Systems vs Goals

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You can find a never ending steam of articles online and books dedicated to setting goals.  Long term goals, short term goals, interim goals, and on and on.  If only we set and reach these goals, we’ll feel happy and fulfilled.  But there is a problem with this thinking.  A goal is nothing but a target that we’re aiming for, and if we miss it, even slightly, we’re disappointed and depressed.  Say we have a goal to release 100 engineering drawings, or complete 1000 lines of code by the end of the quarter, and each day we’re aiming for that.  But, for whatever reason, we only get 95% of the way there.  We feel like we’ve wasted the time we’ve spent, or that we’ve failed to do our job.  What kind of way to think is this?  In reality, you’ve completed a tremendous amount of work, certainly more that you would have if you hadn’t set any goal at all.

But what is the alternative?  Simple, create systems instead of goals.  How does this work in practice?  Well, simple.  You still need a grasp of what you want to accomplish, and when it needs to be done.  Now, instead of setting a specific target, break down the important steps in the process of achieving what you want to accomplish.  Then, set up a type of mental “assembly line” for yourself.  Your task now is to work every day through each step of the assembly line.  You can monitor you progress using KPIs, or whichever method you prefer.  But, then, what you’re doing is looking at your progress on a much shorter scale, where you can make slight adjustments to your process, or your system, rather than as a binary PASS/FAIL measure.

You’ll see that, in our example above, even if you complete 95 drawings, or 950 lines of code, you’ll see it as a success.  But, the benefit of this system approach, is that you’ll actually be more likely to over-achieve, and complete more than you would have if you had just set a specific goal.  PLUS, moving forward, you’ll have a refined system in place that will help you jump right in to your next task or project.  You’ll  be amazed at the results!

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