28 Dec 2012

New year, new goals, old ways? A short guide to goal setting

So it's that time of year again where our bellies are full with all the great ingredients that make Christmas-Christmas (think roast turkey, mulled wine, cheese & crackers, chocolate....etc!). Our minds have hopefully taken a little rest from our normal busy work filled days, and as the year counts down its final days, we can, and should, reflect on the year that has past, but more importantly focus on what is achievable for the New Year.

Did you achieve your goals for 2012? What are your goals for 2013? Have you set any? What do you need to do in order to achieve them?

When it comes to goal setting, or in context with this time of year, setting New Years Resolutions, I think there are four types of people. We all have probably been each one of these at some point, and no doubt often float from one to the other.
  1. The Doer
  2. The Tryer
  3. The Procrastinator
  4. The 'I can't be bothered'
We would all benefit a lot more if we could be 'The Doer', when it comes down to goal setting. This article is a short guide to help you become the Doer, so that you can not only set achievable goals, but you can actually achieve them, and maintain a regular goal setting element to your life.

Here is a little information about the four types of people. Which one do you think best describes you?

1. The Doer

These guys get it. They reflect on the year just gone; what went well, what didn't, what did they learn, what could they have done better; and they set achievable yet ambitious goals with an action plan as to 'how' and 'when' they will achieve everything.
More about these guys later on in this article as everyone can become this person with a little bit of focus.

2. The Tryer

Now for some, the tradition of 'New Years resolutions' is a mandatory annual list of 'must do's and/or 'must not do's', which is created with all the right intentions, but can sometimes lack the conviction that is required. After a month or so that well considered list is just a figment of the past, and remains in the 'to do' list cemetery until its annual reincarnation the following year. The 'Tryer' is more than a procrastinator, they set their goals, they give it a crack, but it just doesn't seem to work out for them. The key reason these guys fail is because they have fallen down on the planning stages. Their goals are likely to either be a) too unrealistic or/and b) lack an actual plan as to 'how' they can achieve the goals (this bit is critical)

3. The Procrastinator

These guys have the big ideas but that's just it....it's just an idea and never actually progresses further than this stage. There are all sorts of justifications as to why these people never move out of the procrastinating phase that we are all very guilty of at times of saying. Things like 'I don't have the time', ' I don't have the money', 'I need to do X first' etc etc , but really...it's because they are scared to do so, and the fear of failing outweighs their drive to succeed. Weird but true, and 100% fixable. 

4. The 'I can't be bothered'

Some people are just lazy; goal setting for them seems pointless. For others (the majority of this group of people), setting New Years resolutions / goals are a thing they have tried and failed at so many previous times before that their inspiration and motivation is low.

It actually doesn't have to be that way at all.

What is a Goal?

If you are going to improve your ability to set and achieve your goals, makes sense to understand what they actually are!

Wikipedia sums it up very well. "Goals are a form of motivation that set the standard for self-satisfaction with performance. Achieving the goal one has set for oneself is a measure of success, and being able to meet job challenges is a way one measures success in the workplace. It has been said that "Goal setting capitalize on the human brain's amazing powers: Our brains are problem-solving, goal-achieving machines."

What is Goal Setting?

Not to start off on a negative, but I actually think it's more important to state what goal setting is not about, as this is where most people fall down, their expectations are wrongly aligned.

Goal setting is not about:
  • A list of things that are unachievable
  • A list of things that have unrealistic timelines
  • A task(s) that you personally do not want to do / or believe in
  • A list of things that make you feel stressed, overwhelmed and/or depressed
Goal setting is about:
  • Setting a long lasting goal that will give you and/or someone else a better quality of life - this could be from all or one of the following perspectives: financial, emotional-personal, health, career, relationship, and also a life-experience.
  • Of course you can have short-term goals as well, but really short terms goals (E.g running a marathon, climbing a mountain, playing a gig, getting fit) really have a lasting benefit for you, that is they give you experiences, skills and knowledge that will stay with you.
Settings goals affect outcomes in four ways:
  1. Choice - Goals narrow attention and direct efforts to goal related activities and away from distractions
  2. Effort - Goals can lead to more effort and intensity in achieving a task than would exist if there was no goal target. 
  3. Persistance - Goals can make people less prone to setbacks and more determined to work through them in order to achieve their goal.
  4. Cognition - To achieve a goal we often have to change or develop our behaviour

How to set your Goals:

Ok so it's time to write your list of goals. Get yourself a pen and paper and let's get cracking. A common and useful way of setting objectives / goal setting is to use the mnemonic SMART or SMARTER system.

Set your goals using this system and then follow the tips from the section below and you will dominate your goals, be happier, and life will be much more fulfilling.


Your goals needs to be specific, unambiguous, and clear. The more specific you are about a goal, obviously the less flakey and generic it will be, and the less likely you will be distracted from not achieving it. 

