Goal setting is an essential skill for both personal and professional success. If you aren’t setting goals, you’re likely not making progress. However, research by the University of Scranton found that 92% of people who set New Year's resolutions never achieve them.
Business goals don't fare much better; 67% of great strategies fail due to poor execution. Writing an effective goal will increase your chances of successfully achieving that goal. Fortunately, goal-setting is a skill that you can learn and improve.
Here are 6 Easy Steps to Writing an Effective Priority:
- Make it Actionable. Use a verb when writing your goal. Be clear and specific about what you will actually do. Anyone should be able to read your goal and understand exactly what you'll be doing. For example, we see goals that simply say, "Tradeshow." You can increase the likelihood of successfully completing your goal by making it more specific: "Get contact information for 20 leads from demo booth at Tradeshow."
- Assign an Owner. Many people may contribute work to your priority or goal, but there should only be one owner—one person who is ultimately accountable for the priority's success. Without one clear owner, the goal may slip off your radar screen; you need someone who is driving it, coordinating all the moving parts, keeping the momentum going and ensuring the work gets done.
- Establish Timing. Set a start and end date, and be realistic about what you can accomplish in a given time-frame. Having a due date is important, especially if others are dependent on your completing this goal.
- Define Success. Determine clear success criteria for your priority so you know what it looks like to achieve the goal. If your goal is a business one, ensure your expectations on success are aligned with everyone on the team. We use a simple Red-Yellow-Green method to set clear success criteria:
- Red = Failure or unacceptable performance on the priority
- Yellow = Between Red and Green
- Green = Successful completion of the goal
- SuperGreen = Stretch goal
- Connect to Why. Understanding how this goal fits into the big picture is important and will help you stay motivated. Link this priority to your longer-term strategy or connect it to your larger goals in some clear way to increase the likelihood that you will complete it.
- Break it Down into Milestone Actions. What are the top 2-3 tasks that you will have to accomplish to achieve the goal? When will you need to do them in order to hit your due date? Who will be involved in helping? Establishing at least a couple of clear action steps will help you move from planning to getting the work done.
Once your priority is written, the real work begins—now you actually have to execute to achieve the goal. If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ve set yourself up for success by thinking and planning effectively. This will help you maximize your chances of success now that you're ready to move into doing the work.
Here are some tips for executing your priority:
- Keep it visible. Put it on a dashboard where others can see it and help you remain accountable to your stated goal.
- Status it weekly. How are you doing based on the success criteria you set out for yourself?
- Make adjustments as needed. If you can see that you aren’t on track to hit the goal by the deadline, what else can you do to move forward? Do you need to enlist some help? Do you need to move your milestones around? Do you need to say no to some other things so you can focus more on your goal?
Ready to join those elite 8% of people who successfully hit their goals? Good luck, and please share any tips that help you write more effective goals.
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