3 Goal Setting Strategies to help you reach your most ambitious goals

Goal Setting is a hot topic at the moment, as goals can provide focus and direction to both individuals and teams, as well as increasing accountability and improving motivation. Already back in 1968, American psychologist Dr. Edwin Locke, linked task performance to goalsetting, showing that goals accompanied with feedback produce higher performance.

However, setting goals is easier said than done. According to a study by Strava most new years resolutions have been abandoned by January 19th (called Quitter’s Day), this is usually due to the goals not being set and defined properly from the start, and that’s where we can help. Following you’ll find 3 strategies or frameworks to help you create and reach ambitious, yet attainable, goals.

Backward Goals

The first is Backward Goal Setting , which is similar to reverse engineering. You start by determining one big main goal that you want to achieve. Working backwards from there, you break it into several smaller goals that support the overarching goal, these supporting goals should also be broken into smaller targets and tasks. Following this process provides you with an actionable map to achieving your original main goal.

The benefits of this approach are that it provides a clear path to your more complex goals through a series of smaller more easily achievable ones. As well as shifting the focus from the end goal to the process that will get you there, making the road to achieving your goals feel quicker and more easily digestible.

However, the process of backward goal setting can become extremely complex and laboursome depending on the main goal, and unlike other practices like SMART or OKS goals, you have to do the work yourself rather than following a template.

SMART goals

The SMART goal framework might be one of the more famous goal setting frameworks out there. It was developed in 1981, and works well for individual and team goal setting. The idea of the framework is to break down your goals into specific criteria of “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Attainable”, “Relevant” and “Time-bound” (hence SMART goals), to increase the likelihood of success in reaching those goals.

  • Specific: What are you trying to accomplish? The more specific you manage to make your goal, the more likely you are to be able to follow through.

  • Measurable: How are you measuring success? Using hard numbers or metrics helps you stay on track with where you are in your journey towards your goal.

  • Attainable: Goals that are challenging, but possible, make the best goals as they give you something to strive for, and a feeling of accomplishment when you make it. Is the goal you want to achieve possible given the time and resources you have available?

  • Relevant: For individual journeys, make sure your goal aligns with your overall aim and values, while in a team or company setting it is useful to make sure your goals align with the bigger picture of personal or company growth.

  • Time-bound: If you don’t set a specific time and date for when the goals need to have been achieved, you are less likely to stick to it.

The benefits of the SMART goals framework include that it is a straightforward, relatively simple and easily implementable process that provides a systematic approach to goal setting that helps you to clearly define your goals. However, keep in mind that it can be a quite lengthy process and the rigidity of it allows for little room for flexibility which can, for some, keep people from reaching your long-term goals.

OKR Framework

The OKR (“Objectives & Key Results'') framework is especially helpful in business and team settings as it promotes alignment, transparency and fosters collaboration within teams. Firstly, this goal setting framework initiates the process of defining a particular goal through objectives. Secondly, these objectives are broken down into key milestones and results that measure progress along the way towards the larger goal. In other words the objectives are your goals, that should be clear, concise, challenging yet realistic, while your key results are about how you measure your success towards those goals. Make 3-4 measurable key results per objective and make sure they are relevant and focused toward your objective.

The benefits of the OKR framework include that individuals can better understand what they themselves, but also what their team is working towards, which fosters teamwork and motivation. It is also easy and fast to implement compared to for example SMART goals.

However, it is important to remember not to overwhelm your team with demanding too many key results per objective, 3-4 really is enough. There is an array of goal setting techniques out there outside of the three mentioned here, but these three are a good start to figuring out what works for you (and your team). Regardless of which goal setting technique you choose, the idea is to create clarity for everyone involved so that you (everyone) know exactly what they need to do and foster motivation to reach a specific goal.

Author: Mathilde Bastiansen

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