Monday, January 04, 2016

How To Set Goals (Or: How I Set Goals)

There is ample evidence that people who set goals tend to get better results than people who don’t. Goals drive focus on achieving important results rather than running in multiple directions, and cause us to apply more effort to attain stretch targets; they also help us to continue trying after others concede defeat. When supported by excellent execution and persistence, goal-setting has often proved the difference between average and excellent results.

Why then doesn’t everyone set goals?

I found that some people don’t believe they can improve the quality of their results by setting goals beforehand. In many cases, they already deliver good results and don’t see how things can be any better. I also found other people who try to set goals, but are overwhelmed by the perceived complexity of the task and lack a framework they can reapply.

I have written this for the second category of people, to share my framework.

Here’s how I set goals:

  1. I take time off my regular day-day activities. I tend to do this on my birthdays, so I take the day off work.
  2. I categorize my activities into broad ‘buckets’ or roles. For example, my buckets in University were: Academics, Finances, Relationships (including my roles as a son, sibling, and friend), and Spiritual. Since leaving University, I have added new ‘buckets’ for Career and Outreach, and replaced Academics with Personal & Career Learning and Development.
  3. I visualize my desired state of affairs at the end of the year, and list the descriptors out under corresponding buckets. For example, on my last birthday - I visualized myself having attained a certain level in the CIPS certification by my next birthday - and promptly listed it as a goal under the ‘Personal & Career Learning and Development’ bucket. (The desired state of affairs at the end of the period should link into your longer term objectives for your life).
  4. I ensure that my goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. For example, while I may desire a N600MM house in Banana Island by my next birthday - is it realistic? No. Is it enough to state that you want to attain a ‘professional certification’? No. You need to be specific. Which one is most relevant to you? PMP? Prince II? CIPM? CIPS?
  5. I collect the goals together into a coherent document, and share with a mentor or accountability partner.

That’s all. You see, it’s not so difficult. One more thing is to set up regular reviews, monthly or quarterly, where you review your objectives, track your progress, and adjust your goals or include new ones.

If you haven’t set any goals recently, get started already! Grab a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper, get visualizing, and get writing away! I look forward to hearing about your experiences and results.

May the road rise to meet you!



  1. This is so helpful, I have always been confused each time i hear the word 'goals'.. I tell myself 'I want many things' so why should I write them down. But you have really broken it down for me.. Written down my goals now...

  2. My dear friend and brother (seemingly enstranged of late though..;) ) . Thank you so much for sharing this....and I really mean that. I will get in touch soon on this and some other sundry matters.