Tag Archives: goals

Resetting Goals—An Introspective Approach Yields Best Results

to-do-list-749304_640This year is almost 25% complete. When I came to that realization a few days ago, I panicked—I haven’t accomplished nearly a quarter of my plan for 2018.

I started off strong in January, completing two major projects that were due in February. But then a series of family health issues knocked me off track. I’ve managed to stay on top of daily responsibilities, and even to make progress on one major project that has an April deadline. However, I am far behind pace on another major project I had hoped to complete by June, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to make up the lost time.

I will have to reset some of my goals for the year.

Periodically, I find it is good to conduct a thorough self-assessment. My purpose when I do so isn’t usually to reassess annual goals, which is my current immediate need. I usually am trying to examine my life on a longer-term basis. This week, however, I decided that before I restructured my 2018 goals, I should look at the big picture of my life. I was intrigued when I saw the article “50 Tough Questions You Never Ask Yourself, But Should,” on Inc.com, by Marla Tabaka, and thought it would be a good vehicle for self-assessment.

Ms. Tabaka makes the point that personal growth begins with introspection. She says,

“If you want results, begin with what’s on the inside instead of pushing to control what’s on the outside.”

And then she lists fifty excellent questions for consideration.

The question I am focused on at the moment is #10:

“What are three things I want to pay closer attention to in 2018?”

This question addresses the need I have at the moment.

My answer:

  • My own health
  • The health of other family members
  • My current primary project (the one that’s behind schedule)

I was glad to note that the health issues that had preoccupied me for the last two months were, in fact, high priorities for the year. I was also unhappy to see that I was letting my other top priority slide.

In an effort to regain momentum on that primary project for the year, I might have to let other projects slip, including some of my regular obligations. I don’t like that reality, but there it is. Once I acknowledge that reality, I can make the necessary changes in how I spend my time to achieve the best results I can this year. And I can consciously decide which goals for 2018 will have to fall by the wayside, rather than letting the results happen without any thought on my part.

I notice that this blog is not one of my top three priorities for the year. I hope it will remain high enough on my list to continue my twice-a-month posting schedule. But if I put it on hiatus again (as I did last summer), I will tell readers honestly—it is slipping lower on my priority list.

What priorities do you need to change in your life? Which of the fifty questions in the article strike closest to home for you?



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Filed under Philosophy

Managing Myself: Productivity v. Learning

Design Mascot Computer SalesI’ve always been an advocate of measuring productivity. When I worked in the corporate world, I ordered my days to meet the objectives my boss set for me. I influenced the setting of my objectives, but once we had agreement, I worked toward achieving them.

Now that I am self-employed, I still keep track of my activities each week and set goals for the year and for the week ahead. I break large projects up into phases and manageable pieces. I try to balance work on immediate tasks and the next steps in long-term projects.

I chafe when other people interfere with my plans to work productively. It’s easy to let family and friends and co-workers order my days for me. Their goals are not my goals, and when our goals conflict (as they inevitably will), one or both of us must compromise. If I don’t keep a laser eye on my own plans, if I don’t build in flexibility to address the necessary give-and-take of life, then I will not accomplish what I want. So I try to be flexible, yet focused.

Given my desire for productivity, I was intrigued to see an article in Inc.com a couple weeks ago by Michael Simmons of Empact titled “Average People Are Productive, Successful People Are Learners.” Because, of course, I consider myself successful, not average.

According to the article, learning is the ultimate productivity.

“The paradigm we should all consider for productivity is learning. As opposed to productivity hacks—as I said, there’s only so much in your day you can optimize—learning is an exponential process with no cap. What do I mean by this? The results of learning are twofold: better decisions and breakthrough ideas. This can give results that are 1,000x better, not just 2x better.”

What does it take to be a learner? Mr. Simmons’s article stresses the importance of reading. He suggests spending seven hours a week (one hour a day) reading—which translates, he says, to about a book every week.

That’s a good goal. I can measure that. I can build it into my personal objectives.

I do read. Mostly, I read for enjoyment, but I also read a lot of professional books and periodicals and online newsletters on human resources, dispute resolution, legal topics, business strategy, and the craft of writing. I probably spend close to an hour a day on these professional development activities every day, though I haven’t measured it daily.

Based on Mr. Simmons’s recommendation, I will try to be more mindful of how I read to learn. I will think about what I want to learn and focus more of my reading on these topics.

And I will seek out and measure other opportunities to learn—people with whom I can discuss topics I want to know more about, places I can go to see and hear and touch new experiences. In short, I will invest in myself and plan that investment into my productivity goals.

What do you do to be a learner?


Filed under Leadership, Management, Philosophy

Goals Are NOT for Losers, But Set Reasonable Goals

On October 12, 2013, the Wall Street Journal ran an essay by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, titled “Scott Adams’ Secret of Success: Failure.” In the article, Mr. Adams states “goals are for losers.”

I am a huge fan of Dilbert—particularly of Catbert, the Evil HR Director—but I have to disagree with Mr. Adams on this point. He argues that when you are striving to reach a goal, you spend most of your time flogging yourself for not having attained it yet. And once you attain it, you have no more motivation, because you’ve lost your purpose and direction.

Maybe Mr. Adams is just being funny, although some of what he says is true. Often we berate ourselves for not meeting a goal, and we feel a let-down after having achieved it. But that doesn’t mean that goals are useless. It just means we need to be careful in the goals we set.

The secret, I think, is to set reasonable goals.

