This is the last part of a 7-part series on what it takes to successfully achieve goals.
- Part 1: Goal Achievement: Introduction
- Part 2: ESPER
- Part 3: Establish
- Part 4: Strategy
- Part 5: Planning
- Part 6: Execution
- Part 7: Review
Importance of Review
Firstly, Review strengthens accountability to yourself. When you review, you make yourself answerable to your goals. You take ownership of and responsibility for your actions. If you don’t review, how will you know how you are reaching your goal? This is especially important if your goal is not immediately perceptible, such as how much weight you are losing or savings generated in a month. You can always operate under the assumption that you are at your goal, but you will never know for sure until you review.
Secondly, Review is where you get feedback on everything you have strategized, planned and executed. Reviewing lets you understand what’s working, what’s not working and how you can improve. Without Review, you will have no clue on whether your actions are leading you toward or away from your goals. You will be stabbing in the dark, blindly repeating the same steps, wondering why you not seem to be getting closer to your goal. You may attribute it to some inherent inability on your part or random external factors when the truth may be far from it.
Reviewing occurs from START till the End
Most people only do their review at the end of their goal pursuit, when everything has been done and there is no room to make any changes. When you do that, you risk getting yourself surprised by the results at the end. You also prevent any opportunity to effect improvisations mid-way in the goal pursuit.
Review should be an ongoing process that happens from the start of your goal pursuit, during, and right at the end. It should serve as a constant feedback loop on the effectiveness of your actions and their implications toward the outcome. By reviewing constantly, you get immediate lessons which can then be incorporated to increase your chances of success. It gives you clarity on your performance thus far and prevents surprise at the end of the goal pursuit.
The best way I recommend to do your review is to develop a tracking sheet right from the start of your goal pursuit.
When you create your tracking sheet, it is best to use a software that can process and organize large amounts of information easily. I used to use Microsoft Excel in the past – However, I recently switched to a new laptop and don’t have the license to install Excel anymore. Today, I use the spreadsheet application in Open Office; it operates almost exactly like MS Excel and it is freeware so you can use it at no cost. Another option is Google Spreadsheets, which is a free web-based spreadsheet program.
Your tracking sheet should ideally capture the following information:
- End goal target. This is your goal target, such as your weight if your goal is to lose weight and your income if your goal is to increase your income.
- End task targets. These are targets for the tasks you need to undertake to achieve your goal. They are especially important to track your progress if your end goal is something binary (yes/no).Say, your goal is to secure a job in a bank. Some of your task targets might be X number of industry people you connect with, X number of applications you send out, X number of interviews you go to, and so on. If you want to lose weight, task targets can include number of times you exercised a week, how long you exercised each time, amount of calories you ate/day, etc. Try to assign quantitative numbers as much as possible as to limit subjectivity.Note that task targets should be your secondary measure to evaluate your performance; your key measure should be your goal target since that is the result that matters.
- Intermediary targets for (1) and (2). These are the breakdowns of the end targets you set for your goal and tasks. These serve as your milestones. For example, if your end goal is to be 10lbs lighter after 2 months, you might target to be 5lbs lighter at the end of the first month. You can set as many intermediary targets as you want.
- Your actual performance against your goal and task targets. This is where you track your performance over time. Here, you can compare on how you are performing against your targets.
There is really no hard and fast rule to how your tracking sheet should be. Since the review sheet is for your own usage, the amount of information to track should be what is necessary and important in your goal achievement. For me, I have different templates which I use for different goals. For my long-term goals (3+ years), I have two review sheets – one overview goal sheet which is segmented by years and one detailed sheet which tracks by days in a month. My overview sheet lets me see the big picture without being caught up with the daily details, while my detailed sheet lets me get down to the nitty gritty.
The watchout is not to obsess over the process of tracking. If you find yourself spending an hour every day on tracking your performance alone, it is a sign that you are not optimizing your time. Keep it as simple as possible while ensuring that it captures the necessary information to serve your needs.
