Goals have tremendous power in propelling us to success. Setting goals helps us focus our efforts on the tasks that get us to the finish line. But having too many goals is just as fruitless as having no goals at all.
Many professionals and corporations set goals. But since these goal setting and strategic planning activities often happen just once a year, a lot of goals get packed into the ‘check-list’. At first glance, it may be reasonable to assume that working on multiple goals would increase productivity and make progress on different fronts, but that’s not the case. Our brains don’t work as well when we jump from one task to another. When we’re spinning too many plates we end up sabotaging our productivity. David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work stated that multitasking (or trying to multitask) “reduces our intelligence, literally dropping our IQ,” not to mention that working on too many goals at once scatters effort and energy, dampening our progress and increasing the risk of burnout.
It’s more beneficial to create a goal setting strategy that allows us to focus deeply on a limited number of tasks. So how can corporations and professionals engage in productive goal setting?
Identify One Ambitious Long Term Goal
Prioritize goals and identify one ambitious, long term goal that will make the greatest impact to your business or your career. This is the primary goal and you will be spending the majority of your time working on it. This goal should be audacious, it should be challenging, and requires you to get outside your comfort zone. It should stretch you in the sense that you should not currently be able to accomplish it with the skills and habits you currently have.
Break Down Long Term Goal into Smaller Goals
Break down this one big ambitious long term goal into three smaller shorter term components. For example, let’s say your big ambitious goal is to increase productivity for your business by 15% in one year. You can break down this one big ambitious goal into three smaller goals such as empowering employees, strengthening leadership, and achieving lean management. These smaller goals will create stepping stones to reach your ambitious goal.
Hold Quarterly Goal Planning Sessions
Once you’ve set your ambitious goal and the three individual components, hold goal planning sessions every three months. During these sessions, revisit your goal, assess your progress, receive feedback from qualified mentors or senior professionals and make any changes necessary to the strategy or to the goals themselves. Many people set goals or New Year’s Resolutions only to never look at them again. Frequent check-ins ensure that the goals remain relevant to your current situation and the market you are in. These planning sessions also act to keep you accountable and motivated, reinforcing continuous progress towards achieving your ambitious goal.
Ambitious goals that significantly change the course of your professional life or business and propel you forward require extensive planning and strategy to ensure your limited time and energy go to maximum use. Ambitious, long term goals require regular check-ins that allow you to assess and evaluate your progress, strategy, and assumptions to carry you forward for the long haul.