It’s a new year. And a typical time to set goals. But how do we do it effectively?
Are goals just a to-do list, or are they a list of things we hope will happen? How realistic should my goals be? How do I organize them?
These are the type of questions we’ll dive into for this goal-setting guide.
Goals help us focus and organize our actions and decisions and define our expectations and hopes. You can express goals on various time horizons, from “What do I want to get done today?” to “Where do I want to be in 10 years?”
On the shorter end goal look more like a to-do list. And this can be helpful if you just want to organize the day.
Because life can be hectic, identifying 1-3 things that need to happen today can at least prioritize the chaos. In the short run, this strategy can help avoid aimless busyness that comes from the tyranny of the urgent.
But how do we know what should be the goal for today? Ideally, this should flow from a larger, longer-term goal.
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years. – BILL GATES
If taking a long-term approach is the most effective, how do we play the long game? Let’s begin by taking a step back and recognizing goals for what they are.
Goals define something we want to see accomplished. It's what we hope will be true in the future. This future hope perspective can be helpful, but it can also easily drift into becoming overly self-focused and achievement-oriented.
Goals help us focus and organize our actions and decisions
To set goals effectively, first set your priorities. Priorities anchor your goals to what truly matters. If you haven’t set priorities, pause and take my 5-day journey to living by your priorities. It will help you bring alignment between all your days and your everyday.
Now that you have your priorities in place, goals are scaling those down to be more actionable. There are many ways to do this, and I’d like to share my goal journey from the to-do list to OKRs.
To-do lists are the most straightforward approach to follow, and they are great for organizing daily goals or a specific group of tasks.
The benefit of a to-do list lies in the clarity that comes from breaking down a goal into something you can do today, tomorrow, or next week.
To-do lists help us track and celebrate what we’ve accomplished. There is something just so gratifying about crossing something off the to-do list. This is why many people 🙋🏼♂️will write down something they just completed but wasn't on the list, just for the joy of crossing it off.
Wondering how to make an effective to-do list? I present you with the to-do list for making to-do lists.
It's really that simple. But don't be fooled by the simplicity. There is still enormous power that comes from clarifying what needs to be done, ordering it by priority and focusing on one at a time.
Identifying 1-3 things that need to happen today can at least prioritize the chaos.
The simple power of the to-do list is why I created my MinmalList method. It provides a little more structure and constraint to leverage clarity, priority and focus better. You can make your one MinimalList note or order a pad online.
When it comes to to-do lists, you can take a low-fi paper approach, or there are plenty of apps if you want to go the digital route. Five apps that I recommend:
I started with to-do lists and still use them as a quick and easy way to organize my goals.
However, to-do lists are also limited in that you may end up writing down a lot of tasks without making sure they all contribute towards the larger goal. That is where the SMART goal system comes in.
Leadership isn’t a journey you should take alone. What if you had someone to come alongside you? I provide coaching to help you reach your vision, lead others and grow as a leader.