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?
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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