This is not about setting big hairy audacious goals, which are great for inspiring groups over the long haul. This is about working with a natural efficiency in your brain when it comes to having too much to do and not knowing which things to get done. In every day life, smaller goals are more useful as a way to keep you motivated and on track with the most important things. A BHAG in this post would be to win the World Series, while an effective short-term goal would be to hit a lot of homeruns along the way.
Most of us have too many demands on our energy, time, and commitment. This is great because when you are well networked you are more likely to accomplish more things. But setting goals against every demand can be overwhelming. You have important things to do at work, and more to do on the home front, and aspirations for your career and health, and of course you’d like to contribute to society, and well, you get the picture.
By the time you list a separate goal in each area, there’s no time to get everything done, and you end up doing nothing but react to things as they come your way. There is a way out of this mess: Psychologists believe that we are more likely to accomplish a goal that satisfies several (if not all) key demands at one time.
For pure efficiency and survival, we are naturally attracted to activities that satisfy multiple goals. That is, we’d rather do things that “kill two birds with one stone.” So the best goals are ones that satisfy many needs.
Now, let’s get back to the baseball analogy as a reminder to set better goals. There’s nothing wrong with a base hit… it puts a runner on base and if you get additional hits, that runner could advance to score. But it’s much more efficient to hit a long ball and get several bases in one hit, and best to knock it out of the park. In one swing, you clear the bases and get multiple points.
Four types of goals:
- Do what needs to be done for the business/customer.
- Do something that helps me learn and grow.
- Do something that improves our way of doing work.
- Do something that’s good for your family, society or the planet.
Take the time to consciously build connections across the many demands you are trying to satisfy in your life. When you do something at work (a single), look for ways to tie that work to your professional development (a double). Better yet, look for ways to improve the way you do that work while you’re doing it (a triple).
And best of all, be clear about how that work will be good for your family or make a positive difference in the world (a home run!). When you explicitly attach all of those outcomes to your actions, your brain is more likely to keep it at the top of your consciousness and in the busy part of your thinking.
Which means you’re more likely to get it done.
For more on setting effective goals see my post Goals are a natural part of work.