Becoming aware of what impedes your ability to focus and eliminating distractions so you can complete your work are essential to enhancing your productivity. However, if what you are focusing on and working on is not connected to a broader purpose or goal, then you are like a boat without a rudder — directionless and unmoored.
Denise Morrison, the CEO of Campbell’s Soup, knew from a very young age that she eventually wanted to run a company. She learned that just as you need to set goals to accomplish a business project, you need to set goals in your life, both short-term and long-term, and develop a plan to achieve them. Denise always looked at her career by asking questions like, “Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going, and what are the right assignments to get there?” When her current company would work with her to deliver those assignments, she was all-in. But when it didn’t, she knew she needed to move on.
The R.E.A.D.Y., Aim, Fire methodology will not only assist you in getting very clear on your goals and priorities, but also ensure that you achieve those goals in the most efficient and effective way possible.
R.E.A.D.Y.: Determine Your Goals
To get ready, you have to become very clear on your goals and priorities—and I suggest you start by taking a very broad look at your life and work rather than focusing narrowly on the next few days, weeks, or even months. Then use these long-term goals as guideposts to shape and direct the short-term steps that will take you there.
I write my R.E.A.D.Y. goals at the end of the year or within a day or two of January first each year. I write my goals or intentions in the following four areas of my life:
I try to be very specific about what I want to create this year, using the following questions as a guide.
- At the end of my career, I will be able to say that I used all the gifts given to me if…
- Where do I want to be in ten years?
- What are my team’s or division’s goals for this year?
- What are my personal goals for this year?
- What do I want more of from the personal relationships in my life?
- What do I want less of from the personal relationships in my life?
- What do I want to give to the personal relationships in my life?
- How do I want to be present for the people in my life?
- What is my one stretch personal goal for this year?
- How do I want to feel physically this year?
- How will I ensure my optimum physical and mental health this year?
- What changes do I need to make to my diet, exercise, and rest routines to support me in achieving my professional and personal goals?
- Do I have any specific physical goals—for example, to run a 5K race or take a weekly yoga class?
- Do I have any specific rest and rejuvenation goals–for example, to take two days each quarter to think and reflect?
- What is my one stretch health goal this year?
- What is the quality of my spiritual life?
- What changes, if any, do I want to make to strengthen it?
- How will I nurture my spiritual life this year?
- What is my one stretch spiritual goal this year?
As you answer each of the questions above, use R.E.A.D.Y. as your goal-drafting guide. Make sure that your goals are
R – Realistic,
E – Exciting,
A – Action-oriented,
D – Directive (meaning that they will actually point you in the direction you want to go), and
Y – Yours (not simply someone else’s goals for you).
Many people find the R.E.A.D.Y. stage daunting. I used to be one of them. That question, “Where do I want to be in ten years?” used to make my toes curl, because I could not see where I wanted to be next month! I was so busy, focused on the work in front of me and reacting to what was coming my way, I refused to look up and envision the future I wanted to create.
Nonetheless, I forced myself to engage in goal-setting, as every respected time-management book and self-improvement guru recommended. Each January, I would go through the motions of setting my goals and New Year’s resolutions. I dutifully followed what was then the gold standard of goal-setting methodology: I wrote goals that were described by the acronym SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound. My list of goals looked very impressive, and for a few days or even weeks I felt quite proud of myself.
Unfortunately, by February, my resolutions and goals were rapidly fading in the rearview mirror. (You may have experienced the same thing.) Why? Eventually I realized that something was missing for me. My goals represented a lot of “shoulds” in my life; they were not exciting to me nor really my own. There was no real juice or oomph behind them. They were boring and felt more like obligations than a road map to an exciting, meaningful future.
It was only after I woke up that day after Christmas that I realized something had to change in my life. The first place to start was to get very clear on the true goals and priorities of my personal and professional life.
So now, I look forward to getting R.E.A.D.Y.
I feel the way I felt when standing on the starting line in college waiting for the gun to go off for a cross-country race. I have butterflies in my stomach, my muscles are tense and primed, my feet are pointed toward the finish line, and I am actually looking forward to the run, even though it is going to take hard work.
I now set my goals and priorities for the year at the end of the year or within a day or two of January first. I remind myself of where I have come from and ring in the New Year centered on what I am going to focus on and achieve in the coming year. I write my goals and priorities down in the crisp new grey notebook I have specially purchased, and I refer back to them frequently throughout the year to ensure I am properly aiming and executing on my goals (more on that below). Having exciting personal and professional goals, and devoting my days, weeks, and months to pursuing those goals in a methodical fashion goes a long way toward helping me avoid the all-too-common danger of spinning my wheels in meaningless activity, another victim of the busyness epidemic.