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How to be great at goal-setting

Updated: Jan 3, 2020



Halfway through the year - it’s a great time to be thinking about your goals. What have you achieved so far this year? And what still remains to be done?


Goal-setting sounds simple, but it is hard to do well.


In this series of posts, I will be looking at:

  • how to work out where you need to set a goal;

  • which goal-setting “formula” might be most effective for you;

  • and when goal-setting is counter-productive…

By the end, you will be a genius at setting and achieving the right goals for you to fulfil your career dreams!


So this week: how to identify where you need to set a goal.



Why do you need to set goals at all?


The concept of goal-setting has been around for thousands for years. Aristotle said,



(And obviously this is true for Woman too...)


The guru of goal-setting is Edwin A. Locke, who based his 1968 ground-breaking article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives"on Aristotle's theories.


This article stated that specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals at all.


This has since been developed into a huge body of research into the value and methodology of goal-setting.


There are some caveats (to be discussed in a later post); but the overwhelming conclusion is that goal-setting is a Good Thing:


> where you set yourself goals is where you are likely to make progress and get better results.



So on that basis, the next question is: what to set your goals on?


This is the bit that people can miss.


They focus so strongly on the methodology (SMART vs BHAG - see next week’s post) that they don’t spend enough time thinking about what they actually want to achieve.


I have defined 7 different methods that you can use to help you identify where you need to set yourself goals.


Some of these are top down (visualisation); some are bottom-up (brainstorming).


And you can do one, a mixture, or all of them.


See which approach works best for you…




1. SWOT analysis


This is the classic four space grid of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.


You can apply this to anything: your career, your business, your relationships. Consider your content under each of these headings.


For the purposes of your career, for example:

  • your Strengths could include your networking skills and your technical knowledge;

  • your Weaknesses could include presentation skills;

  • Opportunities could include a colleague or boss leaving, which means an opportunity for progression or promotion;

  • and Threats could include changes in your industry that mean your skills risk becoming obsolete.

When you’ve filled in all these categories, you can use this information to help you define where you can most helpfully focus your effort to get better results.



2. Brainstorm


We all have those lurking thoughts of things that we “must” or “should” be doing.


I am not a fan of what I call the “tyrannical should” - but you can turn it to your advantage.


Give yourself a quiet moment, and a blank sheet of paper/ blank Google doc (whatever method works for you).


Then set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, and just WRITE.


List every single one of those thoughts about the things that you want to do or need to do or should do.


Once you have this list, analyse it: group similar actions together; and prioritise them.


The filter is, “which of these actions will give me the biggest and best results”. Once you’ve done this, you will have some clear goals to action.



3. Timeframes


A classic method of setting goals is to use time: in