The importance of goals cannot be overstated. Goals are an exceptionally strong motivational tool that gives us targets that we can focus on. Setting goals, however, is not a simple task and takes some experience.
So how should we go about setting goals that provide us with the maximum benefits?
1. Understand goals know full well, what a goal is.
For example, setting a goal like 'retire at 45' is significantly different from setting a goal to finish the first three chapters of the book you're writing within a month.
The former is more of a personal mission statement rather than a goal. While the distinguishing line is not that thick, understand that goals should have measurable targets and a timeline over which major constraints can be mapped and planned for.
2. Set your targets.
Given the understanding of what a goal is, the next step is to establish measurable targets for each of the goals you are setting. The target would usually be in the form of a deliverable with certain characteristics.
If there are multiple deliverables, map them out with the requirements of each deliverable and prioritize them.
3. Identify resources.
Identify the resources available with you that will be required to achieve the above targets. The most important measure, typically, is the 'personal hours' that you think will be required in the completion of each task.
In addition, identify any other resources (for example, hardware, additional personnel etc) that might be required to be procured by you for the tasks.
4. Map out constraints.
The effectiveness of most goal setting exercises lies predominantly in this stage. You need to be smart about identifying constraints that will affect the overall timelines associated with the completion of a task.
For example, an employee might be going on vacation, or one particular aspect of a task might require external expertise that will be required to be availed at that point etc. While environmental factors lead to a number of evolving constraints that cannot be planned for, in-built or foreseeable constraints should be mapped to the best of your knowledge.
5. Set your goals.
Given an understanding of the targets, resources, and constraints, set your goal. The key here is to set goals that require you to stretch a little beyond your comfort level. This ensures that you remain motivated, have a competitive timeline and remain disciplined in your approach.
6. Monitor the progress.
Where you find yourself unable to set meaningful quantitative targets, use your knowledge to set defined milestones that will help you map and monitor the progress.
7. Be flexible.
Though it may sound contradictory to the general emphasis laid on being disciplined in goal setting, a big part of being effective at setting goals is in understanding that every task is influenced by a number of factors, not all of which are under your control.
Hence, effective goal setting requires that you be flexible and adapt to changing conditions quickly.
Setting goals is one of the most powerful activity to get organized and focus your energies efficiently.
It is however, also a tool which is extremely difficult to implement and can frustrate you as you struggle to utilize it.
The key is in remembering that there are no universal solutions and you need to fine tune the process to best suit your circumstances and characteristics. Monitor your efficacy at it on an ongoing basis and you will perfect the art.