▶️ 6 Steps of goal management

Personal goal management can be divided into six stages according to the process: goal setting, goal decomposition, plan making, plan implementation, regular inventory, and end of goal cycle review. Here we will explain the specific meaning of these six stages one by one, as well as the role in the whole process of goal management and the issues that should be noted.

Before starting the six stages of goal management, first find and define your long-term vision and big goals, this article is for reference: How to find the goal_.

Step 1: Goal setting #

The goals referred to in this article are short- to medium-term goals, and the time span should be kept within one year as much as possible to help reach them. To understand the difference between long-term and short-term goals, you can read: How to find the goal_.

The core approach to goal-setting is the SMART principle, which states that goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant to other goals, and Time-bound. We are not new to the SMART principles, but even if we know what they mean, we often have problems applying them.

For example, the following goal: I want to lose weight. This is a kind of goal, but obviously not a valid goal, because there is no way to measure this goal and to judge whether the goal is accomplished or not. This goal could be modified to read: I want to lose 90 pounds by 2022. This way the goal becomes specific and measurable, and time-bound, satisfying the SM and T in SMART.

“Attainable” means that, to determine whether their objective conditions support the achievement of this goal, for example, your weight would have been 100 pounds, the possibility of reducing to 90 pounds is very large, but if the original weight is 200 pounds, then the goal may be difficult to achieve, so In the development of goals should also consider the achievability, to avoid the development of unrealistic goals, to combat their own motivation.

“Relevance” is usually a concept of corporate goal management, and does not need to be strictly enforced in personal goal management.

“Time-bound” is very well understood, that is, goals need to have a clear deadline, commonly used goal cycle of three months, six months, a year. We need to pay attention to avoid the goal cycle is too long, if more than a year can be split into two small goals to implement, but also should avoid the development of the cycle is too short goals, if the cycle of a goal is a week, it is more likely to be a task, perhaps the goal is too easy, we need to re-evaluate.

Step 2: Goal disassembly #

When our goals are too complex or the time span is too long for us to reach, we need to break down the big goals into smaller ones. After decomposition, the goals will become clearer and more specific, and the execution will be smoother and easier to achieve. Here are two well-known methods of goal decomposition: OKR and Milestone Method.


OKR, or “Objectives and Key Results”, is a set of management tools created by Intel Corporation to clarify objectives and track their completion, and developed by Google.

OKR can be broken down into two parts: O is Objectives and KR is Key Results. The overall role of the OKR system is to break down objectives and refine key results.

The OKR approach was first applied to companies and is now increasingly accepted by individual goal managers.

The first type of goal is a general direction that does not have to follow the SMART principles, such as “design an engaging website. This type of goal cannot be measured precisely, so key results are needed to force us to quantify the vague and ambiguous parts of the goal. For this goal, the key results could be: KR1: 20% of people return within a week; KR2: 10% of people come back for a consultation after seeing the site. With this type of goal, the achievement of the key result also means that the goal is achieved.

The second type of goal itself needs to follow the SMART principle, and its key results often exist as subtasks that are broken down by themselves. The second type of disassembly is more applicable to individual goal managers. While personal goals can usually be quantified at the goal level, the first type is more commonly used for companies where goals are usually strategic and less clear and unambiguous.

Milestone Method #

If your goals are in line with the SMART principles but not easy to achieve in the short term, you can also supplement them with milestone goals as a stepping stone on the way to achieving your long-term goals.

To tell a short story, before each race, world marathon champion Honichi Yamada walks the race route and draws down the prominent markers along the way. At the beginning of the race, he rushed toward the first goal, and after reaching the first goal, he then proceeded to the second goal. He said this in his autobiography: “I did not once and did not know this, I set my goal on that flag 40 kilometers away, and I was exhausted after a dozen kilometers because I was intimidated by the distance.” The 40 kilometers terrified this athlete, but small goals along the way helped him reach his dream of becoming a world champion. That’s the positive side of the milestone approach, turning a large, long-term seemingly unattainable goal into a small, short-term attainable goal.

Both the milestone approach and the OKR approach break down large goals into smaller goals, so what is the difference? The milestone approach is usually linear, like the short story told earlier. If your goal is to run 40km, then 5km, 10km, 15km, these are the three milestones, while the OKR approach is not limited by the same type of conditions.

Either way, after this step, we get a clear, focused list of goals.

Step 3: Plan development #

Once we have a list of goals, we need to break down the task list for each goal before we can execute it.

Breaking down tasks into goals is a natural process based on your own knowledge and common sense, but it is important to note that this is an ongoing refinement process and does not happen overnight. The task is broken down from the goal, but at the same time it can be transformed into a goal for us to continue to break down the action down. So this process is again a continuous cycle.

The process is very flexible and we need to be careful to avoid making 5 common mistakes.

1. avoid overly bloated and redundant plans.

2. avoid the pursuit of parity, ignoring the objective law of development, can better help us achieve our goals is our only measure.

3. Avoid indulging in making perfect plans and dividing tasks too thinly. If you spend more time on goal management than you really do time then you need to pay attention to, may fall into the trap of sacrificing.

4. avoid sticking to the plan, learn to constantly revise. Sometimes some goals have changed, the corresponding tasks will also have corresponding changes.

5. Avoid ignoring the impact of resource constraints on task selection.

The most difficult part of making a plan is to estimate resources, especially estimating time, we tend to overestimate our efficiency, even if we have done it many times, there is no way to estimate accurately, which causes a lot of trouble for our subsequent implementation, and we need to constantly adjust the start and completion dates of tasks.

