Top tips for making yourself effective goals

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As a leader, you may have to build several goals throughout any given year. You could set organisational goals, programme goals, project goals, team goals, personal goals and the dreaded New Years goals. Goals can be financial, health-related, morale related, quality related – you name it. Now, be honest, how many of those goals have you hit? Do you even know the answer to this? Have you checked your goals recently?

More than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of business goals.

40% of people that write down goals don’t check whether they’ve achieved them.

One of the major problems we have with goal setting is that we don’t do it effectively. In most cases, we write down a goal and never look at it again or review it only at the end of the year. In doing this it seems we are believing that some kind of miracle will happen to get us from A to Z without understanding each of the steps we need to take to get from A to Z and how far we are down the line. This is why we tend to throw in the towel so frequently with goals. Check out these stats from a study by Statistic Brain about how far people get with their New Year’s goals:

75% of people made it through their first week 

71% of people made it past two weeks

64% of people made it past one month

46% of people made it past six months

This means that 25% of people didn’t even make it through the first week. Every year I used to set unrealistic goals. I would say by the end of the year 2016 I want a six-pack. Now from 34-inch waist to a six-pack in one year is doable but there are many steps to getting there. What I really needed to do was to identify what small goals I would need to achieve by when to eventually hit my big goal.

Goal stones

To achieve our big goal (I will call it a tier 1 goal) we need to set some goal stepping stones (tier 2 goals). One way to start this is to understand what a person who has achieved this goal looks like, based on my post last week (Top tips to becoming the Leader you want to be). So based on my example, I would say a person with a six pack probably eats a very healthy diet, goes regularly to the gym, does a lot of cardio and drinks a lot of water. This then informs my goals. I need to eat healthier, I need to go to the gym regularly, I need to do a lot of cardio and I need to drink a lot of water.

OK, we now have an outline. We know what a person who has achieved this goal of getting a six pack looks like. Now we need to drill deeper, we need to get to the point where we have small measurable goals. To start with we had I will have a six pack by the end of the year. The only thing I would measure here is do I have a six-pack. I might understand the likelihood closer to the end of the year but still, it is not an effective goal to measure.

Let’s look at our outline for tier 2 goals:

  • Eat healthier
  • Drink lots of water
  • Go to the gym regularly
  • Doing a lot of cardio

Now in order to unpack each one, we must ask questions of each point.

  • Eat healthier – What does a healthy eater look like?
  • Drink lots of water – What does drinking a lot of water look like?
  • Go to the gym regularly – What does going to the gym regularly look like?
  • Doing a lot of cardio – What does doing a lot of cardio look like?

These questions will get us to numbers and something a bit more solid and measurable. Let’s have a go at answering those questions.

  • Eat healthier – What does a healthy eater look like?
    • 3 meals a day
    • No snacking
    • No high sugar foods
    • Have my 5 a day with fruits and vegetables
  • Drink lots of water – What does drinking a lot of water look like?
    • Drink water over other beverages like tea/coffee/fizzy
    • Drink 2 litres of water a day (using one of these bottles from Amazon makes it much easier to do this UK / US)
  • Go to the gym regularly – What does going to the gym regularly look like?
    • Get a gym membership
    • Go to the gym at least 3 times a week
  • Doing a lot of cardio – What does doing a lot of cardio look like?
    • Going for a jog/swimming/skipping etc. 4/5 times a week
    • Choosing to walk or cycle places instead of a car or public transport

OK, looking pretty good right? Now we know the goals we need to achieve for the goals we need to achieve for the main goal. We call those our tier 3 goals. What we need to do now is to ask where we are and what we need to do to get there.

The journey

Now you have this third tier of goals we need to break down each goal to understand where we are right now and what we need to do to get there. So let’s start with the first example:

