The accomplishment of worthy goals is not only rewarding, but a central aim of time management. Achieving goals virtually always includes multiple steps. Rather than listing a single task on a to-do list and checking it off as “done” after a single action, goals are composed of anywhere from a few to a great many tasks. When each one has been completed, some type of follow-up remains. All too often, lack of follow-up stalls the progress towards a goal. “Falling through the cracks” describes far too many well-intentioned goals.
Fortunately, setting and achieving goals (big and small) is not complicated. The process involves only 4 steps:
1. Define your goal in such a way that you will know when it has been achieved.
2. Define as many of the steps involved as is practical.
3. Develop a methodology for incorporating those small steps into your total daily activities.
4. Seal the cracks through a good system of follow-up and follow-through.
Define Your Goal
I define my goals as statements which answer the question, “I can mark this goal as done when what is true?” Examples would include:
· The piano has been tuned.
· My weight is at 170.
· Income tax returns have been mailed.
· Surprise party has been held.
In each case, it the statement is true, the goal has been accomplished. If the statement is false, I have more work to do.
Where do you write your goals? For those using a paper planner, reserve a section in the back of the planner and stock it with blank, lined paper. Each goal gets a page. Begin by defining the goal at the top og the page.
Define the Steps
Defining your goal tells you where the “finish line” is located. Defining the steps takes you from where you are to where you want to be. For some goals, you will be able to list every step. For most goals, you will be able to list the first few. For some goals, you will only be able to list only the first one.
One the page where you define your goal, list beneath it each step in the order they need to be done. You may even want to list out to the side a target date for when you hope to accomplish each one. If the goal will have many steps, it would be advisable to work out the steps on scrap paper first and when you are satisfied that the list is complete and in the proper order transfer it to its page in your planner.
Whereas your goal will be a statement with a noun up front, the steps to achieving your goal will begin with verbs. Common examples include:
The critical element is that every step is worded in such a way that it is doable. Make no mistake; if what you write is the least bit “fuzzy,” you will skip right over it. Take the time on the front end to define your steps so they are doable and you will more than recoup that time in how quickly you are able to execute them.
Do not worry if you cannot list every step between now and the completion of your goal. If you can list only one step—but get it right, you are ahead if most people. Often, you really won’t be able to list more than a few steps. “Call Buford” may be your next step. What comes after that? The answer may well be that you do not know until you talk to Buford. The information he gives you and the agreements made in that conversation may determine what the next steps will be.
In addition to defining your goal and listing the steps to its successful completion, you will use this page for one more purpose. On the road to accomplishing your goal, you will need a place to write information you gather. For example, as you plan the surprise party, you will need a place to jot down prices for paper goods, phone numbers for entertainers, and names of guests to invite. You will use this page to list this type of information.
Incorporate the Steps into Your Daily Activities
At this point, you have defined your goal and know when it has been accomplished. You have defined at least the first step that will lead you towards the completion of that goal. Now, look at the first step your listed and copy it onto your to-do list. This act insures that as you go through your day, you will be making progress on your goal.
The chances are that you are working on several goals at any one time. By having the next step for each one on your to-do list, you are pushing each goal forward a step at a time as you go through the day.
Seal the Cracks
You have defined your goal, listed the steps, and put the first one on your to-do list. You complete that task and check it off. So far, so good. You go about the rest of your day checking off tasks without another thought to you goal. Soon a week has passed still with no more thought about that goal. What happened? Your goal has just fallen through the cracks!
To seal the cracks, add one simple thing at the action step that will refer you back to your goal. An easy way to do this is to simply number your goals. If “Piano is tuned” is goal #5 and your next step on that goal is to call Buford to ask who tunes his piano, you would enter this on your to-do list:
Buford-Who tunes your piano? Goal #5
Adding this ending serves two purposes. When you call Buford and need a place to write the information he gives you, looking at the “Goal #5” directs you to the page where you are tracking the information for that goal.
More importantly, before you check-off that call to Buford, you are reminded to turn to the back of your planner and refer to your goal. You will pick up the next step and enter it on your to-do list. Every time you accomplish one step, the next one will be added until your goal has been accomplished.
To summarize the process:
1. Define the goal.
2. Define the steps.
3. Add the next step to your to-do list.
4. Add a tag that will refer you back to the goal.