I’m writing this in bed, at 6:30 a.m. on January 1st – which makes this blog post my first official act of 2009. Seems like a pretty good time to think about goals and habits for 2009. Of course it’s important to set ambitious, yet reachable goals. But we’re never going to reach them if we don’t also establish good habits. Throughout the year, we’ll constantly evaluate how we’re doing to see if our habits are making it possible to reach our goals.
Unfortunately, like so many of my posts, this one will have to come in two parts.
It’s also possible for events to get in the way – and boy, did we learn that in 2008. So far I have not seen any immediate impact from the financial meltdown, other than a drop in my investment account balances. However, I can’t count on the same for 2009. Just as an example, the radio news reported this morning that 200,000 retail stores will close in 2009. I have one retail tenant. What will I do if she shuts her doors?
Lots of things could screw up our plans. And yet, even if we don’t achieve all of the goals we set out at the start of 2009, we may still feel that we did pretty well at the end of the year. The challenges and events of the coming year will give us other opportunities to succeed.
Don’t Be Unrealistic
I don’t know him personally, but I think that Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, probably feels pretty good about the the football season that just ended. How can that be when the Pats finished with a worst record than they had the year before? Because Coach Belichick recognizes that the team was hit with some pretty serious events in 2008, and handled them with poise, grace and hard work. The first was losing the best player in the NFL, Tom Brady, for the whole season in the first game. Lots of teams would have rolled over and died in that situation, but the Patriots did not – they finished 11-5 and developed a new starting quarterback in the process. At his final press conference of the season, Belichick spoke movingly about how much he appreciated the team’s hard work.
A monomaniacal head coach would have been disappointed by the Patriots year because they didn’t win the Super Bowl, but what were the chances of that happening after Brady’s injury? None. None at all.
Break Down Your Goals
The problem with a simple, long-term goal – “this year I will become rich” – is that it’s hard to measure your progress. Go ahead and make big goals, but break them down into small goals that you can accomplish over a short period of time. If you can break down a big goal into a bunch of smaller ones, each time you reach one of your small goals, you’ve made measurable progress toward the big one.
This is another lesson I learned from Bill Belichick. He’s said many times that he doesn’t worry about how many games he will win – he worries about how to win the next one. When he wins one game, he’s part way toward making the playoffs.
Establish Good Habits To Reach Your Goals
- Set daily goals the night before
Your daily goals are the smallest components of your big year-long goals. For example, one of my goals for 2009 is to triple my software customer base. There are a lot of things I can do to accomplish this. One is going to be adding new features to the software. I have a general idea what those features will be and how long they will take to accomplish. Therefore I know, for example, that “add a XXX report” is a reasonable daily goal that will contribute to my larger goal (add 30 new reports) and my 2009 goal (triple my customer base).
It’s important that my daily goals be reasonable because I won’t quit for the day until I’ve accomplished them.
- Set aside a time for organization
Everybody has a different tolerance for distraction. Mine is pretty low, which means that if I let myself deal with every phone call, email or letter that comes in, I’ll never get anything meaningful accomplished. I’ll avoid that by making “organize” a daily goal, not my first priority, but something I do every day between, say, 4 and 4:30 p.m.This ties in with setting reasonable daily goals. When you start any task, make sure you will have time to finish it before you have to take a break or switch to a different task. This may require breaking down your tasks further than you ordinarily would. Let’s say you have a project that will take three days (24 work hours) to complete. Can you break it down into a number of smaller tasks, each taking no more than three hours? If so, you can do any one of those three-hour tasks from start to finish without taking a break.
- Treat yourself only out of profit
This will be a challenge, but oh, what motivation! If I can only treat myself out of profit, I’ll work a lot harder to achieve that profit. Of course, I’m not going to spend all of my profit on treats.
- Don’t quit until you’re finished
This ties in with setting reasonable daily goals. When you start any task, make sure you will have time to finish it before you have to take a break or switch to a different task. This may require breaking down your tasks further than you ordinarily would. Let’s say you have a project that will take three days (24 work hours) to complete. Can you break it down into a number of smaller tasks, each taking no more than three hours? If so, you can do any one of those three-hour tasks from start to finish without taking a break.
Post Continued here.