This week, we’re half way through 2020!

It certainly feels like we are at a turning point in this crazy year, and so this is an ideal time to pause, reflect and plan.  We can take this opportunity to put in place productive habits that will ensure we can look back on this year amazed at what we have achieved.

As I have mentioned before, there are more demands on our time than last year, and we are more distracted than ever. However, even in “normal” times most of us delude ourselves that we can get more done each day than is actually possible.

Focus on less, achieve more

We are a bit like the first circle in the diagram below (inspired by Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism). We have so mant things on our plate that we don’t make real progress in anything. I’m sure you know that feeling where, at the end of a very busy day, you feel like you have not achieved anything. McKeown suggests we focus only on the essential (middle circle) and ignore the rest.

Too many things distract us. Context switching slows us. Eliminate the non-essential! (Adapted and expanded from McKeown’s Essentialism)

In essence, by focusing our energy, time and resources in one path, we can make huge progress on that specific goal.

In the real world, there many things we want to do. So perhaps the third circle is a bit more of a realistic take on this excellent principle.

So I am not proposing that you only focus your attention on one goal. Instead, I would like to introduce you to a 4×3 productivity formula that should help you achieve more important things than ever before, and still have time to look after your loved ones.

This coming week, I want to help you craft a simple plan to achieve excellence for the next 6 months. I challenge you to:

1) set no more than 3 important goals for each quarter

2) set no more than 3 important milestones for each month

3) set no more than 3 important objectives for each week

4) set no more than 3 important tasks for each day

Design your SMART Quarters

To make sure you actually get these important things done, I encourage you to write these items using an adapted SMART framework. Many previous people have modified the SMART acronym for goal setting – and this is my take, which I hope you find of help. So, make your goals, milestones and objectives SMART:

Specific – you have to know exactly the end result you want

Measurable – so that you will know if you have achieved it

Actionable  – you want them to be action based, within your control

Relevant – they need to be both important to your long term aims, and realistic to your life situation

Time-bound – they need to have clear deadlines, or repeat frequencies

Over the next few posts we will dive a bit deeper into each of these aspects, but for today, let’s start to consider the big picture: Quarterly Goals.

Quarterly Goals

While you may have set goals for the whole year, these Quarterly Goals should be set, and committed to, at the start of each quarter.

I suggest that you limit yourself to three important goals. Anything much beyond this will mean you will not have enough focus to actually achieve them, and you will become frustrated. These goals can be any area of your life, but I find a good mix personal improvement and professional goals works well for me. Some examples might include:

  • Deliver all aspects of Data Project X to client by 30th August 2020 for approval and signoff.
  • Submit at least 4 fully costed and approved proposals to funding bodies by September 30th, 2020
  • Get to bed before 11 pm each night, at least five nights a week for 90 days.  Measure levels of mood, energy and concentration weekly to test for impact.
  • Spend at least 60 minutes writing each day (2 x 30 minute sessions, with earphones in and timer set), 5 days a week.

You will see that the first two are “Achievment Goals” and the second two are “Habit Goals”.  I find that habit goals can be a useful way of creating the right environment to make large achievement goals possible, but there is no need for them to be related.  Michael Hyatt writes about these two types of goals in his excellent book, Your Best Year Ever.

In the next posts, I will expand a bit more on the Monthly Milestones, Weekly Objectives, and Daily Tasks but for today, here is your challenge:

Challenge: Set your goals for this quarter

I encourage you to:

1) Sit down in a quiet place (if possible!) with a nice drink, a pen and paper

2) Write out your answers these questions (on paper):

  • What do I want to achieve this quarter?
  • What aspect of my life do I need to develop this quarter?
  • What difference would these achievements or developments bring to my life?

3) Use your answers to help write as many possible Quarterly Goals as you can.

4) Rank these goals, by the importance or improvement that they will deliver. Then just pick the top 3. (You can save the others for next quarter.)

5) Check your goals against the SMART framework above, and revise if necessary.

6) Stick your Quarterly Goals up on your wall to remind you of what you are working towards.  

If you want access to my Quarterly Goal Planning Sheets, which help with this process, pop your email in the box below and I’ll send them over to you.

I look forward to hearing how you get on with this challenge!


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