Money To Live

March 25, 2009

Beyond the standard goal setting advice

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 2:44 pm

Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote “A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Big Goals Achievable.” He gives the standard goal-setting advice:

  • define the goal clearly
  • break it down into big steps
  • set “microgoals” with a shorter time frame (1 day to 1 week)
  • set aside time every week

This is the standard advice that you’ll find in most literature about goals. It absolutely works, but at the same time, the advice is completely generic, and most people do not follow it.

I think most people do not follow through with this framework because it is vague. I have some more advice about goal setting that fits into this framework and, hopefully, makes the parts about breaking the goal into manageable pieces a little easier.

Identify Action Verbs
The GTD take on organization is to identify “next actions” which always have an action verb. Using action verbs in goal setting is pretty natural for most people. If you get stuck figuring out how to get to the end goal, though, just think about action verbs.

Identify People
A different (and complementary) approach to goal setting comes from Keith Ferrazzi (author of  _Never Eat Lunch Alone_ ). Instead of (or rather, in addition to) identifying all the verbs associated with the goal, identify the people you should talk to (and who might be able to help you) about the goal.

Identifying people to reach your goal makes  a lot of sense when looking for a job, since you are more likely to find a job through networking than through If you are interested in a new career, identify people you know in that career to get advice, and identify people who might be able to help you land a job.

Set “low stakes” deadlines
In school and at jobs, there are “high stakes,” such as when a report or big project is due. When facing an important deadline, I make low stakes mini-deadlines for myself. With the low stakes deadline, I still need to be accountable to someone, which ties in with choosing people to help reach a goal.

For example, when writing my dissertation

  • I updated my webpage daily with the total number of pages that I had written. Family, friends, and classmates congratulated me whenever I made a lot of progress (and they noticed when I did not get much done for a few days).
  • Every week or two I made an appointment at the writing center. I did not need a perfect chapter to take into the writing center, but I needed at least a good outline of a chapter in order to make it a productive meeting. Since I was only seeing another student, mistakes and typos were ok. The regular appointments ensured that I was writing consistently, and I had plenty of time for revisions.

For applying for jobs, low stakes deadlines include

  • Practicing interviewing with a friend.
  • Setting up and conducting an informational interview.
  • Making a new job application every day.

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