Now that we’re approaching the end of the year, it is the perfect time to talk about goals which are top-of-mind for many of us. A new year and new goals go together. If you are a member of the 12% Club (people who actually stick to their resolutions), there is no need to read further. Congratulations on achieving your 2014 goals.
But for those of us who do not have goals or who did not reach them this past year, this post is for you. Why do so many of us not accomplish goals? There are a lot of reasons. Can you relate to a few of these?
Now that we know why a goal may not succeed, are you wondering if it’s worth bothering to create and pursue them in the upcoming year? The answer is yes and here are some of the reasons why.
Imagine a spectrum. On one end are long-term goals and at the other end are shorter-term goals. Both have merit. Becoming an industry leader in two years is a long-term goal while achieving 10% more in sales in three months is at the opposite end. Small and shorter goals are just as worthy as longer term goals and may be easier to make.
The secret for achieving any goal – long or short – is to list each task. (another word for a to-do.) Some goals consist of two tasks whiles others may have twenty or more. Even daunting goals with many tasks will feel more achievable. Once all of the tasks are listed (either on paper or electronically), we can prioritize them. As each task is completed, check it off. (A great feeling!) You can chip away at a goal this way, one task at a time. Or, think of it as one bite of the elephant at a time. If, at any point you are unsure what to do next, refer back to the goal and the list of tasks to help you prioritize. The decision will be a lot easier.
By tackling a goal one step at a time, you will be able to manage your time so you can reach any type of goal. When you plan your day, decide the three most important tasks that must be done. At least one of these tasks should be related to your goal. Eventually, these small, doable tasks will help you reach the goal you’ve set out to accomplish.
When we work on these tasks neuroscientists call this “goal pursuit” — the process of creating and going after the goal. It is the journey – accomplishing the small tasks — that counts. Without a commitment to the journey, the goal can be lost. How easy it is to become derailed along the way!
Achieving a goal is a satisfying experience and well worth the hard work. Have you decided which goals you are going to pursue in 2015?
Many of us do not have clear, thought-out goals. That always comes as a surprise to us. When we ask people at our speaking seminars if they have written goals, maybe half of the group raises their hand. If we ask if they have unwritten goals, a few timid hands go up. These people are usually shy about volunteering this information because they themselves are wondering if their goals are less valuable because they are not written.
Why don’t we all have goals, written or not written? Most people think of goals as large and aspirational and beyond their reach. Here’s an example of a lofty goal — the type that people often think of when they say they have goals: “I will grow my company to become an industry leader in three years.” This goal is long-term, hard to reach, and substantive. Many people find this type of goal beyond their frame of reference. It may be. These types of goals are often created by teams of executives who spend days, even weeks, formulating them. We are often put off by this type of elaborate goal setting process and may decide that goals aren’t for me.
Instead of eliminating all goals, we are suggesting another way to view them. We are all capable of establishing and reaching goals. Admittedly, goals on the top end such as becoming an industry leader, overlap with aspirations – they’re far-reaching business goals. But, at the bottom end of the goal spectrum, they often overlap with to-do’s (they may feel like to-do’s but are not). When you walk into the office wanting to achieve three goals for the day, there are often several steps – to-do’s — needed to accomplish each goal. Even if they do not feel “important” enough, big enough or worthwhile enough, many of the things we do during the day fall under the goals category. Smaller, short-term goals can be just as worthy and important as larger, more esteemed goals and can get you where you want to go. Did you accomplish three goals before leaving the office today? Then you were productive. That’s a reason to celebrate.
When we discuss goals, we include aspirational goals with the ordinary goals we choose every day to get our work done. Goals are intensely personal and there are no rules or restrictions. People have their own goals and their own ways of reaching them whether they are short-term or long-term. Both types have merit and count.
Why do we need goals? They give us purpose and focus and help us plan. We function better knowing that we have met important goals we personally set. Small or large … it does not matter.
Goals help prioritize tasks. We are often asked by overwhelmed clients which tasks should be done first. It can be very confusing looking at a long list and wondering in what order they should be handled. This is when having goals is really helpful. Referring back to your goals will help you determine what tasks on your to-do list should be done first.
