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Time management - Goals part 1



Goals part 1

General

There is a symbiotic relationship between goals and how you manage to achieve them. Once we reach a goal we are pretty pleased with ourselves and Might easily give ourselves a reward. This in turn fuels our enthusiasm to achieve further goals. In this respect success makes us happy and we enjoy what we are doing more.

The two big areas in which we pursue our goals tend to be ‘personal life’ and the dreaded ‘work’ environment.

The principles of Time Management can easily be employed in any environment with modest adjustments. That is not to say that your family life should be run like a business but a degree of organisation and planning can help. Similarly, business needs can not be all interesting and fun but good Time Management techniques can improve the situation a lot.

Road to success

So we want to reach particular goals? What goals and how will we get there? If you don’t think about this you will drift aimlessly and end up somewhere that you may not like.

In ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ she met a Cheshire cat.

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Whether we are talking about ‘business’ or ‘home’ the problems are similar.
We need to decide on where we wish to go.
We then assess where we are now and then decide on how to get there by bridging the gap.

When we carry out a task we have a particular aim in mind. If the actual result is likely to differ from this then we have a problem.
Simply put, if a solution can not move us towards the aim then it is not a solution in itself. However, several minor solutions may combine to provide and overall solution.

Business.
  • We may have goals covering future profits, image, safety record, market share etc.
  • Assessment of our current position could focus on ‘strengths and weaknesses’, stakeholders, current market shares and other data, product lifecycles etc.
  • Generating short and long term strategies to get there, for example, marketing, pricing systems efficiency etc.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) is described in more detail elsewhere [see ‘The Complete Project Management package’] and [see 'The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2'].

Home.
  • We may have goals covering lifestyle, education, family achievement, or a nice car etc.
  • Assessment of our current position could focus on our job, current stress level, balance of home and work, what do you like etc.
  • The use of good Time Management techniques, thinking positively, being proactive, producing plans etc.

The key is to take a ‘proactive’ and not a ‘reactive’ stance unlike Alice.
Some of these aspects are covered in more details elsewhere.

[see ‘The Complete Project Management package’].
[see 'The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2'].
[see ‘The Complete Risk Management package’]

What’s important to you

This is clearly a very personal view. Don’t forget that your own goals may have a significant effect on others.

If you only had 6 months to live (or two weeks) what would you really like to achieve?

The balance between home and work is often a tricky one.
For the person who feels financially secure the ability to increase home activity may be an easy decision to take and implement but quite different if you are finding it hard to make ends meet.

However, the first step is to decide on this balance and then see how you might get there. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve with good techniques and appropriate planning.

It’s the idea of understanding what is important that can help you adjust your approach to certain tasks.
We will look at this elsewhere, see ‘urgent v important’.

Hurdles

There are usually plenty of reasons why we don’t reach our goals currently.

  • We don’t consider any in the first place.
  • Under too much stress.
  • Short term fire fighting.
  • We do other people favours.
  • We delay doing boring tasks we don’t like.
  • We repeat mistakes etc.

Good Time management technique will hopefully remove or significantly reduce these hurdles and many others.

Focus time on goals

We waste time, don’t we? We acknowledge that we do but often don’t do anything positive to stop it.

  • We sit there mindlessly watching television for hours.
  • We have a conversation with someone that takes far longer than we had planned.
  • We wash the car (perhaps) regularly, if it needs it or not.
  • We have shopped for hours when just may be 1 hour would have been ample etc.

In an ideal world we would only carry out tasks that contribute to our final goals.
In practice, this may end up being a selfish approach under some circumstances but is a very good starting point.

This will be covered in more detail when we look at ‘urgent’ versus ‘important’.

If you can easily compartmentalise your activity you may be able to assess your efficiency easier than in other areas.

For example, a bricklayer will have a very good idea how efficiently he or she is working as it is easy to see. Even in this case there may be problems with weather, material supplies, equipment failure etc. For a manager or a person at home it is often much more difficult to analyse your ‘productivity’ and thus it can be harder to distinguish any progress towards your goals.

Basically, if the work ‘input’ exceeds the achievement ‘output’ you will be under pressure to manage your time more effectively or suffer the consequences of stress and ill health.

Basic tactics

Realistically, there are only a few ways to improve your productivity in terms of getting all of your work done.
This will leave you with more quality time to think, enjoy yourself and pursue your goals.

  • Focus just on goal related tasks.
  • Spend less time on unimportant tasks or bin them.
  • Don’t let tasks escalate and become urgent.
  • Reduce time lost by internal (self generated) and external (generated by others) distractions.
  • Learn to say ‘no’.
  • Manage people better.
  • Improve your systems.
  • Delegate better.
  • Increase your work hours

Some of these options may prove non viable if they affect others.

Types

They will typically fall into a few categories.

  • Work related goals defined by senior management.
  • Personal goals in your work environment.
  • Personal goals at home or with your family.

If possible you should always try to promote your own personal goals. This will make you happy and performance will improve which in turn will help you get to your goals. However, if there is conflict at work with senior management it is likely you will have to give way as losing your job is a definite hindrance to getting to your goals.

This principle will also hold up at home with your partner. Hopefully, both of you will have discussed your goals to avoid clashing conflicts. Teamwork and partnerships will often bring faster and more fruitful rewards than going it alone.

If the working environment severely conflicts with trying to achieve your goals you will need to review either your job position or the job itself.
In terms of personal goals at work you may consider additional education through training, more accountability, broadening your experience, trying for an increase in pay, etc.

Setting goals

By considering some simple questions you should be able to come up with about 10 to 20 goals.

  • If you could remove constraints of time, money potential failure and fear of trying what would you like to do?
  • What skills do you currently possess?
  • What key things would you do if you only had 6 months to live?

For all of these consider short and long term goals and try to think of up to 5 for each.

Refining your goals

We will need to reduce the list of 10 to 20 to a manageable amount by considering certain criteria.

  • Goals should really motivate you to achieve them. They need to be large and exciting enough to make you feel great when you achieve them.
  • They must be clear and unambiguous so that you know with out a shadow of a doubt when you have achieved them.

The latter criteria is very important.

  • Fix a time period accurately. Say in 2 years not ‘over the next 5 years’ or ‘soon’.
  • Decide how you will measure it. There is little point in saying that you ‘want a better job’ be specific ‘I want to be team leader’.

For example, ‘I want to run in 3 marathons in the next calendar year and finish in under 4 hours’.

Visualising

It is important to be constantly reminded of your goals. You might find these ideas useful.

  • Keep a list of them in a place where you can easily see it.
  • Keep lists all around so that you can’t miss them.
  • Perhaps put a reminder in a place you frequently go, for example, inside a draw, the bathroom cabinet etc.
  • Use a symbol to help you. Use a blue square, yellow dot, red triangle as a subconscious reminder of your goals. Put this in a variety of places to prompt you.

Non - PRINCE2 information