We can improve our ability to control time by recording the time we spend on top of each thing. Note that even if time resources allow, switching back and forth between different tasks can be a huge waste of time and energy. So we need to do the same mind stream or type of tasks together, try to focus on doing one thing well before doing another, while streamlining our tasks to avoid wasting too much time on task switching, and large chunks of time are best allocated to the more important things.

The final output of this part of the development plan is the annual plan, monthly plan, weekly plan, daily plan, etc. We can follow the plan of these outputs to continue to implement.

Step 4: Plan execution #

Execution is the most important part of goal management. Without execution, there is no goal achievement. The most classic credo of execution is: do it now!

What is most needed in the implementation phase is the motivation to persevere. The common reason we often fail to persevere is the decline in confidence and motivation, which usually occurs in the following situations.

First, we made an unreasonable plan, more typically not fully consider the achievability of the goal, over time, the goal is difficult to achieve, resulting in a decline in confidence, and eventually give up.

Second, plans do not change as quickly as they should, and there will always be the occasional accident that disrupts the original plan, which to some extent causes us frustration and undermines our confidence. The key to avoiding this is to ensure that the plan has a certain degree of flexibility while fully considering the unexpected. Think about it: What if we work late? What if we have a social function in the evening? So with this in mind, we don’t need to make the plan particularly detailed and rigid, but leave some buffer to make the plan more flexible.

Third, there are things we do and feel little effect and do not want to do. To avoid this problem is to, first, focus on the measurability of the goal, we need to always know how far things are going, and second, set some rewards for themselves, which is very useful. We may want to set some small reasonable rewards for each task to motivate ourselves to persevere.

Fourth, the goals set are not what we really aspire to inside, resulting in a lack of motivation. When we set goals, we can write down our source of motivation at the same time, that is, why we want to achieve this goal, to avoid forgetting what happened in the beginning later.

In order to make the plan sustainable, we can do the following.

1. just do it, have the impulse to do it!

2. constantly emphasize their goals, it is best to see their goals and the relevance of tasks and goals every day.

3. Make it a habit to do something repeatedly through software and other tools, so you don’t have to manage it too much.

4. Establish a reliable action list system, such as the Elisi App will provide us with a very clear and stable daily task plan, each task is associated with our goals, it will make us more inclined to stick to it

In this step, we output the completion of our daily tasks. Because we inevitably overestimate our ability to complete our tasks when planning, we can specify that 70% of our daily tasks are perfectly executed, which is very important to increase our motivation and is consistent with the OKR measurement.

Step 5: Regular Inventory #

Once we have planned and executed our goals, we need to take regular stock to ensure that our actions have not deviated and that timely adjustments and improvements can be made.

Periodic inventory of goals is a special kind of review, which is conducted during the implementation of goals, with the intention of checking the effectiveness of the previous stages according to whether the progress of the implementation of goals meets expectations.

The frequency of the inventory is determined by the different types of goals, and the recommended frequency is between one week and one month. The reason is that less than a week, the data deposited and the execution effect are not enough to explain the problem, while more than a month, there is a possibility of not being able to capture the risk in time.

When the target progress does not meet the expectations, the first thing to focus on is whether we continue to implement, if not, it is very normal result that the progress does not meet the expectations. The second thing that is most easily overlooked is the goal disassembly stage, because there is sometimes no absolute correlation between goals and tasks. For example, for the two goals of “read 20 books this year” and “lose 20 pounds this year”, the task of the reading goal can contribute intuitively to the progress of the goal, while the task of the weight loss goal requires us to contribute to the progress of the goal through various factors such as exercise, diet, work and rest. Therefore, if the tasks are not arranged properly, the weight loss goal may not progress. When progress slows down, we need to consider whether these tasks are effective and whether we need to readjust them, or strengthen them, or redirect them.

The point of regular inventory is to help us always be aware of the process of goal execution and to stop the loss in time.

Step 6: Review at the end of the goal #

The following three directions are commonly used for review.

1. to assess the results, i.e. whether the objectives are achieved and whether they are satisfactory. Many people think that if the goal is achieved, there is no need to review, but this idea is not correct. If the goal is too easy to complete, or the goal is finally completed no more than 50%, we should pay attention to whether the goal is reasonable, the goal is too unchallenging or too much beyond their capabilities, is not a good goal.

2. analyze the reasons, the key reasons for the success of the goal and the root causes of failure, including both subjective and objective aspects.

3. Summarize the experience, including experience, reflection, law summary, what adjustments need to be made to the goals currently in progress or what projects need to be suspended.

The review and regular inventory after the end of the goal are to allow us to have the process of reflection frequently, and they will make our goal management more effective and lasting.

Summary #

Once we understand the six stages, we should remember the principle of consistently recording valuable ideas during the process.

The approach to personal goal management is flexible, so we can adjust the steps to our needs once we understand the role of each stage. The most important thing in personal goal management is to find the right direction and act on it consistently. Remember that we should focus on ideas rather than methods, and try to “do it now” instead of over-planning. Only when we take action can we accomplish our goals.

The personal goal management method needs some time to adapt and learn, be prepared for possible failure in the process, and adjust the direction after the failure and start again.

Finally, I wish you all find a good goal that suits you, execute it consistently, and eventually reach it.

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