What comes first, the compass or the clock?
Before you can truly manage the clock, it is important to know where you are going, what your priorities and goals are, in which direction you are headed – the compass. Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going.
Rather than always focusing on what’s urgent, learn to focus on what is really important. Setting goals and objectives correctly goes a long way in helping to achieve them.
But before we dive into how to go about setting objectives, it is useful to understand the difference between goals and objectives.
Goals relate to our aspirations, purpose and vision. Objectives are the stepping stones on the path towards achieving the goal. Therefore, a goal may have one or many objectives.
One method for setting objectives that has been taught in many training sessions is the S-M-A-R-T way. This approach is well understood amongst managers, but it is often very poorly practiced. S-M-A-R-T refers to the acronym describing the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are:
- Specific – concrete, detailed, focused & well defined
- Measurable – numbers, quantity, quality, comparison
- Achievable – feasible, actionable
- Realistic – considering resources
- Time-Bound – a defined time line
Specific means that it is results and action-orientated. Objectives must be straight forward and emphasise both action and the required outcome. Objectives need to be straightforward and to communicate what you would like to see happen.
When the objective is measurable, you are able to track the actions as you progress towards the desired outcome. It is important to have measures that encourage and motivate you on the way as you see the change occurring, this may require interim measures. Measurements go a long way to help us to know when we have achieved our objective.
Objectives need to be achievable, if the objective is too far in the future, you’ll find it difficult to keep motivated and to strive to attain it. Objectives, unlike your aspirations and visions, need to be achievable to keep you motivated. Objectives also need to stretch you, but not so far that you become frustrated and lose motivation.
Objectives that are achievable may not be realistic. However, realistic does not mean easy. Realistic means that you have the resources to get it done. The achievement of an objective requires resources, such as, skills, money, equipment, etc. to the task required to achieve the objective. Whilst keeping objectives realistic, ensure that they stretch you. Most objectives are achievable but, may require a change in your priorities to make them happen.
Time-bound means setting a deadline for achieving the objective. Deadlines need to be both achievable and realistic. If you don’t set a time you will reduce the motivation and urgency required. Timeframes create the necessary urgency and prompt action.
Remember, setting S-M-A-R-T objectives for yourself or with your team provides secure stepping stones to achieve your goals.