Do You Have Goals?
We pretty much all have goals, whether we realize it or not. I have my business goals and my personal goals. Some are short-term; some are long-term. Some are very-short-term. For example, last night my goal was to get up early this morning, no later than 6:00 am. And, yes! I achieved my goal! How I did it – my ‘action plan’, was to go to bed early with my earbuds and an Audible book and to just be ‘lazy’ till I went to sleep. And do you know what? It worked! I woke up early, found the place in the audiobook where I fell asleep, lay in bed listening to a little more of the story (had to get to the end of the chapter!), and got up a few minutes after 6:00 am.
I could have written out my goal and objectives (the measurable steps to get me to my goal). I could have even written out a task analysis if I didn’t feel comfortable about being able to complete any of the required steps. But I didn’t. I just did it. That’s how many of our goals are accomplished. Just doing it. And how many more of them are lost on the wayside. Just thinking about it and not doing it.
Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about S.M.A.R.T. Goals. At the beginning of the New Year, I couldn’t log into any Social Media platform without reading or hearing about goals. And, no doubt, the New Year is the perfect time to start thinking about new goals. If you’re a teacher or student, the beginning of the school year might be the best time for you to really focus on your goals. If you own or work for a company whose fiscal year begins at a different time (July 1 is common), then the month before the fiscal year begins might be when you want to look at your goals. But, seriously, whenever you want to and are ready is the best time for establishing goals.
I first studied creating Goals and Objectives when I was in college studying to teach Special Education. Each of our Special Ed. students had IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). An IEP is a legally binding document that dictates what is taught. Most of the activities that take place in the classroom are directly tied to the goals (always S.M.A.R.T.!) and objectives included in the IEP. The IEP also includes Present Level of Performance, beginning and ending dates, frequency, location, duration of services, and a requirement for progress reports. Individualized Education Plans are reviewed and revised annually (minimum) or more often as needed.
When I started looking at goals for my business, I realized that what I probably really needed was an IBP, and Individualized Business Plan. I still haven’t developed that plan, but now I have the framework to begin. These plans can also be applied to other areas of your life. The seven areas discussed in the book “Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World” would be a good place to start. Start with the area of your life that is most out of balance and create a plan to bring balance back into your world.
But let’s talk about goals first. What is a S.M.A.R.T. Goal? It is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Specific: That sounds a bit obvious, but maybe it’s not. Let’s say I want to work on fitness and my goal is to ‘get into shape’. That’s not really a goal. It’s a wish. In order to be a goal, I have to define what we really want my outcome to be. A goal might be to “be able to participate in a 5K run in September”. That is specific.
Measurable: Is my goal to “be able to participate in a 5K run in September” measurable? Yes, you can measure 5K.
Attainable: Is my goal attainable? Yes, it is. If my goal was to participate in a marathon, it would not be attainable. Not for me, anyway. I know my physical limitations and know what is required for a marathon. I have never been marathon material. Now, I fully know it’s not a reasonable goal.
Relevant: Is it relevant? For me, yes. Though I’ve never been crazy about running, it is something I would like to be able to do. Walking is more my style, but for the fitness benefits, running would be a great option. If I have friends also participating in 5K runs, the fellowship or relationship factors would make it even more relevant.
Time-bound: Yes, my goal is time-bound. Indicating that I want to participate in a particular run held in September makes it time bound.
Please remember that your goals can be for any area of your life. The fitness goal was just an easy example. The areas that might be more difficult to develop goals for (for me, anyway) would be Friends, Family, and Faith. Those areas would require a bit more thinking on my part. For you, those may be the easiest.
What Are These Objectives You’re Talking About?
Objectives break down the goal into workable, progressive steps – just like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. This brief article explains the difference between goals and objects pretty well. Objectives can be broken down into even smaller steps, but try not to get too nit-picky.
In the first paragraph, I mentioned my very short-term goal of getting up no later than 6:00 am. A long-term goal might be to sleep 7 hours per night, 6 nights out of 7 per week, by July 1. For anyone who has had a sleeping problem know how difficult this can be. Anyway. That would be my goal. Now I need to come up with objectives – the steps I must take to achieve my goal. It might look something like this:
Goal: I will sleep 7 hours per night, 6 nights out of 7 per week, by July 1.
- Drink only water or decaffeinated beverages after noon each day, 6 out of 7 days per week, for 8 weeks.
- Turn off all electronic media no later than 9:00 pm each night, 6 out of 7 nights per week, for 8 weeks.
- Pray, meditate, or read for 30 minutes, 6 out of 7 nights per week, for 8 weeks.
- Set my alarm clock to wake me at 6:00 am, 6 out of 7 mornings per week, for 8 weeks.
To measure or track my progress with each objective, I would create a chart or checklist to record the days that I complete the task involved with the objective. I would also record the time (approximately) that I fell asleep and the time that I woke.
Strategies or Tactics
It’s possible that I’m not able to master the objective because I don’t have the knowledge or skills required. When that happens I might need to do research or learn a new skill. For example, if I wasn’t sure about which beverages have caffeine and which don’t, I would need to do some research and start reading labels. If I didn’t know how to set my alarm clock (and no, I don’t – Lewis sets the alarm clock), I would need to find the owner’s manual and learn to do that. (By the way, I do know how to use the alarm clock on my phone and I often do. But since I let the battery die pretty regularly, it’s not very dependable.)
But I think you get the idea about the strategies and tactics. These are the skills and information required to complete your objectives.
If you find you’re not able to complete your objectives, you might need to take another look at your objectives to determine if they are appropriate and then at your tactics to determine if there is a missing skill. Task Analysis is an activity that helps you find those missing skills.
Task analysis breaks down an activity into the simplest steps required to complete the activity. When I did this in college as part of my coursework, I would break down the activity into each step. Then I would look at each individual step. Could it be broken down more? Mentally going through the steps, I would ask myself if there was a step omitted. And then, do I have all of the skills required for each step? What do need to do to be able to complete a smaller step in the activity? This information was listed, going down the page, in order that it occurred for the activity.
Triggers are what happens before the activity occurs. Taking a good long look at what is happening and what you want to happen can help you find triggers that will support your reaching your goal or that will sabotage this. For the sleep example, I may look at my current routine and find that I check email or one of my favorite social media sites right before bed. Since this may be a habit that is interfering with going to sleep at my desired time, I may want to avoid that trigger – triggering ‘stay awake’ rather than triggering ‘go to sleep’.
Then I can think back to a time when I did go to sleep easily and slept through the night. What was I doing then that is different from now? What were my triggers then? As a child and teenager, I didn’t have a specific bedtime. But with 5 people in the house (I was the youngest) and one bathroom, routines were important. That’s how we all got ready for bed with the least amount of interference with one another. I might think back to my particular routine and see how I can adapt those activities to my bedtime routine now. “Bath, pajamas, brush teeth, turn out lights” may be a trigger that I can rely on now to help me fall asleep quickly.
There is much more to goal setting and reaching them than I could include in this article. But this will get you started. My challenge to you this week is to write down two goals, one personal and one business or career related, and write out the objectives required for you to master the goal. Remember that two people could have the same goal. But because of their own different skills and abilities, the objectives required to reach the goal would be different. You can briefly describe this in the comments and then let us know how you’re progressing. I love to see people reaching their goals!