Make your goal as specific as possible, and answer the five w's questions below.
  • What: do you want to accomplish?
  • Why: did you choose this as a goal? What are the reasons, purpose and/or benefits of achieving the goal?
  • Who: is involved with this goal?
  • Where: does achieving the goal take place?
  • Which: Identify any requirements and constraints.
  • What: To increase my savings by $30k. 
  • Why: So I can put a deposit down on a house
  • Who: Me
  • Where: Everywhere. Work, home and when I am out and about being social.
  • Which: Need a regular source of income

Your goal has to be measurable, that is you need a metric to be able to benchmark where you are to begin with, and to use for regular reporting against your goal over time. Regular measurement of any goal really helps you keep focused on it, determine what you are doing well / badly, and helps you review areas for improvement.

You will normally need to ask yourself questions like:
  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

My current savings are on $X, meaning my target savings needs to be $X. My goal is over x weeks, meaning I need to save $x per week. I will create an excel spreadsheet where every Monday morning I will plot what my savings are on versus my original savings goal. I will have a graph setup so I can visually and quickly see how I am tracking over time.

Goals have to be achievable and realistic, that isn't to say they shouldn't be difficult though. It would be counter-productive to set up an easy goal, as this is just pretty meaningless and doesn't create any sort of inspiration or drive ambition, likewise set up an impossible task and enthusiasm levels will quickly dwindle. Goals should push, inspire and drive you (or your team) to over-achieve above and beyond what could be considered 'standard'. Be ambitious.

As stated on Wikipedia: "When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals."

You need to ask yourself questions such as:
  • How can this goal be accomplished?
If I earned $5k a month and my monthly bills were $1k, I would have have $4k leftover. It would not be unreasonable to aim to save $2k (50% of the leftovers) a month. This is 'attainable'. I could set myself a harder still attainable challenge of saving $3k (75% of the leftovers). Likewise if my goal was to save more than I earned, then clearly it is not achievable or realistic. Common sense prevails here but you can and should make the challenge difficult.

This one really speaks for itself. The goal needs to be relevant to you and/or you team. It needs to compliment other goals, and fit in with your master plans.

If your goal is relevant then you should be able to answer yes to the following.
  • Is it worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time to do this goal?
  • Do you have the skills to achieve this goal in this period of time? / Are you the right person?

EVERY goal should be time sensitive. There should always be a time frame allocated to a goal as this commits people to a real deadline, and encourages people to not only meet the deadline, but also beat it.

Obviously, this goal has to correlate with the attainable element.

I will save $30k in the next 12 months, so by X date.

Tips how to manage your weekly goals more effectively

The following tips are taken from a great blog by Scott Dinsmore called 'Live your Legend. These goal setting tips are taken from one of the most successful self help authors in the world, Tony Robbins. Tony Robbins has mentored many top Business & Political leaders, as well as Sport professionals who are at the top of their game. Tony became better known for his 'Unlimited Power. The New Science of Personal Achievement' and 'Awaken the Giant Within', which all deal with goal setting and personal development. If anyone knows how to set, measure, achieve, and dominate your goals; he is your man!

Scotts blog post goes into much more depth on the following points, so worth checking out.

1. Make time:
Create a routine, and invest at least 1.5hrs a week to plan your week. Don't jump into the week unprepared. It will be detrimental to the success of your goals/week.

2. Visualise the big picture / you smashing your goal
I think this is one of the best goal smashing techniques around. Spend 5 minutes a day visualising yourself achieving and dominating your goals. This positive thinking will truly pay dividends. Try and visualise all eventualities, and when the times comes you will be better prepared. Here are some good tips on visualising.

3. Celebrate and debrief on your achievements from the week before:
We achieve things everyday, and we also often fail. Failing isn't a bad thing as long as we learn from it. This is why it is essential to look back at the previous week and take note of / celebrate our achievements. Also analyse what didn't happen for you this week, and why not. Plan how to overcome any problems the following week.

4. Make notes on daily learnings:
We learn new things everyday but with the amount of information we consume it's often if not impossible to remember the important things. Fortunately, it is easy and quick to make short notes throughout the day when you learn something useful. Keep a notebook or use a digital tool like Evernote.

5. Clarify and commit to your biggest outcomes:
Now that you have reflected on last weeks successes and highlighted areas for improvement, it's important that you focus on the biggest outcomes you want to achieve in the commencing week.

6. Schedule everything:
At the beginning of the week put the key tasks you want to achieve into your calendar, and then fill in the gaps with the mundane work (like house keeping). It's easy to waste your most productive time with the easy mundane things. By planning set times in your calendar for the key tasks, you will maximise your productivity.

Want some more Inspiration for Goal Setting and generally making more from life?

  • Tony Robbins - Website
  • Setting goals is very much about you making the most out of your life and skills. Here is another article I wrote a while back which includes inspiring quotes, TED Talks and a list of the biggest regrets of the dying. Sounds morbid but it's not, it should inspire you, as we have so much to learn from our elders.'Live life and don't regret'. 
  • Great inspiring TED Talk by Janine Shepherd - "If you let go of what you are, you become what you might be"
Good luck with 2013 and your goal smashing. Be ambitious, be prepared, and be focused. I hope this post helps, and please let me know if it does, and any other tips you may have.

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &

1 comment:

  1. Really great read Si! Even though I would consider myself pretty good at setting goals, there's a lot of great tips in here that ill certainly take my goal setting to the next level.


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