Achieve your goals by breaking away from them

Once you have set SMART goals, you need an action plan to achieve them, with predictive, behavior-based measures. Operations management, based on performance indicators to be reached, also requires predictive measures, if you want to manage your performance and not follow it.

You’ve set a SMART goal, you have a clear and attainable objective, but how are things going? How are you progressing towards this goal? To make sure you reach them, in addition to the predictive indicators, I suggest you stop looking at your goals during the year… At least not on a regular basis.

To illustrate this article, I’ll use my example of a SMART goal: I will free up my work time by limiting the time I spend dealing with my emails to two hours a day by May 15

SMART: a responsive indicator

In most cases, your goal is reactive, meaning that it measures the outcome after it is achieved. So, if I measure the time I spend processing my emails every day, I may not make much progress.

I necessarily have a plan of action to get there. And the actions may not yield immediate results, so my outcome, and especially my assessment of the outcome, may be skewed. This is why it is important to build predictive, behavioral indicators to ensure that the results will ultimately be achieved.

The desired behaviors to achieve the results must be chosen carefully, as these are the ones we will be tracking on a regular basis.

Define the behaviors that will have an impact on the objectives

You need to know enough about your operations and performance framework to know what needs to be done. In the example above, I need to know what behaviors I will be able to measure. I will also look for the behaviors that have the most impact to achieve this goal. For example:

  • Disable email alerts
  • Close my mailbox after checking it
  • Put an email work period in my calendar
  • Deal with my emails before working on my files
  • Process my emails after finalizing my files

Even before the time spent on my emails reduces, and even before I measure it, if I apply (or not) the chosen behavior, then I will know that my goal will be achieved (or not).

Behaviors are the means to get you to the goal, the controllable part of the goal.

To proactively manage daily performance

It’s the same thing for everyday performance. If you want to make 150 sales per month and you measure the number of sales made every month, you will only have information after the fact about what happened during the month. If the result is not achieved, you may want to wait until the following month to determine if the trend continues. If necessary, you will conduct an investigation to determine the causes and develop an action plan.

By measuring the most impactful behavior for your sales, for example the time spent with customers by the sales representatives (80%), you will be able to quickly determine if your objectives will be reached.

Detach yourself from your goals

So you see, I’m going to replace my SMART – long term goal, with shorter term behavioral indicators. So I will focus on the action plan and its measurement. I forget about the day-to-day goals and focus on the action plan. From time to time, I check my progress, but no more than once a week or month. This will ensure that my efforts are going in the right direction, without stressing me out on a daily basis.

The first week, I deactivate the alerts and close my mailbox after consulting it. The result is mixed, after a week, when I take the measure, I realize that I open my email box 15 times a day. That’s way too much.

The second week, I chose to put in a two-hour period in the morning (before getting to work on various topics) to check my messages. At the end of the week, I notice that it doesn’t work very well, I’m way over the expected processing time, and I’m stressed out about missing important messages at the end of the day.

The third week, I limit myself to three 45-minute periods in the morning, at lunch and in the evening. The stress side is better, but I still exceed my deadlines. At this stage, I realize that I need to find other behaviors and actions to improve, because despite my efforts, I am not reaching my goal.