As you review the results of your actions throughout the process, ask yourself the following questions:
- How are you faring against your targets? Are you exceeding your expectations? Are you barely meeting your expectations? Are you falling behind?
- What is helping you in your goal? Why is it working? How can you focus on this to further drive up your results? Are there any opportunities to improve on what has been working?
- What is not helping you in goal? Why is it not working? Can you do anything about it to turn it around? Should you abandon the task instead? What can you do differently moving forward? How can you incorporate the lessons into your plan to maximize your chances for success?
If you are meeting/exceeding your targets, give yourself a reward to congratulate yourself Consider whether you want to increase your targets at this point; after all there is nothing better than to keep the momentum going while it’s high!
If you are not meeting your goal target nor your task targets, it is likely that the gap in your task targets is causing you not to meet your goal target. You should focus on improving on your execution at this point.
If you are not meeting your goal targets but you are meeting your task targets, chances are something went wrong in your Strategy and/or Plan. Reassess and revise them accordingly, then proceed to execute your revised plan.
In either cases, identify the additional actions you need to take to still meet your goal in the remaining time. If it is not possible for you to meet the goal within the same timing and the time frame is non-negotiable, consider revising your goal target. Else, you should extend your timing to reflect the new changes.
If you have been reviewing your performance regularly, the result at the end of your goal pursuit should not come as a surprise.
If you have reached your goal, congratulations! Take some special time right out to bask in the moment – you should be really proud of yourself! After you are done, look back at the process of your goal pursuit. Did you achieve the goal too easily? Did you barely meet the goal? Did you achieve your goal but take more time and resources than you envisioned to conquer?
Whatever it is, take note of the lessons and incorporate them into your next goal pursuit. If your goal was too easy, make them harder next time. If your goal was more challenging than you thought, allocate your resources accordingly the next time.
Goal not achieved
If your goal was not achieved, identify the reason why it was not achieved.
Look back at the previous steps of ESPER to see what went wrong. Based on your review, what went wrong in the process? Did you establish your goal in line with the key principles? Was your strategy laid out correctly? Was your plan a clear reflection of your strategy? Did something not get executed in accordance with your plans? The earlier the issue occurs in ESPER, the bigger it will culminate into when you are executing the plans. It is thus very critical that rigorous effort have been put into all the steps of the framework.
Be very rigorous and detailed in your troubleshooting process. Iron out all the issues you see until you are sure your plan is entirely robust and conforms to your best understanding of what is needed to achieve your goal. If you are not getting what you want, it’s probably high time to change your actions.
If the activity goal can be pursued again, reembark on the pursuit. If it is irreversible (such as exams, interviews), focus on what needs to be done next to bring you on-track toward your objective goal. Remember, your objective goal is what matters. Your activity goal is just one of the many ways that can lead you to your objective. Go back to the first step and restart your goal planning.
Your Goal Achievement Journey
In the pursuit of your goals, you will undoubtedly face things that veer you off track. It is okay to be disappointed in the process. Face your disappointment, learn how to deal with it but do not let yourself be overrun by it.
As long as you follow through the ESPER framework, you will experience success with your goals. No matter how insurmountable a goal may seem to be, it will be possible to crack it down. If you feel the goal looks unachievable, it is because you have not uncovered the underlying set of patterns and paths that allow you to reach it. Once you successfully do that, you will find that the goal is extremely accessible.
To quote Sydney Smith, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals”. Remember that the world’s most successful people have set mountainous goals and reached them because they kept their unwavering vision on their end goals. When you correctly draw up the map linking you to your end destination, all it takes is perseverance before you eventually reach your goals.
As you pursue your goals, remember to enjoy the journey. The goal achievement is but one point in time; the journey is the longest of the whole process. Only when you enjoy your journey will you be able to permeate your final goal.
This is the last part of a 7-part series on what it takes to successfully achieve goals.
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