Goal Setting Success Factor # 4 – Plan it and DO something!

Actually managing your goals… and managing yourself to achieve those goals is likely to take a bit of time and a bit of self discipline. Yes, it would be great if we could just daydream, visualise and focus on our future and it would all magically fall into place, but actually, we need to get off our butts and DO something in order for anything to happen at all.

If you’ve given consideration to my Goal Setting Success Factors 1 – 3, you’ll already have a strong reason why you want to achieve your goals, and you’ll have a clear understanding of the skills you have and the skills that you need to do it. 

These are very strong foundations as you consider what exactly you’re going to need to DO in order to achieve your goals.

Here are my top 5 tips and factors to consider as you start to take action towards your goals.
 
Tip # 1 – be prepared to be patient
We live in an instant, push-button, get-it-now society. EVERYTHING happens fast – hey, if we’re kept for more than 2 minutes in the queue at MacDonalds we start to get fidgety and cross.

Achieving your goals is not like selecting a chocolate bar in a vending machine, putting in your money, pressing a button and ‘voila!’ there it is.  If your goal is really what you want, it’s worth making a bit of effort.

In his book Principle Centred Leadership, Steven Covey talks about the ‘law of the farm’. You plant something, you tend it, and in its season it’ll bear fruit. You DON’T plant a seed and expect to find a tree there the next day.

Challenge yourself to take action towards your goals. Don’t lose heart if it doesn’t happen for you overnight, though: remember that perseverance is part of achievement.
 
Tip# 2 – learn how to plan

It’s important that you plan how you’re going to approach your goal – even if you’re naturally a bit disorganised (like me) it’s important that you do this, and don’t just dive on in… and potentially miss out something vital.

First, you’ll need to break your goal down into smaller chunks (the ‘journey of the thousand miles beginning with the first step’, as it were). To define these smaller ‘sub-goals’, it’s usually easier to work backwards from your main goal than to try to guess at what the first step should be.

For example, if your goal is to be a published author, what else will you need to consider on your way to that goal? Is  your work formatted in a way that editors want? Have you had it proof read? Will you need to find a literary agent? How will you approach and promote yourself to publishers?

From here, you might say that one of your sub-goals is to find a literary agent. So now, you need to consider how you might do that. Perhaps the one of the first tasks you need to get your teeth into is researching literary agents, and working out how to make your pitch.

When you’ve decided what these smaller steps will be, you need to turn them into SMART goals… yes, THIS is where that whole SMART thing comes into its own, and not before!

·         The goal needs to be Specific (e.g. “I need to find a literary agent in the USA, who deals with children’s authors)
·         It needs to be measurable (e.g. “I only need the one agent, thanks… but I might need another one if I want to be published in Europe”)
·         Aligned with your overall goal (“Is getting an agent aligned with my goal of getting published? Yep”)
·         Realistic (“It’s a challenge, but can I do it?”)
·         Time bound (“WHEN will I do this?”)

That last one – Time Bound – is the biggest challenge.  If you don’t have some sort of timescale, there’s a danger that nothing will actually get done, so push yourself to set some deadlines.
 
Tip # 3 – be prepared to be focused
If your goals are worth it, they deserve to be kept in focus. Broadly speaking, stick to your plan, and work fairly methodically through it.

Don’t work slavishly through it, though – remember that the journey is, for many people, as important as the destination.

Opportunities that you hadn’t considered might present themselves along your way, and it’s important that you’re able to make the most of these. However… beware of ‘bright shiny objects’ that might appear to be opportunities, but can actually be distractions, taking you away from your main goal.

When these things present themselves, weigh up carefully whether or not they are actually helping your towards your goal (in which case, make the most of them) or whether they are taking you away from your goal… in which case, leave them alone.

When I started out in training and development, I was offered a PR contract (something I used to do in the past). The fee would have been good, and I’d have been able to do the job, and at first it seemed like easy money. However, my goal was to build my training and development business! How was doing someone else’s PR going to help towards that goal? It wasn’t! I politely withdrew from the contract.

The strange thing was, while I was briefly working on that PR job, I felt really uneasy and frustrated because I wasn’t working on my own goals. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for listening to your gut: if it feels wrong, it probably is.
 
Tip # 4 – learn to prioritise and do the right things
Once you’ve broken your goals down into sub-goals, you’ll begin to arrive at something that looks like a to-do list.
Just a quick question – how do you prioritise the tasks on your list? Really??

Most people will head straight for the tasks that they like doing, that are quick to finish, that someone else has told them they ought to do, etc., etc. Prioritising in this haphazard way, though, can lead to the sort of day when you’ve been busy for hours… but achieved nothing.

According to Steven Covey (and I’d agree!) the only two factors on which we should prioritise are the urgency and the importance of the task.  I have a to-do list that’s split into four sections:

A. Urgent and important
B. Important, but not urgent
C. Urgent but not important
D. Not urgent and not important

The A section containts things that I really need to get done this week. If I don’t do them, I’m going to set my ‘goal plan’ back.

The B section is for longer-term projects: writing an e-book, developing a new training course, that sort of thing. They’re important, but I don’t need to do them right now. I DO, though, break these into sub-goals, which are on my A list… I don’t want that vital B list to drift on and not get done because I’m fire-fighting in the A section!

The C tasks are less important to ME, but might be important to someone else. In the UK, we had to fill out a census recently: if we didn’t complete it on time, we risked a £1000 fine!  Things on your C list can be time wasters if you spend too long on them. If they are urgent, get them over with and move on as quickly as you can.

The D section contains tasks that really don’t matter. I might want to download a few MP3 clips, for example, or buy a couple of things on Ebay. The question is… should these things be on my to-do list at all? In some cases (like my purchases here) I still want to do them BUT I’m not going to waste time on these tasks when the A and B tasks are waiting in my in-tray.

Give this a try – my productivity increased significantly when I split up my to-do list like this.  Another thing worth doing is getting hold of Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ , which is great on making the most of your time.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into this trap “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia”.
 
Tip #5 – just get on with it!
Many people, sadly, will get as far as Goal Setting Success Factor #3 and stop. Why? Because it’s fun to daydream about our successful futures, to think about building our confidence and making an impact, and to think about the skills that we have… skills that could take us to the top.

When it comes to taking action, however, many people bottle out. PLEASE don’t let that be you. Take your aspirations, dreams and goals, your skills and your growing confidence and TAKE ACTION.

About 500 years BC, the founder of Buddhism wrote “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.”

Step out bravely. Do something.  Just make a start.

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