“The important thing to recognise is that you can't do everything”
Trevor Bibic, learning and development consultant, explains how setting goals and ultimately achieving them can be a manageable task
19 June 2022
How would you recommend people start their goal-setting journey?Sometimes we feel like we need to have huge life goals that we're working towards. That's great, if you know what those are. But not all of us do. So, start with something you feel you can identify, whether it's for today, this week, or next month. Your goal setting doesn't have to be limited to grand things. Start by thinking, “What do I want to work towards?” Then ask yourself the question, “Why is that important to me?” so you have a sense of whether this goal is important enough to be worth the effort you will put into it. You are then minimising the chance of committing to things that you don't really want to do, that you'll ultimately ignore, avoid or resent.
Choose things that are important to you, so you will be committed to specific actions. If you find that you are able to start with smaller goals, sometimes that allows us to build momentum and confidence to think about things that are bigger and further ahead. Start with what's on today's agenda, and then build from there.
How do you recommend that people go about starting to work on their goals?Once you've identified what you're working towards, the next step is breaking that goal down into the smallest manageable chunks that you can. Otherwise, we could feel that the goal is too big, and we don’t make progress towards it because there's never enough time.
For example, if you want to learn a language, it could feel like quite a daunting task. Whereas you can buy a language book, language course or download an app. That's a first step you can achieve. You might then give that course ten minutes of your day, three days a week. If it feels manageable, you continue to add chunks, and it starts to add up towards that bigger goal.
Are there any practical ways of identifying goals? If someone doesn't know what to do, how do they set that vision?Often, we're hesitant to identify goals because we worry about what they should be. We worry about what others might think about our goals, and whether we should declare them. Don’t put yourself under pressure to pick something significant. Initially, write down everything you think you might like to achieve: whether it's a lifetime goal, or something very short-term. Putting all of those down, unedited, can help you start to try and catch the things that are meaningful to you.
Giving yourself a sense of what you'd like the future to look like first helps you start to define the meaningful goals you’ll need to move towards that vision
One approach I like, is to write down what you'd like life to look like in the future. Maybe that's two years from now; maybe it's 10 years from now. You don't have to define it perfectly, but you might have a sense of how you'd like to be feeling, what sort of things you might like to have in your life; how you'd like work to be. Then, your brain will start to generate ideas of how you can move from where you are today to where you'd like to be. Giving yourself a sense of what you'd like the future to look like first, helps you start to define the meaningful goals you’ll need to move towards that vision.
Treat it as something that you're going to work hard towards, and allow for the possibility that you, your feelings, or the world, might change around you. Embrace the opportunity that this flexibility might create and review what your goals look like as a result.
How do you recommend balancing long and short-term goals, when working on them at the same time?It's completely normal to be working on the short-term and the long-term at the same time. The key is to have taken the time to break down long-term goals into those manageable chunks, so you know when they fit into your regular day-to-day work and life. Keep track of your progress on those long-term goals and set yourself a regular check in to see how you are progressing. Consider diarising them in a calendar or any other trusted system you have.
We have to recognise the goals and tasks that are of higher value in moving us towards where we want to be, and be ruthless in letting go of the things that don’t
The important thing to recognise is that you can't do everything. You should be assessing regularly. I have known people who have lots of goals, and they try to fit all of them into their limited amount of time, and end up overwhelmed and exhausted. We could think of our long list of goals as tasks, and consider which are the most important. What has got the highest value? Which will you NOT do? Then, you're focusing on the things that matter the most rather than trying to do everything and risking burning yourself out.
We have to recognise the goals and tasks that are of higher value in moving us towards where we want to be, and be ruthless in letting go of the things that don’t. That’s the best way to avoid burnout.
Trevor Bibic’s nine practical tips for goal-setting and maximising time
1. Invest time in recognising what you will not do. You can't do everything. There is only a limited amount of hours in the day that you can give full energy to. This is so important. Maximising time should be about having time to do all the most valuable tasks, and not about trying to do everything. So, what is the highest value, and what will you not do as a result of that? That's the first principle.
2. Don't keep everything in your head. Get it out of your head, and into any other kind of system. My favourite phrase for this is a ‘second brain.’ If something is preying on your mind, or you've got tasks building up, get them into the second brain so that you can be as focused as possible on what you are doing.
3. Rank each task in importance from one to 10, and then focus on highest priorities first. The rest won't be as damaging if you get through them all.
4. Celebrate the small wins. Build momentum by celebrating that one extra step towards your goal, because then you're going to be more inclined to make the next one.
5. Prioritise automation. That could be setting up a process so that you don't have to think about a regular task. Figuring out procedures and processes can help with your cognitive load, and can increase the amount of time you have available to you. It'll get things done more efficiently, and you can decide how to spend that reclaimed time.
It's not always obvious what those automations could be, so talk to others and get their ideas. One is using ‘rules’ within email: getting email to sort itself, so you decide what kind of emails arrive in your inbox, and how much attention they require. The rest are in other folders for you to review when it is appropriate.
6. Time savers first. If you're going to invest energy into an automation or a particular task, prioritise ones that will give you more time in the future. If I spend three hours a month sorting out my finances, but I can actually invest those three hours this month (or maybe a little more) to automate most of them, I'm getting time back. Anything that is a time-saver, do that first, because then you're going to get a cumulative effect of freeing up more time to do the valuable things.
7. Outsourcing. Consider how valuable your time is, and whether to hire people to do certain tasks for you. You could consider this to be another form of automation.
8. Identify the small, manageable next step. Lots of us have things we'd like to achieve, but they might feel like they’re too big. As a result, we tend not to do very much towards that goal. So, whatever you're working on, whether it’s a task for today or a big goal in the future, identifying the smallest manageable next step to move yourself forward and build momentum is one of the most simple but valuable things you can do.
9. Switch off notifications. Switch off as many notifications as you feel comfortable with and can safely do, especially email pop ups. These notifications are screaming for your attention and can distract you from focused activity. Research shows it can take five to 15 mins to regain the same level of focus as before the interruption. So, you can see that the impact of multiple or regular notifications could be significant. Why don’t you decide when email (or that other app or maybe even person) needs your valuable attention?
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