How to Set Goals : My 2009 Goals

| February 1, 2009 | 2 Replies

I'm a big goal-setter. My junior year of high school, I got sick of being fat, never going on dates, and being cut from the baseball team. So, I wrote down "10 things I want to do" on a piece of paper, made copies, and hung them up everywhere I could – in my bedroom, bathroom, in my locker, in my notebook.

A funny thing happened that year. My life changed.

Within six months of writing those goals, I had lost 50 pounds, make the all-state baseball team, and was dating the homecoming queen.

Over the years, I've developed a pretty sophisticated, yet simple, process for setting my goals and holding myself accountable for them.

First: Get in a state of possibility:  I let myself get into a complete state of possibility – with no limits on my imagination. I write down all the things I want to do and accomplish, segmented into different areas of my life: personal growth, relationships, career, health, fun & things. I use a combination of Tony Robbins goal-setting MP3 found in his Personal Power book, and Wayne Dyer's 7 Habits books.

Second: Get clear on the time frame: I then divide the goals into 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year, and longer time frames. This lets me see the long term view, as well as what I need to do this year to stay on track for the long haul. From there, I pick the 10-12 most important goals that I am absolutely committed to accomplishing this year. I've found that when I get more than a dozen goals, I end up not being able to focus on any of them. (I used to do this quite a bit in my 20's, then feel like I failed when actually I was just trying to do too much to quickly). 

Also, another tip is to make sure that you have a good balance in your goals. If all of your goals involve your work (yes, I'm talking to you Mr. Internet start-up guy), or farting around, or God, or money, then you're life is going to get lopsided, out of focus, and something is going to suffer. When I focused totally on work, I found that my personal life and health suffered, which in turn, decreased my effectiveness at work.

Third: Get committed: After I have my list of most significant goals, I write down why I'm absolutely committed to accomplishing each of them this year, and what it will cost me if I don't do it. This helps me truly visualize what I want, how I'll feel when I get it, and the pain I'll experience if I screw off and don't commit myself.

Here's an example of on of my goals and why I'm committed to it:

Find 12 smart, driven people to be my friends. I am absolutely committed to this goal because I realize that what creates the joys of memories is being able to work on them with others and share them with people. If I am to be around people, I want to be around people who inspire and motivate me to see beyond my own abilities. I don’t have this in my life right now, but I have the opportunity to grow it. Thus, I am going to. I have let myself fall into this non-social rut. It’s going to stop. Life is about people. Life is about people who believe in you and who you can lift up and support through the hard times. Create memories with people!!!

If I don’t do this, I cannot create the most lasting, powerful memories that I could have. I won’t be able to contribute to others and make a lasting impression if I don’t meet them to start with. This has been a trouble spot for me because I’ve put so much effort into the company. It’s time to diversify and make sure my people skills get back on track.

Fourth: Put it where you'll see it: I'll make a list of my goals and, just like when I was in high-school, I'll place my lists in areas where I know I'll see them on a daily basis. Since I use Outlook for my daily calendaring and task lists, I've set up a daily recurring task where I have all my goals listed.

Fifth: Break it down. I think this is the area where it's the easiest to fall off the wagon. It's not enough to write down your yearly goals and then tuck them away. You have to have a way to measure whether you're moving forward. What I do each Sunday is to take a look at my goals and see what I need to do THIS WEEK in order to move me closer to them.

For instance, another one of my goals is to read 18 books this year. So, I can break that goal down into micro-goals (many people call this "chunking" – referring to breaking a bigger goal into bite-sized chunks). Since I need to read 18 books for the year, this means I need to read 1.5 books a month. For me, this is about two hours a week. So my goal for the week  is to read 2 hours. Simple and manageable! 

Sixth: The Key – Measure it. How do you know if you're on track if you don't measure your results? Measuring results on a weekly basis is critical to your success because you can immediately see if you start falling behind. By measuring yourself, you'll always know where you stand.

Here's how I do it.

As I mentioned before, each Sunday I'll look at my goals and make a list of what I need to do this week in order to move me closer to them. with 10 main goals, your weekly list could contain 10-20 items. For my "18 books" goal, my weekly tasks are to a) read 2 hours and b) go to Borders and pick up a new book. I'll do this for each goal.

Then on the following Sunday, I'll look back over my list of tasks and give myself a score according to how I did. If I read for 90 minutes and went to Borders, I'll give myself a 75% on that task and a 100% on my second task. The blended accomplishment rate for that task is 88%. I'll continue this process for each set of goals.

At the end of this exercise I'll normally have 10 scores (for my 10 goals) and then I'll blend all ten to get an overall weekly accomplishment score. Note that some weeks you won't have 10 scores. Sometimes there is nothing to do for a particular goal. That is normal and completely cool.

This score should be between 75-85%. If you are always hitting 100% of your goals, then you need bigger goals. If you're at 50-60%, then you need to try harder.

Transfer this score into Excel and build a weekly graph to show how you're doing. Over time, you'll be able to see how you did vs. your goal list. Here is an example of my last year's accomplishment chart:

Picture 3

As you can see, sometimes I just have bad weeks. I screw up and fall short of my goals. Because I'm able to visualize my screw ups, it becomes easier to motivate myself to get back on track. It's better to know you're not on track than to think you might be, but find out later that you're way short of where you thought you'd be.

The Loop. This entire process creates a loop of accountability. You get focused on what you want, then you have a way of knowing if you're moving closer to your goals. I've found that the accountability portion really adds tremendous value. It is the edge over most goal setting programs. 

How much time does this take? When I explain my goal system to people, some look at me like I'm a complete nerd. Well, actually they are right. I'm a nerd who likes to get stuff done. 🙂 I figure that I have one shot in life, so I need to know I'm working towards something. It's just the way I'm wired. Anyway, you can expect to spend 2-4 hours at the beginning of the year to get really clear on what you want. Then, on Sunday, I spend about 15-20 minutes measuring myself and setting my goals for the following week. Once a quarter, I'll write a review of where I am, what I need to change, and gut-check myself to make sure my goals are still valid for me (goals change over time – you need to remain flexible and be ready to change when your hear tells you to). 

It just doesn't take that much time to do it right. It's really efficient, and the time you save during the week because you're working on your most important tasks make up for the time in spades.

So, that's it. That's my goal setting system. If you like it, feel free to use it. If you need help understanding something, email me or leave a comment and I'll do what I can to help out.

2009 Goals: Here are my main 2009 goals. Where are yours?

  • I will read 18 books this year 
  • I will continue my never-ending quest to master character traits of "POPPS" (Passion, Optimism, Purpose, Persistence, Self-Confidence)
  • I will find 12 new, smart, and driven friends
  • TakeLessons reaches $(xx) in profitability (hidden for competitive reasons)
  • Begin to do public speaking
  • Earn $(xx) this year in personal income (hidden for personal reasons)
  • Beat the S&P by 20%. So if the S&P is up 4%, my goal is to be at 4.8%
  • Open trust/college savings accounts for my niece and nephew, Bethany and Jake
  • Save 15% of my income for a rainy day
  • Move into a different place in San Diego. I'm ready for a yard and a view.
  • I weigh 180 and am in excellent health. Goal is to be in just-as-good shape at 40 than I was at 25.
  • Trip to see the European Castles

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Category: Goals

  • Great post. People forget how important goal setting is

  • Thanks for sharing, Steven! I admire the dedication you apply to the process of creating the goals and then monitoring your progress. I will take away a couple of your tips and try them out myself this year. Wish me luck!