Goals give us an end point which can be used for measuring progress. It allows us to break up a larger process into smaller, doable chunks that we know we are capable of handling. If our goal is to move from being a general accountant to an accountant specializing in forensics, there are a number of steps necessary to accomplish the goal, such as speaking to forensic accountants about their experiences (one step) and taking classes (another step). Once those two steps are complete, then we can move to the next action (as David Allen in Getting Things Done refers to it).
Goals require that we be specific vs. day dreaming or resorting to ‘someday maybe’. Just wanting a promotion at work or improving our skill sets will not happen without action. Goals turn a vision into a reality. By clarifying a goal, we understand exactly what it will take to reach it. We create criteria that will help move us farther along in our careers and achieve what we consider important. Many of us use S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely) when we first establish a goal. However, it is important to monitor the goal at all times, not just at the beginning. (Watch for tips in a future blog on how to stay focused throughout the life of the goal,)
Achieving a goal is a satisfying experience. It takes effort, organization and focus to accomplish it. Relish the feeling that you did it. It will boost your self-confidence and prepare you for the next one. No matter what the challenge, even if it is harder, you know you are capable and up for it.
Is it really possible to achieve a balance between work and life? Are we capable of fitting it all in? The term Work-Life Balance became popular in the 1980’s when corporations did not offer much in the way of flexible options. Picture a seesaw with work loading down one side and everything else, a.k.a. life, on the other side.
Many people have come to the conclusion that work-life balance is a myth, especially living in our all-consuming tech world. Email, smart phones and tablets blur the lines between work and all else. The office and our clients can reach us anytime, anywhere. We find ourselves “on” 24/7. There is always a lot to do and too few hours in the day to get our to-dos done.
Cali Yost, author and CEO of the Flex+Strategy Group, has given work-life balance a new name, work-life fit. Balance implies that work and life are at opposite ends which we know is not true. Work-life fit is a proactive approach, giving people more flexibility than they realize. Work can be a variety of win-wins for workers and employers.
In her book Work + Life Yost points out that the key is to find the fit that’s right for you which will allow you to be in control. You get to spend time with the people who are most meaningful in your life and to decide how much time and energy you put into activities.
Below are 12 work-life fit tips that will help you focus on the activities that are most meaningful to you:
Often clients ask us how many goals do they need? The answer is as many as you can think of. And write them down.
Prioritize them. Decide which ones to tackle first. After all, not all of them can be worked on at the same time and some
may be more important or more timely than others.
Use the S.M.A.R.T. system to evaluate each goal and to decide if the goal is achievable.
S.M. A.R.T. is an acronym for:
S: Specific — be as concise as possible. “W” questions as a guide: Who is involved? What do I want to achieve? Where is the location? When does it happen? Which requirements and constraints do I need to follow? Why is this goal important?
M: Measurable — How much? How many? How will I know when I have reached my goal?
A: Achievable — Make it attainable. What are some of the ways I can reach my goal?
R. Realistic — How hard are you willing to work?
T. Timely — It needs to be time-bound for a goal to be achieved.
Often people set themselves up for failure by setting goals without the specifications in the S.M.A.R.T. system.
Now that you know the steps, consult your planner and choose a date and time to work on your goals.
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. — Eleanor Roosevelt
This past week our firm spoke at a program sponsored by the Buckhead Coalition to train Buckhead’s future
leaders. It was an exciting week for this select group of young professionals as they
learned about volunteerism, ethics, leadership and civic engagement over the five days.
Our topic: why and how to create meaningful and actionable goals. While not everyone has goals, we
suggested to these young professionals that they are worth the bother because they help ensure that you’ll get
where you want to go. Without a roadmap, you can end up anywhere. ( We all know how that feels.) Most
people agree that with goals you are able to achieve so much more.
If you are still wondering why you need goals, here are seven more good reasons:
Most business executives, professionals and community leaders have written goals that they look at and
review on a regular basis. They consider it their ticket to productivity. Many of them have innovative
techniques to keep track of their goals.
When will you write your goals and where do you plan on posting them?
Here are 5 ways to use your planner to help you become more efficient and effective. By following these suggestions, you will get more done and become closer to your goals.
