On Day 4 we looked at the concept of setting objectives as a series of stepping stones to give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving our goals. We discussed how to set “SMART” objectives – ones which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time dependent – and this article takes a deeper look at the role objectives play in the process.
Setting goals can be a daunting process at the best of times but without goals it is highly unlikely that you will achieve the things you desire from your life. First work out what it is that you want to achieve – this is your goal. The goal should challenge you but should not be so difficult that it wears you out completely.
We use objectives to break things down into a series of stepping stones on the way to accomplishing our goal. That way even if the goal is very large we need not be weighed down by the enormity of it. Next we will put in place a strategy to help us accomplish each of the objectives. There may be one strategy or a series of strategies needed for any given objective. To find your strategy you need simply ask yourself: “What do I need to do to achieve this objective?”
Next we need to develop a tactic or series of tactics to ensure we actually complete our objectives and therefore ultimately reach our goal. The tactics we use can be seen as the day-to-day actions we take to accomplish our objectives. The strategy has shown us what we need to do and the tactics are what help us actually do them. So, for example, one strategy might be to set aside a particular block of time each day to work on our objectives or to reward ourselves with watching a favorite TV program only after we have worked on reaching our objectives.
Say your overall goal is to learn how to fly a light aircraft within six months of today’s date. Now that you have your goal and a timeframe, you need to set objectives and these might include:
Research the flying schools in my location, find out what they charge for lessons, draw up a shortlist, arrange to visit the top three and have a series of questions prepared for my visit. (Timeframe: two weeks)
Arrange to take a trial lesson to determine if this is really for me before I commit a large amount of time, money and effort to this project? (Timeframe: one week)
Decide whether to stop or continue on the basis of the above. (Timeframe: two days)
Work out how I am going to fund the lessons. Have I sufficient savings? Do I need to arrange finance? Do I need to identify areas of expenditure I need to cut back on so I can afford the lessons? (Timeframe: two days)
Set aside sufficient blocks of time for the lessons, ground school and private study… (and so on) (Timeframe: up to six months)
By asking “What do I need to do to achieve this?” we will find the strategy required to meet each of the objectives and our tactics are the day-to-day measures we put in place to ensure we take action. One useful tactic would be to write down the goal and put this somewhere where you will see it every day. Another might be to start each day with the affirmation: “I am one day closer to achieving my goal of ‘x’.”
In this particular case I would have arranged to have a photograph taken of me during the trial lesson and I would have this on my desk so I could see each day what I was working towards.
Following these rules will allow you to stay laser-focused on your goal so that nothing will allow you to get blown off track.
Now let us look in a little more detail at those SMART objectives.
- Specific – What is the precise outcome? Who is responsible?
- Measurable – How will progress be measured?
- Attainable – Can the objective be achieved with a reasonable amount of effort?
- Realistic – Do you have the ability and resources to get the job done?
- Time dependent – What are the start and finish dates?
Each objective needs to be specific because you need to know the precise outcome of that objective. Also you need to decide who is responsible for that outcome. Most times it will be you but there may be occasions where you decide to outsource tasks to a third party. In this case then everyone involved needs to know exactly who is responsible for each task and what the specific outcome is for the objective. Using the previous example of learning to fly, I might decide to outsource the flying school research to a third party (perhaps someone who has already learned to fly) so absolute clarity is needed in order to properly brief that person on the task at hand.
Progress needs to be measured so we can determine when the objective has been met. If something can be measured then it cannot be disputed. If the objective is “I will lose 14 lbs in weight by March 14” then you either reach that number by the deadline or you don’t and there can be no debate as to whether the objective was met or not. If you said “I want to lose a fair amount of weight by March 14” then you cannot chart your progress because “a fair amount” is vague and can mean different things to different people.
There is no point in setting yourself a task which is so difficult that it is either always out of reach or only possible with near super-human effort. You should choose objectives which require a reasonable amount of effort – not so low that it comes too easy and not so high that it takes forever. It also needs to be realistic and for this you can ask yourself: “Do I have the resources to get the job done?” Don’t be afraid to set the bar high and to push yourself but always ensure that, with effort, you can get the job done.
Finally there must be a realistic time frame otherwise there is no real incentive to get the job done and a task which take days or weeks to complete could stretch out for many months.
I hope you can see how breaking down your goals into small, manageable segments like this can lead to real progress in transforming your life. Don’t be afraid to make subtle adjustments here and there as you work towards your goal. You may find that you can realistically complete one objective in a far shorter time frame than you originally thought while another may prove more complex and might need more time.
Having a reliable framework like this to work on will mean that you will always have a game plan for success.