  • Eat healthier – What does a healthy eater look like?
    • 3 meals a day
      • Currently, I only have 3 meals a day. I just have to ensure that this doesn’t change and to track when its start to.
    • No snacking
      • Currently, I do snack a lot. I have crisps and snack bars between meals. So how do I get from a little bit of snacking to no snacking? Well, in this case, I could cut out one snack completely and just give myself the goal of 1 snack a day for one month. Then one snack every other day for one month. Then one snack only on a single weekend day every other month and then no snacks for the rest of the year. We can also take a step by step approach to introducing healthy snacks, like chopped up carrots.
    • No high sugar foods
      • Generally, I love my dessert. Ice cream, chocolate, custard, trifle, baklava you name it I will devour it. If I cut it out completely I will be overcome by cravings. So for this, we can try start with having only one dessert during the week and one on Saturday and one on Sunday for a month. Next, we can try having only one dessert on Saturday and one dessert on Sunday for a month. Then we can try only having one dessert on Sundays for a month. Then we can cut out deserts completely for the rest of the year. We can also start to introduce healthy “deserts” after meals like having an apple, or banana (but don’t overdo it as they are still sugary!).
    • Have my 5 a day with fruits and vegetables
      • I am bad at this. In fact, my wife offers me veg or salad in nearly every meal which I normally say no to. So one thing I can do here is to say yes to veg or salad more often. I could say yes to every other time for a month then every time I get offered going forward. I could also introduce healthy snacks and desserts like having an apple or banana after a meal or carrot or celery sticks as a snack.

The review

Now after I have understood the journey for each of my tier 3 goals I will see a timeline emerging. This timeline will allow me to review my goals and see if I have hit my target or not. For example:

Month 1:

  • Only 3 meals a day
  • Only 1 snack a day (when I feel snacky, have celery / carrot sticks)
  • Only 1 dessert during the week and 1 dessert on Saturday and 1 dessert on Sunday (when I feel the need for sugar, have an apple or banana)
  • Accept veg / salad offers from the chef every other time

Month 2:

  • Only 3 meals a day
  • Only 1 snack every other day (when I feel snacky, have celery / carrot sticks)
  • Only 1 dessert on Saturday and 1 dessert on Sunday (when I feel the need for sugar, have an apple or banana)
  • Accept veg / salad offers from the chef every time

Now I have a goal timeline and things I can measure against. You will notice I also have things listed to spur me on when goals are getting difficult to achieve (notice also they are still in line with my tier 2 goals). This logical timeline allows me to work in review points. As per the way I have structured my goals it is a monthly review, but a weekly review may also work – don’t make it longer than a month because it can be hard to keep track and to pivot.

As part of your goal reviews, you need to reflect up the tier. So, I would ask myself do I look like someone who eats healthy? Am I getting my 5 a day, am I not having lots of sugar, am I only eating 3 meals a day? Until that answer is yes I cannot go up to the next tier. Now if I could say yes I do look like someone who eats healthy I still won’t look like someone who has a six pack until I have achieved all the tier 2 goals as well.

When I fail

Failing to achieve goals is completely OK if you deal with it correctly. In most cases, if I fail to reach a goal it is because it was not the right goal for me so we need to pivot. For example, if I kept failing to eat only 1 snack a day in month 1 I could change my goal for next month and say something like 1 snack a day, and 2 snacks every other day for a month. Goals should not be set in stone and should be tinkered and tailored as you go. Life is constantly changing and shifting, so we need to be ready to adapt our goals to its ebbs and flows.

One thing to note is that even if I had done all the tier 2 goals, it does not necessarily mean that I will achieve my tier 1 goal of getting a six pack. It might be the case that a year is not enough time to achieve this, we may need to extend the period. It may be that we missed some key tier 2 goals or misunderstood what it means to be someone who has achieved the tier one goal. Don’t give up on your goals, just adapt them to suit your needs. Regular reflection allows you to adapt and will be the key to successfully achieving your goals. I promise you that you will have a lot more success in achieving your goals if you think about them in this way.

Summary

Here is a summary of our learning today:

  • Goals can be split down into tiers by asking of each goal, what would someone like like who has completed this goal
  • Having smaller goals allows us to build a step by step timeline to working our way up the goal tree and achieving our tier 1 goal
  • Goals should be reviewed regularly at no more than one-month intervals. You should be prepared to modify and amend goals in line with the velocity of life.
  • Failing to achieve goals isn’t the end of the world. Have you defined the right goal? Have you defined the right tier 2 and tier 3 goals? Have you given yourself enough granularity and time to achieve your goals? Failing to achieve your goals the first time, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve them the next time around. We are all different, with different lifestyles and needs. The key here is you need to adapt.

Also, this goes without saying but write your goals down! If you keep them in your head they can get all jumbled in your mind and you can forget them. Unless you are a genius, then you have my permission to keep them in your head. If you are a genius, please get in touch and tell me how you can do that.

Do you have any goal setting tips you use? Have you found this useful? Let me know in the comments section below!

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