Last week, our leadership team participated in a two-day planning session that we do every quarter. At these off-sites, we lay out our most important objectives – as a company and individually — for the next three months.
Each team member also establishes rocks/goals for the quarter. At this quarter’s off-site, our new coaches really pushed us to only select and focus on three goals each, rather the five-to-six we’ve been accustomed to creating in the past.
Based on their extensive experience and numerous studies, it turns out that when we set too many goals we actually complete fewer of them.
There is a great story about Warren Buffett related to this that conveys the importance of focus. As the story goes, Buffett heard his personal airline pilot, Mike Flint, talking about his long-term goals and priorities. After he was done, Buffett suggested to Flint that he conduct the following exercise:
- Step 1: Write down your top 25 career goals on a single piece of paper.
- Step 2: Circle only your top five options.
- Step 3: Put the top five on one list and the remaining 20 on a second list.
When Flint commented that he would continue to work on the second list intermittently, Buffett interjected, saying “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top five.”
The implication is that the other 20 goals would distract him from accomplishing his top five most important goals. It’s the same thing if we set too many rocks (goals) for ourselves and our company each quarter.
There is a significant difference between being busy and getting a lot done versus achieving at a high level. For example, many of us start the day with a list of 25 things to do and then end that day with many of the most salient items still on the list. We pass over what is most important in favor of accomplishing things that are quicker or easier to do.
Carrying out Buffett’s process as an individual, team or company is a valuable exercise. In addition, here are a few tips to help you and your team stay focused and accomplish your most important, long-term goals.
- Recognize that time is a precious and fixed resource.
- Identify what’s Urgent from what’s Important.
- Align your top priorities with your core purpose and core values.
- Don’t book 100% of your time; schedule in rest and relaxation.
- Pay attention to things you should stop doing.
- Be selective about who you give your energy to.
The other key to goal-setting is making them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). For example, “run a long distance” is not a SMART goal; “Completing a half-marathon by January 2020” is. Getting SMART and getting focused will help you finish 2018 strong.
Quote of The Week
“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”