Objectives That Help, Not Hinder

Recently, someone asked me “how do I deal with multiple projects; how do I sort out what I should be doing?” My immediate response was that she should work on her time management. [See ‘Time Management for Grasshoppers, June 2012.] My more considered answer is that even before managing time, we need clear objectives. If we don’t have objectives, we don’t know what we need to do — and we don’t know how we’re getting on. Have we exceeded our expectations; are we getting along OK; or are we getting to the stage where we should think of doing something else?
For an objective to be helpful, it needs to be written in a certain way. I want to be a successful writer, working away in my cottage in the country with roses around the door. The second part of that objective is clear and measurable — and the roses have been spectacular this year, despite the weather. The first part is no help to me at all. What does successful mean? What am I going to write? How will I know when I get there? [Please note, I said ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. We’ll talk about positivity another time.] If our objectives are too vague, too numerous or too unrealistic, they will get in the way. Here are my top tips for setting helpful objectives.
  • Work out exactly what you want to achieve.  For example: ‘to increase the number of magazines buying my articles or ‘to increase the number of articles each magazine purchases’ are more specific than ‘to increase my level of sales.
  • Put a number to it so you will know whether it is achieved or not.  For example: ‘to add five new magazines to my portfolio’ or ‘to sell one article per month’ are measurable targets.
  • Objectives can be tough — it’s called having stretch targets and it can push you to achieve more than you expected — but there is no point in setting objectives that have no hope of being successful — that’s just demotivating and a waste of time.  For example: ‘to increase my output of sold articles by 500% in year one’ is probably not going to be achievable, whereas ‘to increase my output of sold articles by 100%’ is probably achievable but difficult.
  • You are running a business, so your objectives must be relevant to the business. For example: ‘to spend 10 hours per week updating my website’ is precise, measurable and achievable, but unless it is linked at some point to an increase in business, it is just playing. [I’m not saying there’s necessarily anything wrong with playing, so long as you don’t kid yourself that you are moving the business forward at the same time.]
  • Have a time-frame for achieving each objective. For example ‘to increase my output of sold articles by 100%’ without the addition of ‘in year one’ is meaningless.  Sure, you can do it at some point, but if you don’t have a milestone to work to, it could take 35 years and that’s not a particularly stretching objective, is it?

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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