- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On May 8, 2015
- Career management
Having goals is a good thing. At least from my experience, having goals seems to be better than not having them.
I’ve also experienced having “too much of a good thing”. I’ve had occasions when I had too many goals or the goals I set were not clear enough for me to actually carry them out effectively.
So how do you set goals effectively?
Luckily for me I just stumbled upon an article on Jill Konrath’s blog where she was interviewing social psychologist and goal-setting expert Heidi Grant Halvorson. I got so interested in the post I ended up buying Heidi’s book on goal setting Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. Here are some goal-setting tips I’ve picked up from the book.
Heidi says to set yourself “difficult and specific” goals. This phrase sounded familiar to me as we’ve been using a Management By Objectives (MBO) approach to set our corporate (and marketing goals) for the last couple of years.
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement
- Measurable – the goals need to include numbers
- Assignable – specify who will do it
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) will be achieved
In our company we like to make our goals “difficult” as well as “realistic” (perhaps your organization is the same way) but according to Heidi Grant Halvorson this is a good thing. Harder goals are ones we will strive harder to achieve and they give us a stronger sense of accomplishment if we achieve them (or even mostly achieve them.) On the flipside Heidi does caution against setting unrealistic goals. We do need to believe there is a chance we can meet our goals or our motivation will not be as strong.
You can use the question “why?” to help you set effective goals.
Asking “why?” helps you think about the big picture. It prompts you to think about why you would want to set and achieve a particular goal. Ask yourself “why would I want to set this goal for myself?” Asking “why” allows you to connect what might seem like a mundane goal to a bigger picture you really care about. Once you make this connection you tap into a reservoir of motivation!
For example, in your marketing plan you might set yourself the goal of sending a monthly e-newsletter. If one day you are mired in HTML trying to get your email out you might be tempted to give up for the day; however, if you’ve connected your email efforts to a bigger picture goal like “I want to become one of the best email marketers in the healthcare industry” you will have a lot more motivation to put up with your HTML until this goal is achieved.
“What?” helps you in the opposite way to “why?”. Heidi recommends using “what” when you have a particularly complex or urgent project on your hands. Asking yourself “what?” focuses you on the next task you need to achieve.
I can personally vouch for the power of “what?” right now as I’m running a companywide product launch meeting next week. There are so many pieces to remember it’s easy to get into panic mode. Asking myself “what exactly do we need to do next?” is helping me get through. (And yes, every now and then asking “why am I doing this?” is useful too!)
I’ll be back with more to say about setting and achieving your goals from Heidi Grant Halvorson’s fascinating book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals but for now I need to run off and achieve my next goals for this kickoff meeting…