Need Help Setting Goals?


If you don’t schedule time to review your goals, the chances are high that most of them will not materialise. Instead they become no better than your annual New Years resolutions. Reviewing your goals is arguably more important than the setting of the goal itself. It’s a checking system created to help your sub-conscious find the right path. Here are five important lessons I have learned after just completing my own summer review.

 1. You cannot manage what you cannot measure

The title of this first piece of advice is an old managerial adage worthy of remembrance. In order to manage you need to measure, whilst also remembering that not everything can be measured. If I decide to read three books on relationships – with the goal of becoming a better partner to my girlfriend – what is the benefit? In truth, you will never know, because it is a goal that is not easily measured. But you still go ahead and do it anyway because you believe it is the right thing to do. Now let’s take a goal of reading three books on health and nutrition, with the goal of losing weight. Now you are dealing with tangibles that are easily measured. You could choose between a variations of body mass index (BMI), inches around the waistline or a reduction on the scales in terms of poundage.

During my recent review, I realised that my goal review process was not strong enough. It was devoid of any kind of measurement, with the exception of the goal review itself. All my goals should have been measurable. They should have been S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timescaled). Without S.M.A.R.T goals, you allow yourself to wander away from the goal itself. You become easily distracted, procrastinate wildly and even forget that you created the goal in the first place.

The review process is built in for this very purpose. It allows me to now temper my goals and make them suit the S.M.A.R.T philosophy, where I believe I will gain more value. So the main lesson here is to always ask yourself if your goals can be measured, and if they can, create the measure at the time of setting the goal. If your goal cannot be measured, then ask yourself if there is a way that it can be reconstructed in order to create measurement. Remember – you cannot manage what you cannot measure.

2. Do you have the right number of goals?

It’s true that you over-estimate what you can do in a day, and under-estimate what you can do in a year. But despite that understanding, I still believe that I have created far too many goals. The review has opened my eyes. I can now see that I am swimming in goals, and other actions that I must take in order to improve my life. I am in danger of reducing my learning by over saturation of trying.

Once again this goes back to not doing the job right in the beginning. Instead of looking at each individual goal and asking the question, “Is this goal S.M.A.R.T?” You need to ask the question. “Is this goal process S.M.A.R.T?” So my piece of advice here is to look as the sum of the parts, and not just the parts themselves. If you feel you have not exerted yourself enough by the time you have reached your review, then this is the time to create a few more goals. Everything in moderation, as some clever soul once said.

3. Are your goals aligned with your life purpose?

You should ask yourself this question each time you decide to create a goal. If it isn’t aligned then don’t pursue it. You will never stop learning, and there will never be a cessation in the things to do column. So make sure that everything you do aligns with life purpose. If you don’t know what your life purpose is, then spend time working it out before you start your goals.

I think I started the year by creating goals for the sake of it. My head was getting slightly bigger because I had started to show myself that I was pretty good at achieving goals. Learning French is an admirable thing to do, and will of course come in handy, when I am in Paris next week; but it hardly constitutes a goal that is in line with my life purpose. Eating lot’s of garlic bread is about as French as I am likely to get in my lifetime. In the meantime, by creating goals that do not align with my true purpose, I end up creating the fuss I wrote about in the second point. A snowball effect rumbles into action, and my progress on the goals that are aligned with my life purpose run much slower. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. I need to free up my own physical resources to be able to move my true purpose goals along quicker, and to do that I need to stop working on the nice to have goals such as learning to speak French.

4. Have your goals become a way of life for you?

If you have created a great goals process that is aligned with your true purpose, then your goals will become just the way that life is. Eventually you will even forget that you have a goal at all, it just becomes a way of life. Take my goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks. That is a goal that is aligned with my life purpose, because it is a goal for furthering my education, thus enabling me to spread that education to anyone else that wants or needs it. In the beginning, I had to remind myself to read. But these days it has just symbiotically merged into my everyday life. When your goals start to feel like they are just part of who you are, then you know you have selected the right ones.

5. Check your progress daily

Goals don’t magically become your way of life. I didn’t just take to reading, everyday, like a baby zebra takes to walking the moment they are born. Instead I had to gradually learn to assimilate everyday reading into my life. The greatest method I produced for doing this was through my Thinking Journal. The design of which, has changed so much this year, and the goals review process plays an important role in its improvement. One of the great tools that the Thinking Journal possesses is the area where I review what work I have done on my goals during that day. When your fingers fly around the keyboard like a nimble figure skater on the ice, you know that your goals are aligned with your life purpose, and you are taking action to make the work, work. If your finger just hovers like a kestrel over barren land, then you better get out your goals process and create an emergency review, because you aren’t working on them…period, as my American readers would have me say.

Checking your progress on a daily basis is like placing a drawing pin on your computer chair. It really does make you sit up and take notice. Not only do you quickly find out whether or not you are working on your goals, but it also helps the assimilation process into your everyday life. Lastly, it reminds you of all the great work you are doing. It highlights progress and in turn makes you smile, and we could all do with a little bit more of the old lip wiggling.

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  1. If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

    • Hi Dan,

      I received your e-mail and have placed this in my task list to take a look 🙂

      I will let you know how I find it and will of course write a review for you on the blog.



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