It is important to set good goals for yourself. As far as I can tell, there are some key aspects to consider:
- How does this goal fit into your life (in an overall sense)?
To me, this is the first logical step in making a plan. I keep in mind that any kind of goal requires a commitment of time, energy, and other resources. Anything I put towards the goal has an opportunity cost — in other words, it effectively takes the place of something else I could (or should?) be doing.
- What is the time scale?
A previous post underscored the need to limit the number of long/continuing challenges to a reasonable number. Too many goals stretched over too much time leads to inefficiency and lack of accountability. It is better to mix in a variety of fairly specific one to six month goals than a bunch of vague long term goals.
- What are the prerequisites?
In other words, have you laid the groundwork to realistically undertake this goal? There will not be a chance over a single lifetime to accomplish everything or tackle every challenge. It might be better to pick a lesser goal that would serve as a starting point, and reviw what happens while reaching this short time frame (say two months) challenge. This process will make you more aware of what a bigger goal in this area might require — it might be a lot more (or less!) work than you initially thought.
- What is your motivation?
This can be a tough one. If it directly relates towards your the mission statement for your life, then it is easier to see the significance to accomplishing that goal. But sometimes we have to make changes to please other people or to conform to our environment. I’d advise that peripheral goals be short-term in nature, so the challenge can be met with a more intense sustained focus, but perhaps such an approach is not always possible.
- When? Where? How?
It feels a bit like journalism school. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? But trying to define the parameters of the goal fleshes it out and makes things more real. Also, pre-selecting an appropriate date and venue can remove any nuisance obstacles that can stand in your way.
- What is the actual goal?
Write it down. Write out the steps. Figure out the checkpoints and try to estimate the rate of progress. I have found that specificity helps. Instead of some nebulous idea like “learn to speak French” I might recommend making a goal of learning 1000 French words in three months (or something along those lines).
To sum up, the point of this approach to goal setting is to actually accomplish what you set out to do. Why leave things open to interpretation? Why burden yourself with a laundry list of miscellaneous longstanding challenges? Or as I ask myself: Why bother make vague goals with no clear plan to achieve them? If I don’t plan to follow through, then why even make the pretense and bring a lot of angst into my life? With all that said, it should be clear why using better goal setting is a part of an uncluttered lifestyle.