Over the past week or so, I’ve been spending a fair bit more time on goal setting and how to achieve more stuff. I’ve never really struggled with getting work done, but as I’ve discussed, I took ownership of the poor outcome and decided that I needed to figure out how to do better.
The first mistake that people make when they don’t get the results they wanted is that they make excuses – I never do that. There are things out of your control on occasion for sure, but in my experience, 90% of the time there’s probably something that you could have done in advance of the bad luck to set yourself up for success irrespectively.
Excuse making is a cancer.
If you allow yourself to accept that things are not your fault, you start sliding into having an external locus of control as opposed to an internal one.
Ok, that sounds a bit “woo woo” so I might clear that up.
In psychology, there’s this idea of the “locus of control” – it describes how a person views what’s going on in their life. People who have an internal locus of control believe they are in charge of the outcomes – they make things happen. On the other hand, a person with an external locus of control believes that life is happening to them and they are a victim of circumstance.
Locus of control is effectively a habit that you can shape, so you need to keep an eye on it to make sure you’re on the right path.
The next mistake that I think people make is that they start down the “Getting Things Done” path that was popularised by David Allen. This has morphed into the more crude and marketable version of “getting shit done” that you see every online coach talking about now.
These systems and approaches, in my experience, confuse “quantity” of work with “quality” of work. They all focus on ploughing through lists of tasks rather than getting the most important things done that move your top level goals ahead the furthest.
Tasks are not objectives and they are often are disassociated from key results of any kind – it’s a list of busy work and people create the list with a view to finishing everything on it, so they don’t challenge themselves.
The final mistake people make when they miss their objectives is that they move the goal posts closer so that they don’t have to go as far to score.
This results in a form of “reverse scope creep” where you become less and less ambitious in an effort not to disappoint yourself. You basically shortchange the objective and the originally desired outcome in the name of “success”.
I don’t know about you, but cheating on your objectives doesn’t sound like success to me.
This is something that I’ve wanted to avoid and it’s one of the things that I’m really enjoying as I learn more about OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).
The first thing I really like is that your Key Results are measurable and you grade them – that’s something I enjoy doing with my work. It plays to my competitive nature and desire to win.
The other thing I like is that those key results, unless they are binary and operational in nature, you really shouldn’t be achieving 100% success.
A good key result outcome is 75% or so.
The idea behind that is that there’s a “stretch” element to your Key Results, so if you’re consistently getting 100%, you’re not pushing yourself far enough.
But the most important aspect is that the Key Results roll up into the Objectives and drive the higher level outcome.
I have measurable targets for Casual Marketer that I put in place for 2018. With my new Key Results that I’ve been setting for May, the idea is that these things will move the needle in a measurable way towards that larger goal.
Let me give you an example:
- I have a target for the size of my email list by the end of the year.
- I’ve not set a pointless Key Result of something like, “Add 10% of my end of year result in May”.
- I’ve set as a Key Result, “Create 2 new lead magnets and get 100 new subscribers by May 31st.”
See the difference?
Creating new lead magnets isn’t enough. Getting a 100 new subscribers in isolation doesn’t interest me.
It’s the combination of the two – I have to create the lead magnet and then put it out there driving new subscribers.
If I create just one new lead magnet and get 200 new subscribers, I’d probably say that’s an 80% success.
Conversely, if I produced two new lead magnets and got 10 new subscribers, I’d probably give myself 50% for that key result.
The other element of this Key Result is that it drives the Objective of growing my email list by XXXX new subscribers this year because it lays the foundation and it forces me to put them “in play” to fully meet the desired result for the month.
To me, that’s a much better system for achieving results.
I’ve created four or five OKRs for the month and have started work on them.
I want to start getting results and results won’t get themselves, so I have to do the focused work that aligns with my overall big picture aspirations for the year.
And that’s the only thing I really am interested in getting done.