We all need frequent positive reinforcement. Sometimes we have to give that reinforcement to ourselves. So set goals you can accomplish. Then break them up into manageable bites. And reward yourself when each bite is done. See my earlier post on the need to regularly review performance objectives.

For those of you who are managers, you can help your staff break their goals up into manageable bites as well.

Just think how much easier performance reviews will be to write when you and your staff have frequent accomplishments to list.

Do you believe in goals? How do you make your goals manageable?

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Filed under Human Resources, Management, Workplace

Make Your Work/Life Balance a Conscious Choice

Some family events this past weekend caused me to reflect again on work/life choices — this time on the choices of three generations in my family.

Like most in their generation, my parents had a traditional marriage, in which the husband worked for pay and the wife worked at home. My father was a workaholic, leaving for the office before dawn each day. He was usually home for dinner, but worked a lot on evenings and weekends, and traveled frequently for his job. My mother took care of house and kids, by herself when she had to.

My husband’s parents had a situation like my parents, except they lived in a smaller town and my father-in-law could come home for lunch each day. But the realms of husband’s and wife’s responsibilities were as separate as in my family.

Like many in our generation, my husband and I struggled to find a path where we both worked and both cared for the household.  We had professional jobs in the same field, and each stayed with our firms for an entire career.

We divided childcare and home responsibilities in ways that made sense to us. We argued over who worked more, or didn’t do their share of chores. We scrambled to find time for everything, and often our time together was the first thing to go. But somehow managed to stay married till our children were grown and life returned to some semblance of sanity.

Our young adult children are now launched in their careers. I see each of them working long hours.  They have jobs they like, but they aren’t wedded to them. Each talks about moving on in a few years; whether they will or not, remains to be seen. And neither as yet has a spouse or children, nor prospects of changing marital status soon.

Three generations, three models, three sets of choices. The models don’t separate by generations – people in each generation have chosen each model. There is no right way to manage work and life.  After more than thirty years of trying to balance work and life, I don’t even think of it as work and life anymore; it’s simply life.

What I encourage my children to do – and what I encouraged younger employees that I mentored to do – is to make their choices consciously, and to re-think those choices regularly.

And so I encourage you, too, to make conscious choices.  Whatever you choose, make it a life that suits your values and leaves room for the discretionary things in life that are important to you.

A few months ago, Dr. Donald E. Wetmore published a post on AMA Net that listed seven things NOT to ignore in your work life balance: 

  • your health
  • your family time
  • your financial health
  • your intellectual development
  • your social contacts
  • your career path
  • your spirituality

That’s a pretty good list, and fits well with the areas mentioned in the book Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women, by Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott, which I have found helpful for self-assessment.

Where in your life do you need more balance?

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Filed under Diversity, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Work/Life, Workplace

The Progress Principle: What Can Managers Do to Make Employees Engaged and Productive?

I recently participated in an American Management Association webinar entitled The Progress Principle: Sparking Employee Engagement and Performance. The presenters were Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, co-authors of a book entitled The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.

1. Inner Work Life Drives Performance

Amabile and Kramer conducted a “diary study” of employees in seven different industries, asking them to describe daily their activities and feelings of engagement.  They coupled this diary information with numerical performance data. 
This study found that employees’ inner work life drives performance.  Inner work life consists of employees’ perceptions, emotions and motivations. 

Employees’ inner work life determines whether they are engaged and productive in the workplace. More specifically, positive perceptions, pleasant emotions and intrinsic motivation increases creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality.

2.  The Progress Principle:  Progress on Meaningful Work

Amabile and Kramer found that the most important determinant of whether employees have positive feelings about their work is whether they made progress that day on meaningful work – what Amabile and Kramer call “The Progress Principle.”

In the diary study, 76% of employees described making progress on their projects on their best days, when they felt most engaged.  By contrast, over 70% of employees described work-related setbacks on their worst days at work.

3.  The Power of Small Wins

A further finding of the study was that small daily wins in the workplace translate into a big positive impact on people’s inner work life.  Similarly, setbacks on projects in the workplace translate into negative impacts. 

Therefore, it is important for managers to help employees achieve regular forward progress on their work.  Managers should break big projects up into smaller segments with regular milestones, so that employees can feel forward momentum frequently.

4.  What Managers Can Do

Amabile and Kramer found that managers need to provide two types of support to employees to increase the chances of them feeling that they were making progress on meaningful work – project support and people support.

            a.  Project Support (Catalysts)

According to Amabile and Kramer, the catalysts that managers can use to support employees’ progress include:

  • Clear meaningful goals
  • Autonomy
  • Sufficient information and resources
  • Help with their work
  • Learning from problems and successes
  • Open flow of ideas
  • Sufficient time for the work (but not so much as to remove all time pressure)

          b.  People Support (Nourishment)

In addition, managers can support their employees through

  • Respect and recognition
  • Encouragement
  • Emotional support
  • Affiliation and camaraderie

Co-workers are important elements in the workplace, but managers are the most critical link.

5. Daily Journaling

As a writer and journal-keeper myself, it intrigued me that Amabile and Kramer recommended that managers keep a daily progress review detailing what happened in the workplace that day to support and detract from progress.  They suggest that managers ask themselves each day “What one thing can I do tomorrow to foster progress in my employees?

Employees own their own inner work life, but managers can and must support them.  Direct supervisors are the most important link between an employee and their engagement and productivity at work.

What can you do tomorrow to foster engagement among your employees?


Filed under Employee Engagement, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Workplace, Writing