Goal Setting for Beginners

On Thursday I wrote about achieving your goals, and today I'm going to write an introduction into the process of goal setting. This is a quite a common subject in most personal development books, so I'm going to try and cover the most important elements.

What is a goal?

In its simplest form, a goal is a result you want to achieve. This can be anything, from a car that you want to own to a skill you want to develop. A goal is a target that helps you to focus your activities towards getting what you want, and gives you starting point for prioritising your actions.

What makes an excellent goal?

A lot of factors go into making an excellent goal, and some parts may work better for you than others. The common characteristics of a an excellent goal are:

  • It's written down – Not only will writing your goal down help you to remember it, but it will also help to drill it into your subconscious. If you're hesitant about writing your goal down, it may be a sign that it isn't actually what you want.
  • It's inspiring – It's all too easy to choose a goal that you know you'll achieve with minimum effort, but you're only selling yourself short. One thing you'll quickly realise when setting big goals is that even if you don't achieve them, you still achieve far more than if you'd set a tame, easily achievable goal. Big goals help to inspire positive action, and are a highly beneficial tool for personal growth. Don't be tempted into setting an uninspiring, tepid goal. It might seem like the best option, but you won't gain as much in the long term.
  • It has a deadline – Giving your goals a deadline is an important step. By setting a deadline, you automatically enter a phase of setting priorities. A deadline is also beneficial when creating a plan from your goal, because you can get a better idea of how long you have and what kinds of steps you should take.
  • It's flexible – People and circumstances change, and your goal should be able to adapt accordingly. Change is not a bad thing, and it's not a bad thing to modify your goals. After all, you'll be learning as you move towards achieving it and you'll certainly find ways to improve what you're doing.
  • It's specific – Goals should be as specific as possible. The more specific you make your goal, the easier it will be to create a plan to achieve it.
  • It's measurable – At any point in time, your should be able to say whether the goal has been achieved or not.

Getting help with your goals.

Don't be afraid to ask for help with your goals. There are several ways you can go about this, from telling everybody to telling nobody. Some methods may work better for you than others, so it's best to experiment to find what suits your style:

  • Tell the World – Tell every man (and his dog) about how you're going to achieve your goal. This can add a lot of pressure, so be sure it's something you want to do. Some people thrive on this pressure, whereas others can be stifled by it.
  • Tell a few friends – This time you're more selective about who you tell. Your friends can be a good source of encouragement, so don't be too hasty to overlook this option. Be careful not to tell friends who are overly negative, as they may discourage you.
  • Tell a single person – Find one person whom you want to motivate them and tell them of your goal. Have them contact you on a regular basis to see how you're progressing. This can be a good option if you have a friend who is willing to help you through to the completion of your goal.

Achieving the goal

This was covered in more depth in Thursday's post, but to briefly review it:

  • Plan your goal – Create an action plan toward completing your goal. This should outline the actionable steps involved, and possibly a rough timeline with milestones. The amount of detail depends on your individual style, but it should at least include one concrete action that will move you towards the completion of the goal.
  • Review it regularly – Review your goals and their plans as regularly as possible. I recommend taking half an hour every morning to read over your list of goals to energise you for the day ahead. This also keeps things fresh in your mind so you can prioritise your actions accordingly.

The most important thing to remember…

Don't be afraid to fail! Everybody fails at some point in their lives, but the real test is how you cope with your failure. Use it as a learning experience. Examine where you went wrong, and look at how you can prevent it from happening again. The chances are that in a few years you'll look back on the "failure" and realise it was the best thing that ever happened to you.

Blogging Goals Project - Favourites

The full list of entries to the ProBlogger group project on goals have been posted, and there are plenty of articles to read!

Personal Favourites

  • Sabine Kirstein over at CT Biz Blogs wrote a nice introduction on goals for new bloggers. I highly recommend checking out the rest of the site too, there‚Äôs a lot of really useful information tucked away.

    One point I would have added was to make sure you're passionate about the subject before you start blogging about it. Some may think of passion as the fuel that drives you, but it's also useful to think of it as the oil in the engine - you can run without it for a short time, but eventually you'll grind to a halt.

