Much of the time, we set ourselves up for failure. We set goals in order to please someone else. We plan for things that we aren’t ready to tackle. We try to do too much. These are recipes for failure. If you are going to set goals, make sure that they are achievable. Spend some time figuring out what you need to do. Determine what success looks like and make plans. Otherwise you are likely to fail.
Setting goals is the process of identifying the things that you want to do. Planning is the process of managing the things that you want to do. If you are anything like me, you have way more that you want to do than time to do it. If you are not careful, you’ll try to start working on everything and end up finishing nothing. Of course the answer is to plan. This is how I manage the things that I want to do.
As I have mentioned before, I like to group my goals up into three different categories: long term, yearly and quarterly. Long term and yearly goals are really too far away for much planning. There is still too much time for everything to go to hell. However, a quarterly goal is really just a project. These are things that need to be done that are comprised of more than one action. Some projects are more strictly defined than others.
To make sure that I am working towards my goals, I perform a review process at predefined times during the year. The review process is the secret sauce for creating a plan that stays relevant throughout the whole year.
Every Sunday I sit down and go through a review process. First, I go over what I accomplished the week before. I try to identify either why I was able or unable to finish what I had planned. I look at what I have left to do and decide whether I still want to do it. I also look over my “Waiting” list and decide if any other action needs to be taken.
Next, I take a look at my goals for this quarter. I look at the projects and make sure that they are prioritized correctly. I take pains to avoid moving anything to or from the list of projects for this quarter. The Weekly review session is not the time to change quarterly goals.
Once that is done, I choose a project to work on. This should be the first item in the prioritized project list. Occassionaly that isn’t practical due to whatever is going on that week. Once I decide what projects to work on, I must break things up into actionable tasks. I store tasks in two different lists. I have a “To Do” list for everything I intend to do this week, and a “Doing” list for what I am doing today.
Sometimes there are more tasks for a project than can be finished in a week. In that case, I leave the extra tasks attached to the project in the Quarterly goals list. For those times when I finish more than I expect, these are the tasks that I usually do next.
I conduct a monthly review on either the first or last Sunday of every month. I choose the Sunday that is closer to the first day of the month. For example this month I will do my monthly review today since the first lands on a Tuesday. If the first was on a Friday, I would do my monthly review on the third day of the month.
This review is a bit more elaborate version of my weekly review. The major difference is that I allow myself to add or remove a goal that I had set for this quarter. The added goal still needs to work towards accomplishing one of my yearly goals. The monthly review process is not the time to change yearly goals.
Every three months, I have a quarterly review. As you will suspect, this review is much like the monthly review. I still do everything that I would do in a weekly review except that I allow myself to change yearly goals. I do not allow myself to change long term goals. The quarterly review process is not the time to change long term goals.
The reason that I allow myself to change goals at predefined times during the year is to allow for some flexibility. I personally need a bend but don’t break strategy for accomplishing goals. I have such a wide variety of interests that it doesn’t take much to derail me from everything that I have planned. On the other hand, sometimes things just don’t work out. It is ridiculous to continue working on something that obviously isn’t worth it.
During the yearly review, I reevaluate all of my goals. I think about the prior year in terms of what worked and what did not work so well. I put some thought into what I want to accomplish both now and in the future. Last year I spent about a week going through this process.
This is the time to change those long term goals. Sometimes after spending a significant amount of time working on something it becomes clear that it isn’t a good fit. It is difficult to give up on a goal that you have worked hard to accomplish. I always remind myself that setting goals and making plans is something that I do to make my life better. If at any time I feel like I have become a slave to the processes that I set up, then it is time to change. But only at the predefined intervals that I set beforehand.