Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goal setting primer

I decided that I'm taking a different approach this year. I'm not setting resolutions. I'm defining a goal. In my work, I've done training on goal setting for managers and leaders, and I often apply these to more informal coaching sessions as well. When I talk of writing goals, I break it down into its parts, and I'll encourage you to consider what you want to achieve, how you're going to set about achieving it, why it's important, and how you're going to measure your success. Let's start with these pieces first.

What do you want to achieve? This is the goal itself: the outcome you're looking for. Often, it's helpful to include why you want to achieve the goal.

Is losing 15 pounds a goal? Not really. There's usually some reason you want to lose 15 pounds - whether it's to feel more energetic, or to lower your blood sugar or blood pressure, or even to be able to wear all your kickass skinny clothes.

What are some ways to get to that desired outcome? How will you achieve your goals? In a broad sense, or a big picture, these are your strategies. You might have one or two or five strategies under a goal.

To continue on the weight loss thread, one strategy might be to eat better and another one might be to move your body more. These are not really specific, but in broad strokes, these are the ways that you'll achieve your goal.

Specifically, what are you going to do to make those strategies happen? Here you'll come up with very specific, manageable, measurable, doable tactics. Often you'll have several tactics under each strategy. The key is to make them something to strive for (so, not too easy!) but not impossible. They should be challenging yet realistic. These tactics can change over the course of your plan; for example, for the first few weeks it might make sense to exercise at the gym twice a week for 30 minutes each, but as you progress it might be more realistic to go four times a week for 45 minutes each time. Tactics should also be things that you personally have control over. So, "get my husband to listen to me when I talk to him," is not a good tactic.

Some examples of your tactics might be: I'm going to walk 30 minutes a day during my lunch break at least 3 times a week, I'm going to eat fresh vegetables at least twice a day, or I'm going to sign up for and attend all sessions of a weekly yoga class.

Lastly, you'll want ways to measure your progress. How will you know if you've succeeded in your goal? These are your metrics. You'll probably have more than one metric.

Here's where the 15 pounds comes back in! So a metric might be to lose a specific amount of weight, to be able to run a 5K, to fit back into your skinny jeans, or to bring your blood pressure to an acceptable range.

To summarize:
Goal - outcome
Strategies - the approach (or approaches) you're going to take to achieve your goal
Tactics - specific sets of actions
Metrics - measurement of your progress and success

If you include all these pieces in your new years resolution - or goal! - it'll be more meaningful, easier to track, and hopefully in the long run will be more achievable for you.

Next up: my new year's goal, and an outline of my strategies, tactics, and metrics.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of goal setting, and breaking it down into manageable steps. Mine seems so overwhelming right now (survive end of twin pregnancy and beginning of twin infancy) that I'm not sure where to begin. One day at a time!