  • Helen at "Trying to Become Athletic" posted ten goals that focussed on becoming a fitter person, and sharing the experience and insight with others. Being able to share your knowledge is one of the advantages of blogging, and having a blog can also give you a boost because you want to learn so you can write about it.
  • Despite having a rather long title, "35 days left to kill this blog - this is what I call a killer Blog Goal" from Jack at Blog 4 Bloggers had a nice big goal of earning $1,000 a month from AdSense within twelve months. If he doesn't make it, he'll delete his blog! Now that's double-barrelled motivation!

Even more entries

There's a permanent page with all the entries over at ProBlogger. There's a lot of them to read, but you're bound to find something that inspires you. Check them out!

How to ensure you achieve your goals

Goal setting is an important tool for anybody who wants to improve themselves. However, goal achieving is often a neglected part of the personal development process. Plenty of people set goals (just look at New Year's Eve), but few of these goals ever come to fruition. Why is that?

Why goals fail

Let's face it, we're often full of enthusiasm when we're dreaming about what we want to achieve, but gradually the feeling fades and we're left back at the start - dreaming.

Goals fail because not enough thought and effort goes into achieving them. Setting the goal is only part of the journey, you must put in a conscious and consistent effort into burning the goal into your mind.

Thankfully, there's plenty you can do to improve your chances of turning your dreams into reality.

Set excellent goals

Many factors go into creating an effective goal, and it's something I'll be writing about in more depth in the future. Here are a few key points:

  • Be specific - The more specific the goal, the better. "Exercise more" is not specific, but "Exercise every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before work for twenty minutes" is much better. Doesn't that sound less like a dream and more like a plan?
  • Set a date - As plenty of people have said, "a goal without a deadline is just a dream". Giving yourself a reasonable deadline can help stop the "I'll start it tomorrow" syndrome that can creep up on you. A deadline promotes action, and helps you prioritise your tasks. Would your boss ever give you a big project to be completed "whenever"? Didn't think so.
  • Commit to paper - It sounds simple, but it's a step some people can miss. Write your goals down. This not acts as a form of commitment, but it stops you from forgetting them too!

Plan how you'll achieve them

Once you've got your goals, you need to plan how you'll achieve them. This process is really down to personal preference, but a good start is to write down the first concrete action you can take toward achieving your goal. If you like to think further ahead, you can write down the next three steps, or a more detailed plan for anything complex. It's really a case of finding out what works best for you. Don't be afraid to experiment with different methods until you find something that works.

Mind-mapping can be a great help at the planning stage, and it's often beneficial to write down as many ideas as you can at this stage. Always go for quantity, and never throw out an idea when you're mind mapping. The important part is to create a safe environment for your creativity, so you don't want to stifle it by throwing out ideas at an early stage. Some ideas that sound bad may even turn out to be useful once you've had time to think about them. Once you've got all your ideas, you can start to review them and put them into a coherent plan.

As an example, if I had a goal of increasing traffic to my blog I'd want to get as many ideas as possible, and then create an easy to follow plan in small steps that I could complete every day. This might include posting on certain days, contributing to relevant forums on a daily basis etc.

If you're stuck at this part, don't worry. Solutions have a habit of appearing when you're least expecting them, so as long as you're constantly reviewing your goal (as covered in the next section), you'll do fine. Just make sure you have some paper handy for when the answer arrives!

Review your goals regularly!

Once your goals are committed to paper and planned out, you need to make sure you review them on a regular basis. Reading and re-writing your goals helps to galvanise them, and creates the drive and momentum that will push you to achieving them. Read your goals every morning and every night, and review them every week.

Do what works for you. Write your goals on an index card and carry them around, record them to a tape and play it whilst driving to work, write them on a huge poster and stick it to the ceiling above your bed! The important thing is to really hammer them into your brain. Goals that get forgotten don't get achieved, so make sure you're regularly topping yourself up.

Don't be afraid to tweak things if they're not going as well as you'd like. Modify plans as regularly as you need to, because even if things are going well, you will almost certainly learn new things that will help you achieve your goals even faster.

The important stuff

To summarise - if you want to achieve your goals, use the following methods:

  • Set Excellent Goals - Write down your goals, and make them as specific as possible. Give yourself a deadline to help you prioritise your actions.
  • Plan how you'll achieve them - Once you've written your goals down, make a plan as to how you'll achieve them.
  • Review your goals regularly - Review your goals and plans as regularly as required. Burn them into your subconscious!

