A 7-Step Process to Achieving Your Goals

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Alexandra Samuel for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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It’s still early in 2012, and from what I see on Twitter, lots of folks are jumping into the New Year with a resolution or two. Whether those resolutions are online (“check Facebook no more than three times a day”) or offline (“exercise every day”), the challenge lies in translating resolution to reality. For the past few years, I’ve had an annual ritual that helps me make good on my goals for each year or quarter. Using Excel, I evaluate all my current activities and whittle out everything that doesn’t advance my key goals. Here are [three of seven steps in] this process to achieve your goals for this year:

1. Write down your top goal or goals for the year (or quarter). Choose no more than three, and be very clear if there is one you are most committed to achieving. Write these at the top of your spreadsheet in a large font so they keep jumping out at you.

2. Dump all your current and upcoming tasks or projects into the spreadsheet. Put everything in one column, with one task or project per row. The goal is to get everything that you’re working on, or even considering working on, written down in one place. You’re going to end up with a very asymmetric list: one row might be “Annual report on sustainability” and the next might be “Fill out Nov 2011 expense report.” This is the most challenging part of the process, so don’t rush it: you’ll know you’ve got most of what’s in your head onto the list once you’ve gone 24 hours without adding to it.

3. Freak out. This is a very important part of the process. Seriously. Look at the list of everything you’ve been trying to work on concurrently, or meaning to work on, and see how infeasible that list really is. Then look at the one or two or three things you really really really want to accomplish, and let yourself soak in the truth: you are not going to get your most valued goals accomplished when you are trying to do this many things.

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Now that you’ve got a feasible game plan that will allow you to work towards your key goal(s) for this year, your resolutions should feel like a firm commitment rather than a vague aspiration. The spreadsheet you’ve created will be your touchstone and conscience for the year: return to it every time you feel tempted to take on more, or if you find yourself struggling to make time for the goals you set for 2012. You may need to do the same process every quarter (or even every month) so that you continually triage your accumulating workload and stay focused on what matters. It’s hard work to live up to your resolutions. Get serious about making time for that work, and 2012 can be the year you achieve your most dearly held goals.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Alexandra Samuel is the Director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the co-founder of Social Signal. Follow her on Twitter as @awsamuel. To check out more blog posts by Alexandra Samuel, please click here.

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