What we refer to as goals are actually a set of tools we can all benefit from using. Some might not call to these tools goals, but perhaps ”indicators”, ”key figures”, ”OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)”, ”measurements”, and many other things, instead. Regardless what we name it, they are all referring to the same thing - our way of measuring progress.
A decision with consequences
Setting goals is to make decisions - it is deciding what of all the things we could potentially do that we will deem important, and deciding how we will know if we have been successful in doing what we intended.
The goals therefore help us to:
- determine what tasks to do and what tasks not to focus on when we have too much to do
- know when we have done enough and can enjoy the progress we have made
It’s difficult to set a course in unknown terrain
But it is not always easy to determine what the goals should be and what progress we should measure - especially when we are doing things we have never done before, when we are exploring new territories, or are creating a business in a new field.
And, in addition to the difficulties of setting a primary course, the task of determining what to measure is made even more difficult by the fact that it is nowadays incredibly easy to obtain data on a multitude of parameters since a considerable portion of our jobs is done in digital systems of some kind. Considering the large selection of reports we have to choose from (and they all look so fancy and important), which parameters should we measure and which reports will provide us with relevant information?
Something is better than a bit of everything
When we are faced with this wide array of options and feel at a loss as to what parameters and reports to choose, it might be easy to think that we will look into the matter ”later”, and wait a little before we make up our minds since we might be slightly wiser in this regard later on. However, this is a mistake, because without defining some kind of goal, everything will appear important (hence making it difficult to prioritize and opt out of doing certain tasks when we are swamped with work) and we will never know when we have done enough (which keeps the ambitious person working, never taking time to relish the progress made).
Choose to focus on something, even if you feel unsure that it is the perfect choice. If you happen to set the wrong goal, you will soon realize your mistake and can then determine a new goal that takes your newly gained experience into account. And even if you set the wrong goal, you will have gotten the opportunity to practice applying it to your everyday life and work - when you prioritize and when you are exploring the new, unknown territory.
- Take a good look at your goals. Are they right for you and the role you have within your company? Do they narrow down the key factors that are important to your work? Or, are they really just numbers you follow up on, enter into a spreadsheet and report simply because you or someone else decided you would at some point?
- If you do not have any goals or do not have the right goals, determine one or a few new ones that really pin-point what you want to accomplish in the next while ahead. If you are not allowed to get rid of the goals you currently have (and which you believe are inaccurate), since someone else has set them for you, let the new goals complement the old ones.
- Be so specific when formulating the goals that they actually become useful in your work.
- Follow up on the new goals in the weeks ahead and draw conclusions regarding how you are doing. As soon as you catch yourself following up on whatever parameter you chose just because and not really use what you conclude from the reports, take another good look at the goals and use the fact that you have probably gotten a little bit wiser in these weeks when you refine them.
With a spring in your step
If you make sure to define goals, even if they are not perfect, you will set yourself into motion and enable yourself to focus on accomplishing them. You can regard it as a practice round in going for something wholeheartedly just to see how far you can go when having purpose and without hesitating before every step. You will gain experience and it will help you to polish, refine or even redefine your goals further down the road.
How can you tell?
How do you determine if a goal is right for you? And what indicates to you if it is not? Please share in a comment below.