As a business psychologist and leadership coach, I often ask people if they believe in the power of goal-setting. Almost everyone says yes.
But when I ask how many of them have actually set goals for next year, very few say yes.
This always surprises me, given the fact most people know intuitively (and research has proven) that those who set goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not set goals.
“People who don’t set any goals are the ones whom life will pass right by. In fact, most people say they wish they could live their lives over again because a high percentage of people realize too late that they have frittered their lives away.” – Gary Latham, Ph.D.
After 50 years of research, goal-setting is the #1 tested management technique for achieving change. Because it works. In fact, it can triple your odds of getting what you want.
Why? Clear goals direct your attention. Without them you become distracted; your focus gets scattered. A lack of clarity makes it difficult to identify your next steps and what needs to get done. The result is you waste a lot of time and energy on pointless projects and activities.
While most people know that goals can provide clarity, I find that most people don’t know what to focus on when setting their goals.
5 Levels of Focus
To maintain balance and perspective, there are 5 levels of focus to consider when crafting your New Year’s resolutions and goals for the coming year:
- Lifetime focus – What matters most to you? What are you passionate about? What do you want to have shifted or changed in this world as a result of your life? Without some consideration and focus at this level, your yearly and weekly goals will lose their meaning. You will keep refining these “30,000 feet” goals over your entire lifespan.
- Yearly focus – Identify goals for the next year. What would you like to change related to your work, family, finances, education, health, friends?
- Weekly focus – Identify 3-4 concrete things you want to finish or accomplish next week that will move you forward with your yearly and lifetime goals. Be specific about details here – who needs to help you do what, when are your deadlines, and why is it important.
- Daily focus – Identify the 5-6 most important tasks that you need to complete that day to make progress on your weekly goals.
- Current focus – In the present moment, what should be your priority? Focus on one thing at a time and eliminate all other distractions. Multi-tasking wastes time and you lose momentum when switching between tasks.
Most of us consider only a few of these levels (while ignoring others) when setting our goals. Some people address their yearly goals, once a year, and fail to acknowledge the rest. Others might create a weekly to-do list, but never reflect on their lifetime goals.
If you want to succeed, you need to focus on all 5 of these levels. Understanding the difference between the levels can also help you see where you may need improvement or greater clarity.
If you haven’t started setting goals for next year yet, I encourage you to make an appointment on your calendar to work on them. You can have a rough draft completed within an hour or two. Few things in life will provide such dramatic results with such a small investment of time!
These sound like the tips from several other goal-setters, most notably in my experience, Michael Hyatt. However, to your credit, I’ve not seen him be so explicit on the current focus. To me, this is becoming more and more important – asking myself, “What am I doing now? What could I be doing in the next 5 minutes?” To quote another productivity teacher whose name escapes me right now, excellence is about the next 5 minutes. And with that, thank you, and see you again soon! Thank you for your blog!