Strategic Goal Planning

January 4th, 2016.... Are You Ready???

January 4th, 2016 is right around the corner. What is so significant about this date? It's the first Monday of the New Year. This is when all of the New Year's resolutions kick in and people flock to the gym to get back in shape. In other words, I call this day 'Black Monday'

If it has been some time since you last exercised, you might benefit from some of the prior posts on this site about planning, setting expectations, and reinforcing new habits. 

To recap, increase your odds of successfully 'getting back into shape' by following these two simple guidelines:

  • Planning Ahead
  • Setting Realistic Expectations

Your resolution to get back in shape should start long before you show up to begin your first exercise in the form of a PLAN. Know which exercises you want to do, and know how to do them. Write down some alternatives in case the stations you want to use are occupied. This will result in a more efficient use of your time and energy, and reduce the chance of injury. 

Setting realistic expectations through your plan will encourage you to capture some 'quick wins' and give you a sense of accomplishment on which you can build. Remember, it took months, years, and even decades for most of us to fall out of shape, and it wouldn't be fair to expect one to recapture fitness over a day or two. Keeping your expectations tempered is a way to condition yourself to experiencing exercise as a fun, positive outlet, over the long-term. 

These two simple tips will keep you motivated, allow positive results to be experienced quicker, and increase the odds that an active lifestyle becomes a permanent habit!

My Method for Prioritization

"Which method would I choose?", you may ask.

I find a lot of truth in the old saying, "Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves." 

That said, I prefer knocking out the easier, less time consuming goals first, i.e., the "Low Hanging Fruit". As stated previously, this will give us some quick wins, give us a sense of accomplishment, and promote an environment of achievement. Furthermore, we can begin developing good habits that can be applied to more ambitious projects later. 

Developing the habit of accomplishment is more important than any individual resolution or goal, because it is a transferable skill.

Which to Choose?

When looking at your list of goals, categorize them once in terms complexity or duration, and once more in terms of satisfaction. These can be arbitraty numbers for now, say 1, 2, 3, etc... 

Next, order the first list with by complexity/ duration from least complex to most. Then, order the second by satisfaction level from highest to least.  

Here is an example:

Complexity/ DurationSatisfaction
1Volunteer at Food Bank (easiest)9Write a Novel (highest)
2Clean Basement8Earn Master's Degree
3Paint Front Porch7Exercise/ Lose Weight
4Live in the Moment6Travel to China
5Travel to China5Save more Money
6Exercise/ Lose Weight4Volunteer at Food Bank
7Save more Money3Live in the Moment
8Earn Master's Degree2Paint Front Porch
9Write a Novel (hardest)1Clean Basement (lowest)

As you see in this example, there is somewhat of an inverse relationship between the two. I would expect to see something like this from most people. If your number one goal is the same on both lists, then you are lucky; by all means, this is what you probably should get started on right now! 

However, if your lists are ranked similarly to those above, then there are three general strategies on which route to take: 

1. "Low Hanging Fruit", or in other words, tackle the easiest items first. The advantages with this method are that they will promote the habit of being productive, provide immediate results, and instill a sense of accomplishment. This strategy will de-clutter the your list and build momentum, putting you in a great position to take on bigger challenges later.

The drawback? Time-sensitive goals that score high in satisfaction would be at risk. For instance, someone who is turning 60 may not have the luxury to wait to get off the couch and begin training for that first triathlon.

2. Focus on the one item that would bring you the most satisfaction. Dive into writing that novel or get started on that degree. To quote Confucius, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Success in these areas may reward you the freedom or opportunities that will fulfill your lesser goals. 

The drawback? Results and accomplishments aren't as pronounced, nor as frequent. We're putting in for the long-haul and we need to be mindful that the journey does not turn into a death-march. Going down this path may take a lot more planning and discipline in order to realize success.  

3. Use the two lists to find a nice comprise. In the example above, "Travel to China" appears to provide a moderate level of satisfaction, and seems relatively straight forward to achieve, all things being considered. 

The drawback? Not being the easiest nor the most satisfying goal on our list, we run the risk of giving up on this one all too easily.  

As you see, it really is up to you. 

Bear in mind, one look online and you can find a myraid of prioritization models that can help you statistically score your choice, but I wouldn't overthink this. When you see your list, generally the top ideas jump right off the page. 

How would you choose, David? 

Strategic Goal for a Singular Purpose

To begin, we need a strategic goal; a primary sense of purpose to which you will become dedicated. This is a thematic statement about what you would like to achieve in the most generalized terms.

Here are some examples:

  • Exercise/ Lose Weight
  • Save more Money
  • Live in the Moment
  • Travel to China

You may come up with quite a few. Once you get thinking, it may be hard to stop coming up with ideas! After all, at this point, time, cost, location, etc... doesn't matter. We're dreaming with a purpose right now.  

If you came up with a list, now I want you to focus on trimming that list down to the topic about which you are most passionate. Given one wish, on which one goal would you spend it?

"But I have so much I'd like to do! Why just one? How do I choose?"

More Later...