Tips On Writing Down Your Goals: How To Increase Productivity at Work

We all have success in our mind as our goal, be it for personal or career. But success is not a goal, it’s the effect of a achieving a goal. If your goal is to succeed then, that’s as clear as finding your way through a maze blindfolded. You must have a clear goal and the steps to achieve it

This is where writing down your goals comes in. It seems trivial for some, yes, but it works magically. After all, seeing your goal written is literally seeing your goal!

Why is this important? Because we are visual creatures. What we see greatly affects how we act, what we do, say and feel. A study by 3M Corporation revealed that humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than having to imagine concepts. In the same breadth, you’re more likely to pursue your goals (and achieve them) if you can see them.

Moreover, when you set and write goals down, you tend to be more productive compared to your peers who don’t. A Harvard Business study reported these revealing statistics:

Benefits of writing down your goals

Writing down your goals isn’t trivial, but a serious undertaking to take your goals seriously. Let us explain the benefits when you concretize your goals into words.

You’re more motivated

Ever wonder why Olympic athletes go crazy over records? It’s not just to outdo the competition, but more so to keep them going especially during hardcore training when the body is put to its limits. With a clear target, a figure that can be measured, the mind overrides the weariness of physical pain and keeps the athlete going. As they improve on their numbers the more athletes train harder and challenge themselves to outperform their last record. You, too, can make things more challenging, thus, motivating, when you set goals you can “see”. It lends to your everyday work a competitive air, whether you aim to be the best in your team or the best you can be.  

You’re more productive

Tracking your progress puts things in motion. When you start aiming for a goal you’ll notice that you’ll be accomplishing more in a day. Then more in a week, and then in a month and years. You’re not simply mindlessly doing tasks, but you’re setting deadlines, measuring outputs, comparing them and upping the ante as you track your progress. Likewise, you’ll know how to give time more value, stay clear of traps at work (see below) and increase productivity. Sales is really good at making more revenues by setting in stone weekly and monthly quotas. And they never look back, always pushing everybody to do more. You, too, can apply the same principle to accomplish more until you meet your goal. And then you push for a higher goal.

You stay focused

A written down goal reminds you of your target. The mind can be idle at times or distracted by other things like bills to pay, the excitement of starting a new project or the latest office gossip. Moreover, if you’re multitasking it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. A few minutes of “doing other stuff” leads to a few hours of doing the same things every day, which piles up into weeks and then months. Before you know it, you lose track of your goal. Ah, procrastination. We would have had a hundred Canterbury Tales instead of twenty-four had Geoffrey Chaucer written down his original target, pasted it on his wall, in bold, to remind him to stay the course.

You achieve your targets

When you’re motivated, focused and productive you have a higher chance of accomplishing your target… all because you’ve written down the goal. Isn’t it amazing how such a small thing leads to the big stuff? The Japanese has a term for this: kaizen. Loosely translated, it means “changing for the better.” It applies to doing small things every day and building on them until you find yourself doing more and improving things a great deal. For example, to lose weight, you can start brisk walking for five minutes every day. Then bump it up to ten minutes the next week, then thirty minutes… an hour, two hours, until you’re burning down more calories than taking in daily and actually start losing weight.

There is a very useful acronym for setting goals: SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound).

You feel a purpose

Goals break the monotony of doing the same things every day. Tasks that don’t require much creativity and negotiations such as in a production line or structured operation can be tedious and cumbersome when you do the same things for nothing. But if you set targets, for example, by plotting your career upward movement in 2-3 years, maybe eyeing first the team leader post, then, supervisor and then manager, suddenly, what you’re doing every day is given a purpose: a stepping stone to bigger things ahead.

How to write down goals the smart way?

Excited to follow your goals. Let’s begin! Here are simple but effective ways to write down your goals.

Be specific

A goal should be something you can measure, see and maybe even feel or smell. Don’t just write you want to be a manager or rich or any other general idea. What will you be managing exactly? The company’s sales? Logistics? A branch?

One way to be specific is to picture yourself occupying the position of your boss. Study his tasks and responsibilities and you see a clear picture of your future once you meet your goal.

Doing so, the goal isn’t just an abstract thought but a reality that you can actually see and feel, including its downside such as the job’s pressure and distress it is causing your boss. You can also base your goal on a dream job you’ve read about or your friend’s career. The key is to write down a clear description of your goal with specific tasks, role, responsibilities and even the problems and issues that go with it for a more realistic picture.

