5 February 2016

How to set goals

Settings realistic and attainable goals is crucial in sports, weight loss and for most major projects in your life. But just having the goal is not enough. I can say I have a goal of having a best selling novel by the time I'm 40, but without a planned approach with measurable steps along the way it will just remain a dream.

Setting a goal is more of a process cycle. The steps flow into each other but never stop. The process restarts with your new status as the starting point for further improvement. The basic steps are:
  1. Decide what you want to achieve
  2. Plan how you will get to that point
  3. Work towards the goal
  4. Monitor and evaluate
For those of you working for sizeable corporations you may know this better as the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) model.

The CSI Model
There are entire courses built around this process but we don't need to know everything to use it for our purposes. There are three main parts to your goal, the big picture, short term goals and action goals. 

Big Picture Goals
To start with we define the vision, or more simply the end state that we want to achieve. This may be to lose 30kgs, to be selected for the national team in your sport or to publish your first novel. At this stage you don't need to know how to get there, just that it's your desire to reach it.

Short Term Goals
These are the stepping stones you need in order to reach your Big Picture Goals. They include a specific area to improve and include a time frame in which to reach it. Some examples are:

  1. Lose 5kgs within 1 month.
  2. Stop opponents from easily passing my Guard within 2 months.
  3. Finish writing a chapter this week.

Action Goals
This is the most important as action goals tell you how you will achieve your Short Term goals. These goals represent the specific actions you need to do today or this week to reach your Short Term Goals and eventually your Big Picture Goals. When setting Action Goals ensure they are SMART, Specific, Measurable, Action based, Realistic and Time limited.
Being specific helps focus on the tasks you need to do to achieve your goals. You need something to measure them by to tell if you have achieved it. They need to highlight the action or behaviour you require. They have to be challenging but realistic to achieve otherwise missing the high demand will increase frustration and generally cause failure. Finally you need to set a time limit on the task to stay motivated and provide a date for progress review.

Examples for Action Goals are:
STG 1.
  1. 20 minutes of high intensity exercise bike at least once every 3 days for this month.
  2. Limit soft drink intake to one can per day for this month.
  3. Limit fast food to once per week this month.
  4. Enquire at four different sports facilities in the next two days and sign up with the most appropriate one by the end of the week.
  5. Consume no more than 10% over my allotted calorie budget (or WW points) each day for this week. Reduce that to 5% over for week 2, 0% over for week 3 and 5% under for week 4.
STG 2.
  1. Record video of my matches and watch with my coach to identify problem areas every week for the next two months.
  2. Practice drills suggested by coach for 20 minutes every day this month.
  3. Spend two hours per week watching suggested videos of experienced grapplers and focus on understanding how they move. Get new suggestions from coach each week for the next four weeks.
  4. Perform three 30 minute strength and conditioning sessions per week for the next month. Increase to 45 minute sessions in month two.

STG 3.
  1. Allocate at least four hours per day writing this week. Ensure phone and Internet are switched off during writing sessions. Notify family not to disturb me and bring water and a light snack.
  2. Write 2000 words per day this week.
  3. Re-write a 3000 word block on day 2, 4 and 6.
  4. At end of each session this week, read the day's efforts out loud and note anything that sounds wrong. Have at least one trusted person in the room while reading to get an outside view.
  5. Update writing journal at end of each session with the word count and re-written sections. Note any issues with plot, scenes, dialogue and characters to review the next day. Review the entire journal on day 6 and spend day 7 fixing as much as possible.

Armed with this you have decided what you want, planned how to do it, can work towards it and measure your results. You will find your goals a lot easier to manage when breaking it down this way.

Head to the comments to share your experiences with your own goal setting, and feel free to ask advice on setting your specific goals.

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