More articles on goals

This post was written for the ProBlogger "Blog Goals - Group Writing Project". You can read all about other people's goals, and a whole host of other goal related information. Be inspired!

I wish all contributors all the best with achieving their goals!

Welcome to PhilNewton.net

As this is my first post here, I thought I'd write a little about my goals for this site.

The two most important goals for me are:

Improve every day

As the tag line suggests, I want to improve myself every day. I also want to improve the day of anyone who reads this blog.

I love to learn, and I've realised that blogging is a great platform to learn from. Not only can it help you interact with intelligent people who share your passions, but it helps you improve yourself as you start to learn your own capabilities.

Say something worth hearing

A lot of people with blogs want to be heard. I want to say something worth hearing. Sharing what I learn is a big part of this goal, and as blogging is also a good learning platform, the odds for achieving this are stacked in my favour.

The rest

I have plenty more goals, but these are the core ideas that I'm building the site around.

I'll be updating some of my older articles from the Sodaware blog to publish on this site, but for the next few months I'll be focussing on adding new, interesting content.

Printable CEO Scoring

Jana recently asked an interesting question relating to my progress log system – specifically about my modified version of the Printable CEO:

"My question: do you use your modified PCEO just for work-related activities or also for non-work goals (i.e., the activites to ensure 'balance')?"

The short answer is "It's mostly business", and to be honest I never really thought about adding many non-work activities to it. The "b-Alert" tracker takes care of making sure I'm balancing my day, and the PCEO gives me a way of measuring how productive I've been. So far it's helped overcome the problem of doing lots of small (and important) tasks and feeling like I've wasted a day, because I can look at the scores and see that I achieved a lot. I like that.

This question came at a good time, as I've recently modified some of the activities on my score card to reflect a slight adjustment in focus. I'll compare old and new, and walk through a few of the decisions I made when creating my score card.

Old vs New

The Old Way
10 Concrete project work
10 Direct income work
5 Blog or site article
5 Personal or business development
5 Publicly publishable code
2 Site promotion
2 Concrete business work
2 Project proposal
1 Volunteer project work
1 Misc. Contribution
The New Way

10 Concrete project work
10 Direct income work
5 Blog or site article
5 Personal or business development
5 Publicly publishable resource
2 Business promotion
2 Concrete business work
2 Volunteer project work
1 Misc. Contribution
1 Building/Strengthening a relationship

How I created the original score card

When I first started using the PCEO, I was a little unsure of what activities to use, so a lot of the points are similar to Dave's original system. Looking over them, you can see they're divided into four major sections:

  • "Visible" work – The high scoring activities are all visible work. "Concrete Project Work" can cover anything on a project, from documentation to coding some fancy particles.
  • Things of value – The next scoring band concentrated on things that are of value to other people, such as sharing source code or writing an article for the blog. It also covered business/personal development work, such as writing goals or creating something that helps with business work.
  • "Smaller" business tasks – "Concrete business work" covered most business tasks, such as tweaking the website, doing accounts or anything else not covered higher up the chain.
  • Contribution – I do volunteer work for the Scout Association, and I felt planning activities for that deserved rewarding on the PCEO chart. "Misc. Contribution" covers helping other people on forums or newsgroups.

The new and improved version

There aren't any radical changes, but I think the small tweaks I made will have a positive effect. I was quite happy with the original scoring, but I felt it had a few weaknesses which I've tried to address:

  • Promoting volunteer work – I removed the somewhat redundant "Project Proposal", and promoted volunteer work into its place, because I felt that I was neglecting this area a little.
  • "Strengthening/Creating relationships" – Going back to Dave's version, I liked the section on relationships. It's all too easy to overlook the important relationships in our lives, whether they're business or personal. Again, that's a weakness in my original system that I wanted to address.
  • Other tweaks – I changed the focus on a few items slightly. "Site promotion" went to "business promotion", and "publishable code" went to "publishable resource". This gave it a broader scope, and means there is a reward for sharing any resource of use, such as a template.

That's all folks!

So that's my PCEO scoring system in all its glory. If you're just getting started with the Printable CEO, it can be difficult to work out a way of scoring your activities, but hopefully seeing my version will inspire you to create something cool.

External Articles: David Seah - The Printable CEO