“Having too many goals, even SMART goals, is dumb.”
~ Phil Symchych
Do You Have Too Many Goals?
I was speaking with one of my consultant clients, Gary Furr, who is a turnaround expert. In a turnaround, he states “the business must be focused on preserving cash. If it fails, it’s out of business.” There is very high clarity of focus and decision making in a turnaround situation that is focused on a single goal: survival.
Since most of us are not in a crisis situation, hopefully, singular goal setting becomes less urgent. Therein lies the problem.
Without an external force acting on them, many people end up having too many goals, too many priorities, and too many tasks on their to-do list. We all need a “Goals” list in front of us every day and schedule time for our goals each day.
I see people striving to accomplish too much in a single day and not enough in a week or a year. They’re not often motivated and focused on the right things. What’s even worse is they’re focused on someone else’s goals, such as responding to inbound emails before triaging them for fit with their own top priorities.
Much of motivation, human performance, and productivity is based on goals. But how many goals do you really need?
Fewer Goals, Better Goals
When you have too many goals, you end up with conflict where some efforts may actually offset other efforts and stall your progress.
If you don’t have enough—or any—goals, you’re likely a slave to your email and to-do list. You’ll be busy, perhaps, but you’re not making significant progress in any important direction. Your business would likely be bumping along based on the winds and currents at play.
If you have two personal goals and two business goals, you’ll have lots to keep you busy. Ultimately, it’s up to you. It’s definitely easier and much more effective to have fewer goals than too many goals.
Increasing quantity does not increase your probability of success; it actually decreases it. Too many goals, even if they’re SMART goals, is dumb.
Figure 96.1: FAIM model for goals
The best goals are achievable. Stretch goals, sure, but achievable when you allocate resources, develop plans, overcome obstacles, and implement ruthlessly.
We all know the important things in life take longer than expected, cost more in time, effort, and/or money, and have unexpected obstacles. So, plan for that.
Another challenge is that we treat the goal as a nice outcome—“wouldn’t it be great if…”—but don’t treat it like a project. When you structure your goals as projects, with five key steps and deadlines, you’ll make more positive progress faster.
Sometimes we set goals quickly because of what we saw or read or, worse, what someone else thinks is important but may not be to us.
Will your goal make a positive difference to you, your family, or your business?
In business, the most important goal is revenue, as that generates cash to keep your business running, feed your family, and build your business wealth.
What percentage of your time do you spend on business development vs. minutiae of day-to-day operations?
Personally, you’re as valuable as a multi-million-dollar athlete. Really! That’s because of the economic contributions you make to your customers, suppliers, and employees and their families.
Is one of your goals to optimize your own performance? Are you in as good a physical and mental condition as an athlete? Do you have a coach to help you perform your best in the important areas of fitness, psychology, and business?
Will the long-term benefits of achieving the goal be worth the short-term costs and sacrifices? If we don’t think about this and don’t write down the benefits so we stay motivated during the tough times, our goal doesn’t stand a very good chance of success.
The best motivation is intrinsic, when the goals have value unto themselves (that’s the long-term benefits) and are congruent with our personal values and aspirations.
How Many Goals Do You Need?
That’s up to you. Ideally, when you have personal and business goals, they support each other.
At a minimum, if you achieved one important goal personally and one in business each year, you’d make significant improvement to your life and business wealth.
How many goals did you accomplish last year? Which ones were most important and had the most impact? Which ones were a waste of time?
We’ve all learned the important value of health, family, cash in the bank, and social connections over the past year. How has this impacted your goals?
AIM At Your Goals
Too many goals dilutes everything: your focus, energy, and enthusiasm.
Focus on what is achievable, important, and motivating (“AIM”) for you and your business.
Want help setting and achieving your goals?
A large part of my consulting work is helping business leaders to set goals that will strengthen their foundation and position them and their business for greater success. If you’d like help to review or establish goals, give me a call.
Full speed ahead!
Thanks for reading.