Every year in January, the internet is awash with goal-setting advice and tools. Over the years, I’ve come across and used fantastic ones. However regardless of the tool I used, my challenge would be that at the end of the year, I would compare my goals list and my stack of to-do-list pads with 99% of the tasks ticked, with my dismal achievements and I would feel really discouraged. It reached a point where I put goal setting on hold – they were the same ones every year anyway; until the six biggest mistakes I had been making became clear to me. I would like to share them with you, hoping that you will find them as useful as I did:
- Too vague
The day I set goals based on my core values for the first time was a milestone. Before, I just used to make a list of my biggest dreams, put a deadline and that was it.
As my friend Ruth Njeri, Sales & Marketing Director at The Automobile Association of Kenya, puts it, once you’ve set goals rooted in your core values, work at incorporating them into your lifestyle until they become part of you. Come rain or shine, Ruth must practice meditation and do a set of exercises; because that’s what grounds her and puts her in the right physical and mental disposition to be productive.
- Too many to achieve
I’ve always set goals in all major areas of my life: spiritual, family, mental, physical, business, financial, relationship and lifestyle. Therefore I would end up with 8 to 10 goals to accomplish in one year. I remember feeling overwhelmed just by looking at the list. Today I identify the top 1 to 3 to focus on that particular year.
- Too much discipline
Achieving goals requires discipline. I often tried to get my life organised 24/7, but as they say life happens and more often than not, I would abandon after a short period of time. I’ve since learnt that working on achieving a goal is the beginning of a transformation, and being too hard on self kills the strongest resolve. Ever since, I leave one working day unplanned.
I used to beat myself up, literary, for any failure. Yet failure is part of the process. It helps to adjust goals. We don’t need an A+ all the time to succeed, a B is just fine. This is where persistence comes in. It doesn’t matter that you fall, have a good healthy cry and try again and again and again.
- Too tough, too soon
A goal is a dream with a deadline, right? I used to set very short deadlines, especially for the toughest goals, hoping for some divine intervention at some point (seriously), even though deep inside, a divine voice would whisper to me that that wasn’t going to happen! Particularly with physical goals; who doesn’t want to lose those stubborn extra kilos or that ugly pot within the shortest time, and with minimal efforts? Instead of setting a goal of exercising two hours per day at the gym, which is unsustainable and costly for most of people, wellness experts advice setting a goal of doing say some strength training three times a week for 30 minutes at home, which is sustainable for a lifetime. Results show gradually and one is unlikely to pile up back the weight.
- No measurement
To be achievable, a goal and the necessary action needed to achieve it have to be specific and quantifiable. This was my biggest problem. Apart from writing and checking to do lists all year long, I never used to have a consistent measurement system to track my goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Yet if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve on it. The kind of insight you get just by tracking your daily activities is amazing. You may find that you spend too much time on the internet, listening to the radio or watching TV and just a few minutes making calls to prospective clients. I was astonished at how much time I spent on errands. Basically this single exercise showed me how little I actually worked on my goals!
Today I want to share with you a fantastic tool I use to track my daily activities which I review weekly. It’s in Excel so you can customize it. I print mine in landscape orientation because I need wide spaces to write my activities and on both sides to save on paper. Download it here for free. Use it and every week tally the time you spend on each activity and compare them with your goals to see if you are on course or off course. Then write to me and share your experience, I will enjoy hearing from you.
Do you have a different method of tracking your activities? Please share with me; I would love to learn about it.