How to set and achieve better goals

Let’s focus on goal setting. 

Take a moment to think about your goals. How confident are you that you can achieve them? How clear are they? 

Goal setting is a way to make conscious decisions about how we spend our time. Everyone has the same 24 hours, but not everyone spends them wisely. Goals help us define our “yes” and our “no.”  

Here’s a key coaching point: Our actions always lead toward some goal, even if we don’t realize it. It just might not be a goal we’ve consciously chosen. For leaders and business owners, the consequences of this can be disastrous, since their decisions often impact many other people. Whether you feel confident in your goals or not, everyone can benefit from evaluating what they want and how they’ll get it. This four-step goal-setting process can help. 

How to set better goals

What follows is a simplified version of our core strategic planning framework. It works as well for individual goals as it does for organizational ones.  

  1. Decide what “success” looks like (and why that matters to you). Get clear on what you want, long term, and in the next 6-12 months. Then, think about your “why”: what makes that important to you? 
  2. Pick three or four key strategies for how you’ll get there. Work backwards from where you want to be: what key decisions do you need to make (usually boiling down to time or money) to grow, adapt, overcome and make progress? Remember that if everything is a priority, nothing is. Say no to the good, so you can say yes to the best. 
  3. For each strategy, decide on an implementation plan that can be broken down into inputs and outputs and start logging everything on a tracking system. 
  4. An implementation plan is an action plan. Break the strategy down into workable steps, put them on your calendar and start making progress. 
  5. An output is a target result. Doubled revenue, perfect safety ratings, and a low resting heart rate, for example, are all results. 
  6. Inputs are whatever you do to make the outputs more likely. The number of jobs bid, safety training/inspections and doing 150 minutes of zone 3 cardio per week are just some of the inputs that make those previous outputs more likely. 
  7. A tracking system is how you know, week to week and month to month, that you’re actually getting things done. You can use a formal project management system or an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Doc—the point is to have a written record of who did what, when and what the result was. Tracking allows you to spot patterns, double down on what’s working, and avoid repeating past mistakes. 
  8. Finally, decide on an accountability cadence. Who will you tell about your goals so they can hold you accountable? How often will you check in with them, and with yourself, to evaluate progress and adjust as needed? 

This might seem complicated, but here’s the simplest way possible to sum up these four steps: 

  1. Decide what you want
  2. Determine the 2-3 best ways to get there
  3. Develop an action plan with
  4. Designated responsible/accountable people (in this case, you are the responsible party).

Using this framework, anybody can set clear, meaningful goals—and make measurable progress toward them. 

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