We talk about goals all the time. But goals are not all treated equally – some goals are better than others. And research about goal achievement isn’t very impressive. In a recent Staples survey, more than half of all small business leaders admit they don’t measure and track business metrics as often as they should.
What if you could increase your chance of achieving your goals? This article is dedicated to helping you do exactly that. I like to call this Goals 101.
5 Things To Know About Goals
1. You need both small and big goals
There are two types of goals: big and small. Both are critical to our success. While the big goals stretch us, the small goals provide critical real-time targets.
Big Goals: Big goals are a critical way to push ourselves to achieve amazing results. A good example is Sony’s 30-year goal to change the worldwide perception of Japanese products being of poor quality. Game-changing goals are often called BHAGs or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Many companies use BHAGs to push the limits of what they can achieve. Harvard Business School research found that the best leaders set stretch goals for their team. If you currently do not have any BHAG goals, you may find you are not stretching yourself enough.
Small Goals: Small goals help us to realize short-term progress on our current projects. Short-term goals are critical drivers of productivity. In fact, short-term deadlines are more effective than long-term deadlines. On that note, our BHAG goals often need to be broken down into a series of everyday goals.
2. Keep it SMART
Clear and focused goals are critical. They define the change we intend to make and also focus our efforts. The most effective goals align to the SMART formula:
Specific: Goals should clearly define the details of the intended change. Ideally, this change is quantifiable. Example: I will protect one hour of uninterrupted, focused work time every morning to write on my book.
Measureable: Goals should be associated with obvious metrics. An objective person should be able to easily measure whether you have achieved your goal. Example: I commit to getting my email inbox under one screen by the end of this week.
Action-Oriented: Goals should focus on the action we intend to take. We should focus on the elements we can control. Example: I will commit to spending 20 minutes a day on social media and posting five tweets.
Realistic: Goals should be both attainable and feasible. At the same time, they should stretch us outside of our comfort zone. Big goals are encouraged, as long as they are paired with a plan and the belief that they are achievable. Example: I will leverage this management rotation to get promoted to Vice President.
Time bound: Goals should be associated with a clear deadline or start date. After all, nothing drives productivity like a deadline. Example: I will commit to weekly one-on-one meetings with my direct reports starting on the first of the month.
The best goals meet all of the above criteria. They also link to strategic priorities and business outcomes. Example: Starting on Monday, I will dedicate the first hour of each workday to these three projects. I will complete these projects by the end of the quarter.
3. Commit to new goals at key intervals
Far too many people lose critical opportunities to set new goals. As a result, they let opportunities pass them by. When it comes to setting goals, there is no time like the present.
The following are just some of the instances where we should be capturing new goals.
When trying to impact change: Whenever we are trying to achieve something, we need to put a plan in place around a specific goal. It’s one thing to want to be more active. It’s another thing to define a fitness plan around a specific goal. If we don’t define our goal, it is simply wishful thinking.
When working with a team: It is easy for a team to get distracted or side-tracked with other initiatives. Every team needs clear goals to focus on between meetings.
After learning a new skill: Unfortunately, far too many training programs wrap up without a goal-setting exercise. We need a clear and specific plan immediately after learning a new skill.
4. Write Them Down
We are more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down according to research led by Gail Matthews at Dominican University. Committing to other people and providing them with regular updates further improves our odds. This is where a coach (such as writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant) can be immensely valuable.
5. Make Them Meaningful
The final, and most important thing to know about winning goals is that they need to be meaningful to you. You should also be able to clearly articulate why you are passionate about the goal. Goals require focus and sacrifice. If you are not passionate about a goal, it will feel like a chore all along the way.
That sums up our edition of Goals 101. Do you have anything else to add to this list?