
Spend some time with my categories and some questions:
- That thing I want to do
Once I know what my goals are, I need to create an action plan for achieving them.
- How did I do at achieving last year's goals? Why? Is there anything I can learn from that experience that will help this year's goals?
- Do I need to address any self-limiting beliefs?
- What are the positive outcomes I want to see at the end of the year in each category?
- Which positive outcomes are the most important? Which are worth being among the handful I really go after?
- How will I assess whether success has been achieved? Quantitative goals have specific numbers attached ("I will weigh 160 pounds," "I will read 50 marketing books"), which makes it very easy to judge whether they've been achieved and how far away you are from the goal. But qualitative goals can also be written with assessment in mind. I think of writing teachers' grading rubrics as an example of clearly assessing qualitative goals.
- Are these positive outcomes a good balance of realism and stretching?
- How do I feel about these goals? Am I excited about the outcomes? Do I feel like I "own" them?
I need to consider if the things I do in my daily life back up my goals. Goals that are tacked on to a full life are much harder to achieve than those supported by my everyday living. I have a long to-do list, like many people I know. Which items are helping me move toward my goals? Which items do I really want to do? Which items would I rather not do if I could get out of it somehow? Is there some way to delegate or automate those things out of my life - or to make them more enjoyable or tolerable somehow?
- As the Getting Things Done (GTD) philosophy says, it's easier to do work when I've already clearly laid out the steps to do it and know which one I need to do next. I just have to keep taking the next action.
- Tsh Oxenreider wisely suggests a kaizen approach: "...kaizen is a Japanese word that means very small, continuous change. It’s little drips of water that fill a bucket over a long period of time, not a firehose in a few minutes." Sometimes a work binge is just the ticket to get a nagging task done, but in general, slow progress is more sustainable over a long term and doesn't result in nasty boomerang effects.
- Resource allocation is important, too. It's not enough to know I want to read 50 marketing books, for example; I need to set aside enough reading time to finish a book each week. (This means I also need to have some idea of how long it takes me to read a marketing book. If I never finish a book in under a month and don't have a good plan to change that, I probably need to adjust my goal.)
- Part of resource allocation is determining what support I need to enable me to succeed: A goal buddy? A training program? A professional assessment?
- If I schedule some regular time to evaluate if I'm making the progress I wanted, I can make changes mid-stream. Maybe I really need to pick the 25 most important marketing books from the stack and accept that more of my time is going to other things than expected.
What is your handful of big things to achieve for 2012?