Goals are a great motivator. They help us focus our attention on relevant things, save us time and energy. To do this job right, a goal should meet some criteria, so it’s actually a real goal and not just wishful thinking.
There are different approaches to these criteria - depending on the goal and its context you would choose which ones to go with. The ones I'm mostly using are the s.m.a.r.t. criteria.
SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, Timely.
- If a goal is specific, you know exactly what it is that you want to achieve.
- There is a big difference in choosing the steps you want to take or the goal, that you are doing it for. Consider taking the steps as your goal even though it might seem too obvious and easy. Why? Many times, achieving a goal is connected to a change in behavior or things we want to get done to get there.
- Example: If you want to become more athletic, your goal should be something such as: 'From today on, I am going jogging on mondays, wednesdays and fridays, between 7 and 8 pm, 5 km, for the next 6 weeks.'
If you struggle with this goal - you either hate running (-> it's not attractive) or you don't see the connection between becoming more athletic and running (-> not realistic) or you actually don't care so much about being athletic and what you really want to do is feel more energized (-> not the right goal: try: get 8 instead of 6 hours of sleep).
- A goal is measurable if you can put numbers to it in some way. It could be the time you spend on an activity or even the number of times you repeat a certain activity.
- Try to measure the input you put into something rather than the output. Many times, we can be certain of the activities we are planning but not of the outcome we will get.
- Example: We can plan to call five people and ask them to use our platform. We can not plan if their answer will be yes. The goal should therefore not be: Convince 5 people but rather 'talk to five people'. If this is not satisfying, maybe the goal could revolve more around the following (not smart yet) 'improve pitch / sharpen target group within the next 4 weeks in a way, that 4 out of 5 people are convinced after a 10 minute talk'
- Note: A goal is always more motivating, when it's based on learning rather than performance. A performance goal would be 'convince 5 people', a learning goal would be 'learn what exactly makes people say yes or no'
- Most important when it comes to goals is that you actually want to achieve this goal. It happens many times, that we put an activity onto the list which we hope, would bring us to the result we desire. Many times, we don’t even enjoy the activity and also don’t get anything out of it. It just keeps us busy.
- If you set your goal with a starting day 7 days ago and notice today that you haven't done anything yet, to move towards achieving your goal, ask yourself why that is. Don't feel bad because of not taking actions yet and don't make new plans around how to change your behavior to actually start it. What you should do is question whether this is actually attractive to you.
- A goal needs to be owned by you. If you are not the one who can influence it, it’s not realistic. If you set yourself a goal that requires 100 hours of input and you only have a week to get it done, it's not realistic.
- When you plan your goals, also check the time that you will need. Check the time of the activities you are planning to achieve the goal and also the time you need to get your other, everyday operational tasks done. One time, when I did my goals, I noticed that I would only have 20 hours in three months to get all the operational things done. It's obvious that that is not realistic.
- The timeline for your goal should be overseeable. If you know what the next three weeks will look like, three weeks is a good time frame. If you set yourself goals that are as long-term as one year, it takes you too long to enjoy your success. There are more steps on the way to this long-term goal. Define them as goals and be proud and happy, every time you reach one of them. You will be able to adjust other “meantime” goals and get a better feeling for being on the right track.
- If you have a very long-term goal, you don't need to set it as a goal. Of course, it's the ultimate goal but in the end, the small milestones are the ones that count. In the meantime, it could happen, that the overall, ultimate goal is not as important anymore or priorities and context changed.
- Contribute to open source
- What is it exactly what you want to contribute? Why are you doing it? Is there a different way to achieve the reason behind it?
- Learn german
- How many words do you already know? For what reason are you doing it? When do you need german? How do you know you achieved your goal?
- Lose weight
- Losing weight is really hard to do. One way to get it going could be to have a goal that is rather something like: 'find a way how to lose weight without suffering'
- Come up with a learning goal instead of a performance goal. If the goal is, to learn how to do it better, the chances that you will be successful are higher. If you set yourself a performance goal and fail by far, you will be discouraged, especially if you are a very diligent person.
- Don't choose a goal that is overwhelming - it should be challenging but not too easy. Try to find the right measure and adjust your goal if you notice it's too easy or too hard.
- Double check your goal with someone who is not from the field. If they don't understand, it's probably not specific. Also, they will raise questions that let you think things through again.
- Double check your goal the next day. If you still like it and find it reasonable, you should go for it.
- Check how much time your goal will require. Think through if you actually have that time.