Setting structured goals with set timelines is my favored method for accomplishing the things I want to, and it’s one of the most commonly accepted approaches in business, government and military planning. It is not, however, the only one out there. Some other ways to reach the same destination include…
A tickler file is the organizational version of a nagging mom or accountability coach. You set up physical files, or a calendar program, or one of several apps, to “poke” you when it’s time to get something done. This works for set tasks and for ongoing projects. You can get a reminder a month ahead to buy a birthday present, or set up for daily reminders to write your three pages of manuscript.
You know this one. It’s a list of the tasks you want to accomplish. This method is so common you can buy notepads with check boxes specifically to make one. Google calendar and similar programs include this option. What you might not know is that to-do lists scale up. You can make a to-do list for the year, then break it up by month, week and day.
For some folks, all the goal setting they need is passion for the current project. They work on what they want, when they want to, and come out the other end with a finished product. I know very few people for whom this works on a reliable basis, and even they generally have the luxury of somebody else taking responsibility for their daily upkeep and bills. Still, it is a method and it does work for some people.
I’d love to hear from you. What are your methods for goal setting? Do you use a structured approach, or are you more organic? What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to setting and reaching your goals? How do you celebrate when you cross a big item off your list?
Thanks for listening.
An area where goal setting gets tricky is the ongoing projects and efforts in your life. It’s easy to say “My goal is to write 10 pages a week for the next month.” Your end is clearly defined and easily measurable. But how do you define your goals for physical fitness, for time with your family, for reading? With no set end to the task, it’s harder to set specific goals.
One approach, and the one I like best, is to make the process itself a goal. Don’t phrase your victory conditions in terms of work accomplished, but in terms of effort made. For example, pursuing new assignments is a big part of my job. Without new work coming in, I have to go work in an office or something — a fate I’d rather avoid if I can. This is a sisyphean task: unending and often difficult. Each week, I promise myself I’ll apply for x gigs, send in y article pitches, and spend z hours on my book proposal.
I came across an interesting structure for this kind of goal-setting in a book by Drs. Roizen & Oz, the “YOU: The Owner’s Manual” guys. It’s not theirs originally, but they’re who introduced me to the 5 to 1 goal pyramid. Their example used this concept as a guide for helping your kids understand nutrition and fitness:
- 5 servings of veggies every day
- 4 servings of fat-free dairy
- 3 compliments to create a positive atmosphere
- 2 hours or less of screen time
- 1 hour of active play or exercise
If a mnemonic like that is easy enough for an elementary school student, I’m reasonably confident I could use it without too much trouble. Maybe I could structure it thusly:
- 5 daily blocks of writing on current, paying projects
- 4 acts of marketing and promotion daily
- 3 hours of work on book proposals each week
- 2 days off weekly to spend with my family and recharge the motor
- 1 magazine article proposal every day
That might be too simplistic for the reality, but you get the general idea. Ultimately, how you structure these things is less important than being committed about following it. For my wife, a sticker on the calendar for every day she hits the gym is all the formal planning she needs.
Thanks for listening.