1) Use your planner every day and check it often. Leave it on your desk in front of you. Some of our clients use paper planners and often apologize that they are not “tech saavy”. We assure them that it does not matter whether it is paper or an electronic, as long as you use it. (Tip: if you use an electronic version, you may want to print out the planner daily.)
2) Capture all projects and tasks. Write everything down on paper or electronically. It takes a lot of mental energy to juggle projects, tasks, and upcoming activities in your brain. You will be able to concentrate on upcoming projects without this extra mental weight. At some point, your memory will fail.
3) Review your week ahead of time – decide what is important based on your goals. Enter the tasks that must be done to support them. (Tip: make it visually easy to identify the most important tasks on your to-do list by highlighting them.)
4) Use one planner for both personal and work. (Tip: color code the activities. It’s easy on a paper planner. On an electronic calendar categorize the activities, making personal appointments one color and business appointments a different color. My business appointments are in red.)
5) Make your action steps concrete. Include appointments and commitments to others. Start with a verb. For example, call Fred re: Short client agreement. Don’t you agree that this works far better than putting Fred on the planner?
What are you going to do with your planner to help you become more efficient?
Here we are at the end of 2012. How did business go these past 12 months? Would you rate your business a 10 because sales revenue and profits are at an all-time record? Or a 2 because you did not achieve what you set out to do and sales are down. Often the answer is somewhere in between these two extremes. Some things went well and others may not have been as successful.
Regardless of the number, this is a perfect time to reflect on what went well and what needs to be improved:
What would you like your company’s performance to be next year at this time?
This morning I had a lot of calls to make and did not particularly feel like making them. Then I remembered the book I had just finished reading — Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. In the book procrastination is not allowed. I would need to make the calls first thing and begin with the most difficult one. Ug. Well, I did it and it felt wonderful.
Tracy’s premise is that starting and completing the most important — and often the most difficult — task of the day will soon become a habit. Email and less important to-dos must wait until the most important one is done.
He suggests that we ask ourselves 3 key questions:
1) What are my highest value activities?
2) What are the biggest frogs I have to eat to make the greatest contribution to my organization? What can I and only I do that, if done well, will make a real difference?
3) Ask yourself every hour: What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
What important eat that frog task will you tackle tomorrow morning?
We’re all busy. In fact, the busier we are the more important we may see ourselves. Everyone you know is running hither and yon and always on the go with never enough time to get it all done. That’s true. There is never enough time to do it all. As hard as we try, we can not achieve everything. Once we accept that idea, then perhaps it is easier to shift our view from always being busy to being productive when it counts.
Simply said: We have the time; It’s how we choose to spend it. When someone says she/he does not have time, it just means that other activities are higher rated and take priority. So, how do we distinguish between busy and productive? It is a matter of deciding what matters in life, what you want to achieve and how to work at it on a daily basis. While we all have things to do, we do have choices.
In “The Busy Trap”, Tim Kreider blogs in the NYTimes that busy is self-imposed. Adults are often addicted to busyness. People take on projects, work and obligations voluntarily. They even do that to their kids. That doesn’t leave much time for idleness — the time to read, think, dream and connect with family and friends. These are the types of activities that free up your brain to wrestle with problems and ideas and come up with solutions. It is similar to the restorative properties of getting enough sleep. Often, when you allow your mind to wander a bit, you can be more productive at the times it’s most important. You will perform at a higher caliber and get done what you set out to do.
The next time you have a choice between working late or having dinner out with friends, consider the options before you tell your friends you are too busy. Perhaps relaxing with good companions may have a far more restorative effect than you realize. Then you’ll be ready to tackle a big project the next day.
Contact us at: Info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com or call 404.303.8431 to find out how you can make your day meaningful and productive … with less busyness.
On average, according to researcher David Meyer, switching time increases the amount of time it takes to finish the primary task you were
working on by an average of 25%. In short, juggling activities is incredibly inefficient.
It takes 25 minutes to regain concentration after each interruption. (Source: University of California-Irvine Study)
What are the benefits of Block Scheduling?
Tip: 1 – 1/2 ½ hours most days of the week is ideal but 2-3 days may be most practical, especially at the beginning.
Can It’s Time To Get Organized help you set up your block schedule so you can get the maximum out of each day? Call 404-3-3-8431 or email: info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com.