Goal Setting – In Theory And In Practice
As part of the overall business planning process, establishing goals is of course fundamental in providing a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Setting one or more goals seems to be a straightforward process. You establish a specific goal, one that’s measurable and has a defined timeframe for completion. You implement your plan, measure your progress towards reaching your goal and then evaluate the outcome objectively to refine your process.
On the surface of things, it reads well and sounds easy enough to do. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way for numerous reasons; primarily because we often fail to establish realistic goals. Additionally, we often casually set goals with only a hazy view towards how they’ll actually be accomplished. And while we’re typically motivated at the beginning of the process, it’s not at all unusual to lose our motivation somewhere along the way.
When preparing your own goals, it’s important to first understand that every goal you set must be realistic and readily achievable, given an appropriate amount of time and resources. For example, setting a goal to earn $25,000 per month within three months, when your present earnings are less than $1,000, is probably unrealistic. On the other hand, setting an ongoing goal to increase your earnings by 5% or 10% per month is not only realistic, but more likely to be achievable.
Once you’ve defined a goal you believe you can accomplish, the next step is to break it down into smaller, manageable tasks and scheduling them in sequence (assuming one task depends on the completion of another). Before defining the target date the overall goal must be completed, be certain that each task is given a reasonable amount of time for completion and allow the sum of the tasks to define the completion date, rather than arbitrarily selecting one.
Depending on how far into the future your goals are planned for, it’s very helpful to schedule regular progress reviews, even if you’re the only one involved. For example, scheduling time every Friday afternoon to review your progress and make any necessary adjustments will keep your goals current. Don’t be surprised if something unexpected interferes with your scheduling from time-to-time. That’s normal and you will simply need to identify some way to compensate for it.
Another artificial barrier to actually meeting your goals is the process itself. Be careful to avoid implementing a goal management process that consumes more time than the goal itself. On a smaller scale, a simple spreadsheet will often suffice to meet all of your management needs. For larger scale management, a variety of goal management software exists, usually scalable for most organizations.
Aside from actually working the process towards eventually realizing your goal, the final step is to take some time to evaluate the overall process and your performance at the end. This should be done objectively and embraced as a learning opportunity, one that will help you to improve your performance the next time.
With proper planning, setting realistic goals can only benefit you and your business in the long run, especially if you streamline the goal management process for yourself. If you think of it as an evolving process focused on continual performance improvement, over time you will see a measurable improvement in everything you do!
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