Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to Learn a Productivity System Part 4: Goals

My kids have awesome dreams for the future. 

One of my kids wants to be a movie producer. One wants to be a famous actor. One wants to travel the world.

For myself, I still dream of being a race car drive (Yes, it’s true I still this dream even as a middle age person). 
These are examples of dreams and dreams can come true.  However, inorder to make a dream a reality, it must be decomposed into a goal.

Dreams cost you very little energy and time.  You can spend 5 minutes envisioning yourself crossing the finish line of a marathon or making decisions as the head of your own company or seeing yourself on the beach with your family in Hawaii or leading a large community of people to serve others or heading up significant a social change in your country or seeing your children live with integrity and principles.

And now the hard parts begins.  

Goals on the other hand, require much more than 5 minutes to write down.  And then they require much more energy and time to achieve once you’ve really put them down on paper and committed yourself to achieve the goal.
Some people have the capacity to keep all their most important dreams and goals totally encapsulated in their heads and then connect those to action. Those people are very rare. 

Most people need to take deliberate action to translate dreams into well written goals and then decompose goals into specific action steps.

Simple Dreams and Goals

Dream: “I want to have more energy and less stress.”

This is a great ambition.

What gives a person more energy?

Studies show energy is rooted in good habits around sleeping, eating, drinking water, exercise and good mental health.

In fact, there is a study showing that active people have about 20% more energy. If that is true, then we can decompose a dream of having more energy into a goal about being active.

Goal (Weak): “I want to exercise so I can have more energy.”

The weak goal above has a couple elements to help a person move toward more energy, but it lacks some critical elements.  The strong goal below includes the extra elements that remove the ambiguity about the frequency of exercise and the duration of exercise which are required ingredients to improve your chances for success.

Goal (Strong): “I want to exercise for 20 minutes, at least 3 times per week and do that consistently throughout 2016.”

This is much better and and more potent goal that has the potential to start a good habit.

Breaking that down further results in a plan of action which I talk about in the article, “How to Learn a Productivity System Part 3: Plan

We’ll create a specific plan for this goal of exercising which should put us on the road to 
achieving the dream of “having more energy.”

The Plan:  “I will do (yoga, a walk, a run) for 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday right after I get up at 6:00 am.”

More Complicated Dreams and Goals

Dream: “I want to be a CEO of my own company”

Interestingly, I’ve had this dream myself for many years. And as I looked around at the big company I was working for, I was overwhelmed with immense obstacles that seemed to bar the way:  I don’t have an MBA. I didn’t attend Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. I’ve never started my own company before.  

WAIT a minute.  “I’ve never started my own company before.”  What am I thinking?  Starting my own company for the first time automatically makes me a CEO. Right?

After some contemplation I became aware that I didn’t really know what my company would do or what it would sell or what type of service it would provide.
So that dream was a little narcissistic in that I didn’t really have any purpose or obvious value to offer. It was more a ‘dream’ fueled by the desire for prestige.

To build a sustainable dream, you must insist on offering value.  And you might argue that I’m wandering into the gray area of the philosophy of what makes a good dream vs. a bad dream. And you would be right. I think there are principles which should be followed when deciding about which dreams to chase vs. curtain.

Here a restatement of the original dream, but this rendition has a value statement.

Dream: “I want to lead a company which helps individuals and business maximize their productivity.” 

This dream has more tangle value statement and can more easily be generate goals and plans.

Goal (Weak): “Create a business to help people be more productivity”

This goal makes sense in that it provides a more focused idea (creating a business), but the weak goal lacks a time frame in which to execute the business activity, which will enable procrastination rather than accountability.

Goal (Strong): “Have a profitable business that serves productivity minded individuals by 31 Dec 2016.”

The strong goal will provide the qualifiers and deadline that make a idea into a GOAL.The Strong version also provides the necessary ingredients that make up a ’SMART’ goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.  

Let’s examine whether or not this goals passes the SMART test:

Specific - There appears to be pretty specific outcome to this goal which is a ‘profitable business’ that serves a ‘productivity minded’ market group.  The term ‘Specific’ is probably one of the gray areas to the ‘SMART’ goal definitions because the definition of ‘Specific’ can be broadly interrupted. However, the strong goal appears to meet this criteria.

Measurable - The word ‘profitable’ is a little loose with respect to measurement.  Does this mean profitable over the whole year or profitable for one month or profitable since the dawn on time. This actually needs work. Let’s propose that this be modified to say, ’…profitable for 1 month in 2016’.

Attainable - Depending on the expenses to run the business and the time allocated to running the business, this could be very attainable or it could be unachievable.  For the context of this goal, let’s assume the expenses are very low and the time commitment for the business is roughly 10 hours per week.  That sounds attainable.

Relevant - I think this hits a home run for relevant category because it flows directly from the Dream.

Timely - There is a deadline on the goal, so this is also spot on.

Takeaway for Dreams and Goals

When it comes to creating goals and plans, there is a cost equations.  
Dream-to-Plan Time = Size of Dream * Goals Creation Time * Plan Creation Time

Notice this is what we call an exponential equation.  That means if you have a big dream, you’ll need to put in big time.  Maybe not all at once, but definitely over the life of your dream.

Let’s consider another complex dream to illustrate the cost principle.

Dream: “I want to have children who live with integrity and principles.”   

You will probably need to spend time working on that dream every week. If you are a parent, you are probably already investing time in this area through many different activities and interaction with your kids. 

Below is one example goal that is decomposed from the dream.

Goal: “Provide daily personal input into children’s lives regarding life principles.”

Let’s break this down and see if it complies with the SMART goal format.

- Very specific

Measurable - The measurement is to do this everyday. 

Attainable - Seems reasonable

Relevant - Very relevant toward the dream

Timely - This is a bit redundant with measurement in this case.  It’s a daily thing.

And then there is a plan that comes out of this.

Plan: “Read a quote or article or affirmation at breakfast that captures a life principles and briefly discuss.”

As a parent, you might say, “I do this as a course of everyday living.  I teach by example. I teach at every opportunity.”  And I think you are correct.  Keep up the good work. 

Sometimes it gives you a boost if you can do something very intentionally rather than in a reactionary situation.  Intentional situations are usually more relaxed and the child’s brain is ready to receive input.  In reactionary situations, such as teaching in the heat of the moment or when something went wrong, is often frustrating and much of the energy and training is waisted because the emotional situation constrains the brain and learning doesn’t happen well.

I really love to hear from you about the your biggest challenges setting goals.  What do you find the most difficult in goal setting?