I had the best of intentions. It was the beginning of the year and I was keen to make a list of goals and self-improvement activities. I wrote:
- Loose 10 pounds by June.
- Write more, completing 52 journal entries by the end of the year.
- Take class in web analytics to learn about this new science.
- Plan and do tent camping at least 4 times during the year.
These are thoughtful, solid goals, reflecting real development and growth. The problem? This is a list from 2010. I just discovered it in a notebook as I was cleaning out my closet over the holiday. Near as I can tell, the day I wrote this list of goals was the last day I looked at it. The result? A zero percent goal completion rate.
If you are like me, this experience isn’t limited to annual or life goals. Are there days where you start out in the morning with a thorough To-Do list, and then as the daily grind of email and meetings settles in managed to forget to do things on that list?
Of course, we could talk about using the Eisenhower Method to prioritize your goals –we’re big proponents of this approach here at CEEK. How important is it, and how urgent is it? The big lesson here is that what is important is not always urgent, and vice versa. This system creates a very simple grid that helps prioritize. Anything that you determine isn’t urgent or important should be delegated or forgotten.
That is a tactical solution to your daily To-Do list. But the longer-term, higher-level goals like the list I found from 2010 needs a different framework. The answer to losing sight of your long-term goals is to regularly revisit them to remind yourself of why you are working so hard. The timeless quote we’ll use to guide us here, allegedly from Peter Druker (but maybe not), is “what gets measured, gets managed.”
My spin: What gets seen, gets done.
For tactical, day-to-day things, this might be as simple as making sure your To Do list stays visible on your desk (physical or virtual). For longer-term, more strategic things, this requires scheduling a regular check-in with your goals.
This wisdom is reflected in new “best practices” floating around Human Capital circles: Regular feedback on performance towards meeting goals is more effective than a once-a-year performance appraisal. This general principle of letting people know how they are doing seems like common sense. Even none other than former GE CEO Jack Welch has said in a Harvard Business Review article on regular feedback in performance management: “As a manager, you owe candor to your people. They must not be guessing about what the organization thinks of them.”
When I worked on a project to build training for a new Performance Management system for all Department of Defense civilians, the motto was “No surprises during the year-end Annual Review.” We taught supervisors this principle: If you are having regular feedback sessions with your employees, there should be no doubt about the results of the Annual Review. Regular conversations about performance goals helps people focus on accomplishing them. At CEEK, we review our annual goals every quarter, and that has unquestionably helped me meet my goals.
Just like regular feedback from your boss, a regular review of your goals will help you stay on track to meet them. Want to lose weight? Create a weekly weight chart and put it where you can see if every day. Want to journal more? Make a recurring appointment on your calendar that sets aside time for yourself. Want to make sure you go camping four times this year? Agree on four weekends right now and write them on your calendar! This practice even works for one-time events like taking a Google Analytics class. If I had been reviewing my goals in 2010 each quarter, I would have seen my goal and been reminded to find and schedule that class.
What gets seen, gets done.
This isn’t to say that you should slavishly follow a list. Or that you should beat yourself up if there are things on your list that you haven’t accomplished! Life happens, and you have to be flexible and resilient. But when you check in with your annual goals on a regular basis, you can adjust for the whims and quirks that make our days interesting without losing sight of your goals.
As an example, that list of goals for 2010 still looks specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-boxed here in 2020. So better late than never, right?