Goal setting skills are put into action by a great majority of productive, highly successful people. Yet many that would greatly benefit from goal setting practices, particularly in today’s challenged economy, seem to have a hard time implementing a goal setting practice. In this article I will cover the essentials of goal setting. I’m confident that if you try these simple practices, you too will be moving toward your stated goals and objectives at record pace.
Essential 1: Identify Your Objective
The purpose of setting goals is to create an energy matrix through which your efforts, your very life force, flow efficiently. Today, most people live very busy lives and it is dangerously easy to get sidetracked. I consider myself to be a highly productive person, but I’ve suffered the effects of massive amounts of email, unexpected interruptions, and the seemingly ceaseless needs of other people in my personal and professional life. It’s easy to find that we are very busy, yet unproductive relative to our potential.
The most valuable goal setting essential I know of is to be clear about the most important task or objective one needs to accomplish on any given day. That task or objective should be rated relative to your overarching goal for the stated time period. For example, if you have four things you need to get done this month, regardless of how challenging it may be to prioritize them, it is an essential task of successful goal setting to do so.
One of the ways I do this is by asking myself, “What is the worst thing that can occur if I don’t meet my deadline for each of the pressing issues?” If you do this and repeatedly determine that all four are do-or-die, taking a course from an expert like Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar or Earl Nightingale on time/task management and learning to more effectively delegate or say “no” becomes essential to successful goal setting.
Essential 2: Set Realistic Long-Term Goals
A “goal” may also be seen as a target or deadline. Many people, myself included, often hold the image of our productivity potential based on our most successful periods. This is a natural thing to do, yet, often results in unforeseen challenges. When setting realistic goals, it is essential to look at all the demands on your personal and professional time. It is also essential to be honest with yourself about your current energy levels and state of wellbeing. These factors determine your work potential. If you are tired, irritated, not feeling well, over or under nourished, over or under exercised, or not getting adequate rest and regular, high quality meals, you are unlikely to meet your productivity expectations.
If you don’t have any experience regarding the time and energy requirement needed to meet a goal you choose to set, it is always best to consult with someone you respect that has successfully accomplished that, or similar goals. Such people can literally be angels in your life.
Essential 3: Set Realistic Short-Term Goals
Setting short-term goals effectively requires good reverse engineering skills. Achieving any goal is essentially forward engineering – you move toward the completion of the task.
Short-term goals require that you work backward from the objective to the point of departure. Again, this requires a comprehensive understanding of both product or objective and process. For example, it would be very challenging to set short-term goals for building a house if you’ve never built one before. When I write an exercise program for an athlete that must be in peak condition by a given competition, I must have a clear understanding of what is a realistic objective on a weekly basis or I can lead the athlete into a terrible experience. Without clear knowledge of the process involved in achieving your stated goal, the best you could do is guess how to reach your objective. Guessing where knowledge is usually only a phone call away is a sure-fire way to fail at achieving your stated goal.
Essential 4: Set Achievable Process Goals
Most people begin goal setting when they choose to accomplish a worthy task or objective. Worthy objectives usually require significant time and energy commitments. Looking at such a goal, even for the highly motivated individual, can trigger the kind of thinking one often gets at the beginning of a marathon; “26 miles is a heck of a long way and I sure hope I can make it!” I’ve found in PPS Success that if people set goals designed to help them enjoy the process, they are far more likely to meet their stated objectives in accordance with their goal-schedule.
Examples of process goals are:
- Building rewards into your schedule for meeting your short-term targets. This may be going out to a nice dinner with someone you love spending time with to celebrate the joy of accomplishing. Sharing your short-term successes with others brings them joy, and often they become sources of positive reinforcement for you.
- Setting daily goals to ensure eating properly and hydrating at regular intervals. This keeps your blood sugar level and your energy levels up, which is essential for constructive thinking.
- Rewarding everyone on your team with an activity or experience collectively agreed upon to be enjoyable. This keeps everyone motivated. I’m sure many of you have found that just because you are motivated and driven doesn’t mean that everyone involved is!
Essential 5: Take A Time Out To Celebrate and Enjoy Completion!
Numerous are the times I’ve seen people get elated upon completion of a major goal, and before the paint even dries on their just completed project, they’ve already committed themselves to the next marathon. In fact, one of the most common causes of poor performance and burnout in marathon runners is entering marathons too frequently.
There is a tremendous amount of physical, emotional and mental energy invested in achieving most worthy, major goals. We can get something akin to a runner’s high when we achieve a major goal and it’s easy to forget that we need time to celebrate, rest and recover. Success addiction is very easy to acquire and with it one increases their chances, paradoxically, of becoming less successful!
If your goals are business oriented and your business must have a stream of continuous major successes, then it is critical to undulate major projects with minor projects. If you don’t, your whole team will suffer burnout and soon, the company begins to fail. Those with intimate knowledge of the process of achieving any major goal should work carefully with their personnel managers to take tally of their team’s working vitality capitol. This way, an accurate read of the team’s work potential can be calculated.
I hope you find these goal setting essentials practical and applicable to your life. Remember to enjoy the goal setting process!