It is easy to get into a routine. Wake up, come to work, check email, have meetings, etc. We can get so bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of the job that we forget to think big picture. This is where goal setting becomes crucial.
At Peake Media we call them “Rocks.” Every quarter, we pick four to seven “rocks” or goals that we want to accomplish. They can be small things, like picking a cover story, or a larger goal like re-designing the website. But they must all be realistic goals that can be fulfilled within the next 90 days.
In his book, “Smarter Faster Better,” Charles Duhigg discusses the goal setting structure at General Electric. Every division and manager at General Electric was expected to set SMART goals each quarter. “These objectives had to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and based on a timeline. In other words, they had to be provably within reach and described in a way that suggested a concrete plan.”
After studying the effects of goal setting, research has shown that setting specific, high goals lead to an increased level of performance than easy or vague goals. “In particular, objectives like SMART goals often unlock a potential that people don’t even realize they possess. The reason, in part, is because goal-setting processes like the SMART system force people to translate vague aspirations into concrete plans. The process of making a goal specific and proving its achievable involves figuring out the steps it requires — or shifting the goal slightly, if your initial aim turns out to be unrealistic.”
Setting a timeline and breaking the goal down into components, is a great way to figure out exactly how to achieve it. However what GE employees lacked in their SMART goals was necessity. Duhigg explained it is crucial to make sure your goals are actually worth spending time on, not just the task you can easily accomplish.
“Experiments have shown that people with SMART goals are more likely to seize on the easiest tasks, to become obsessed with finishing projects and to freeze on priorities once a goal has been set.” It is not about crossing things off a to-do list. It is important to ask yourself if you are focusing on the right things. This is where thinking about bigger goals is important too. It is essential to not just focus on the small things, but the bigger ambitions. We need both smaller, short term goals and larger goals.
“One solution is writing to-do lists that pair stretch goals and SMART goals. Come up with a menu of your biggest ambitions. Dream big and stretch. Describe the goals that, at first glance, seem impossible, such as starting a company or running a marathon. Then choose one aim and start breaking it into short-term, concrete steps. Ask yourself: What realistic progress can you make in the next day, week, month? What are the specific, short term steps along the path to bigger success?”