And Goals, Or Goals

When we work to develop new skills or habits, we must always ask ourselves: do these skills naturally complement each other, or are they at cross purposes?

For example: I want to exercise more AND sleep more / better.

For most of us, these goals will pull in the same direction. When I exercise regularly, I’m more tired at the end of the day, which leads to me sleeping better (and often more), which means I have more energy the next day and often feel more ready to exercise again.

Versus: I really need more time to relax, so I’m going to watch at least an hour of TV to unwind AND I’m also really tired and need to sleep more / better.

While both late-night TV-watching and sleep both appear to be in the ‘relaxing’ category, personally I find them to cut in opposite directions. I sleep neither more nor better in the rare phases when I’m regularly watching TV at night. (best example: when traveling for work).

Here are a few common AND/OR choices you might face:

Be 100% responsive to email [AND / OR] do deep strategic work.

Focus heavily on external sales / fundraising [AND / OR] clarify our strategic priorities.

Bump up our social media activity [AND / OR] get closer to our customers.

Push hard for this deadline [AND / OR] get closer as a team

Never take a day off [AND / OR] be as productive as possible

Schedule meetings 5 days a week [AND / OR] be in charge of my time

Do outrageous things for our customers [AND / OR] ensure our profitability

Always be efficient [AND / OR] be present for those around me

Promote what we have to offer [AND / OR] promote what our peers have to offer

They say the true mark of intelligence is the ability to hold two seemingly opposing thoughts at the same time.

Perhaps the true mark of someone who is on a growth path is the ability to make seemingly contradictory goals complementary, while also discovering and eliminating the goals that are in true conflict with each other.

Writing Great Annual Goals

It’s the time of year when lots of folks are writing their annual goals. It can feel daunting. Too often this becomes an exercise in list-writing, task after task that we know we must get through.

Somehow, in the process of listing out everything we lose something: the meaning behind it all, the “so what.”

If I boil this exercise down to its essence, my thought experiment is: imagine it is December 31, 2021 and I’m looking back at the year. How will I (and, if these goals are for work, my boss) know how I did?

Here’s how you can bring clarity to the answer to this question.

Take a step back and write two short paragraphs.

  • Paragraph 1: if I’ve done this by the end of the year it will be a good year
  • Paragraph 2: if I’ve done this it will be a great year

Write in simple prose and focus on the stuff that really matters. Not each individual task, but where you will be and how it will feel. Most important, write paragraphs that are specific and clear enough that you, and the colleagues that will be looking at this with you in a year’s time, will be able to judge clearly how you did.

For example, when I think about 2021 for 60 Decibels, we obviously have goals around growth, revenues, profitability and impact. But those numbers alone aren’t my goals for the year. Rather, I’ve written down where I want us to be as a business and as a team, what questions we will have answered for ourselves and in the market, and the strategic milestones we will have hit that set us up for the next success.

What I write down doesn’t feel like a list of accomplishments, it’s more like a description of a location on a map: at this new (future) vantage point, thinks look and feel like this, they smell like this. Here’s who I am, and who we are, thanks to the miles we’ve walked. Here’s what we can now see thanks to how high we’ve climbed.

When I capture my goals for the year in these terms, everything feels more tangible, more visceral, and more motivating. Better yet, it’s easier for our team to understand where we’re headed and why, so we can all get behind that vision.

If it’s a good year, this is where we’ll be.

And if it’s a great year, this is where we’ll be.

Here’s to a great 2021.