Break big goals into smaller ones

Man didn’t land on the moon in one fell swoop. No, it took a decade and series of smaller projects to accomplish the main mission. First, NASA had to work out boosters that could escape earth’s gravity. Then, scientists had to send man to earth’s orbit and study the effects. Then they had to increase the length of stay in orbital space. Then, they tested traveling the earth-moon distance with a manned flight,  and only then was NASA confident it could land the man on the moon.

That’s how you achieve a goal: write down subgoals under each main goal, with each main goal under your ultimate goal. As you accomplish the short-term goals, cross them out and move on to the next task or move up to the higher goals.

For example, if you’re targeting a managerial post, write down its duties and responsibilities and see how you measure up against each task. If you fall short in specific skills, for example, project planning, work on it before moving on to the next skill, until you’re ready to be a manager. This way you create clear steps towards an accomplishment.

Categorize your goals

Even as you break down your goals, you need to organize them in a logical manner that is easy to track and measure. Goals can be classified into three types: short-term, long-term and lifetime.

Short-term or small goals are things that you can achieve at once, perhaps no more than a year. These include completing a workshop or meeting a monthly target. Small goals are usually the subset of a bigger long-term goal.

Long-term goal often amounts to a year or more to accomplish. This may be an “in-between position” to your targeted position. For example, before you achieve a managerial post, you probably have to become a project leader first to prove your skills.

Lifetime goal is your overall picture of where you want to be or what you be doing in ten or twenty years. It’s your projected future self, whether it’s handling a whole department, occupying a C-level position or running your own business.

Create visuals

Creating a visual tickler gives you an at-a-glance tool that helps you to stay focused and keep tab of your overall progress. It’d be cumbersome to read through your goal notes every time you need to motivate or remind yourself of your goals. Instead, you can create a visual aid to complete your notes.

One simple way is to draw a horizontal line and write your first goal at the start of the line and your ultimate goal at the far end. In between, write the main goals leading to the ultimate goal. Under each main goal you draw a vertical line and attach here the subgoals. You can also use project management software to help your with that.

For more sophisticated goals you can choose between two major schools of thought: kanban and Gantt chart.

  1. Kanban – It uses boards, lists and cards. The board can be an ultimate goal, while the lists can be a timeline like: To Do, Doing and Done. Each card can represent a subgoal, which you move across the lists.
  2. Gantt chart – It maps your ultimate goal across goals and subgoals. Each subgoal has a deadline and “impact” link that ties it up to other subgoals or its mother goal. The chart helps you see clearly which subgoals are related and that, if you miss one subgoal, how it will affect the other subgoals and goals.

Gantt chart in Wrike – a popular project management software

Increase productivity by noting down traps

There will be external pressures that’ll impede you from achieving your goals. These are subtle, small ways that when they add up create a wall between you and your target.

  1. Multitasking – While it’s laudable you can do a lot of things in one day, it also means you’re doing less for each of these things. It’s better to focus on the essentials and put off or delegate things that are not key to your goals.
  2. Meetings – Learn to say no to a meeting unless it’s really important. Many meetings are easily replaced with sharing documents or submitting a report, which takes less time.
  3. Commute – If your travel time is eating much of your time, maybe you can use that idle time to prepare for work. For example, get a mobile wifi so you can access your files on your way to the office.
  4. Being reactive vs. proactive – Don’t wait for problems or obstacles to occur; anticipate potential threats to your goals and find a solution. For example, if you feel you’ve been passed over for promotion, maybe it’s time to rethink of joining a company that recognizes your skills.
  5. Social media – Unless it’s part of your work, never access Facebook and other social media at work. It’s just not worth your work time.
  6. Office chatter – A little chat with your cubicle neighbor may be fine, but keep tab of these small talk on how they add up in one day.

There you go, setting goals and writing them down is powerful. It makes you see your dream. You take things that you see or feel more seriously than when they’re just in your mind, right? As a result, you boost your chances of achieving your goals and eventually your dream.

Astrid Eira

By Astrid Eira

Astrid Eira is a resident B2B expert of FinancesOnline, focusing on the SaaS niche. She specializes in accounting and human resource management software, writing honest and straightforward reviews of some of the most popular systems around. Being a small business owner herself, Astrid uses her expertise to help educate business owners and entrepreneurs on how new technology can help them run their operations. She's an avid fan of the outdoors, where you'll find her when she's not crunching numbers or testing out new software.

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