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Goals and GTD

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  • Goals and GTD

    I recently undertook a major “weekly” review in which I re-committed myself to striving for completeness. In a way, this review will go on for days or maybe weeks to come, because I am going through a lot of old papers and diaries and notes. Most of what I am discovering in these papers is depressingly repetitive – endless commitments “finally” to get things sorted out in the main departments in my life.

    However, the occasional nugget of ambition shows up, and it is these items that are making it into my in-box (the rest are filling trash bags).

    Another part of my weekly review is to go down through DA’s incompletions checklist on page 114 of GTD. It was while going through this list over the weekend that I remembered that my older pre-GTD notes were based on reading Anthony Robbins.

    DA’s checklist is very broad, but is basically concerned with things already underway. In the sections of the book that deal with the weekly review, he encourages us to write down anything that comes into our heads even if it can only go on the someday/maybe listing. But I think Robbins goes deeper into the goal setting process.

    Okay, I know that the weekly review is NOT a goal setting session. In fact, the weekly review is ideally positioned to help us ensure that we actually have a Next Action listed for all active goals. The goal setting session can, and possibly should, be on a different day to the weekly review.

    Nevertheless, the insight helped me realise that the job of GTD through the weekly review is to help us capture everything that is rolling forward in our lives, whereas goal-setting is a separate exercise where we fire an arrow into our future, and then work our way towards where it lands.

    What I am getting at is that I think I had been relying on GTD to do the goal setting for me. The reality is that I need to have my goals set before I get to the review – and then I can rely on GTD to see to it that the goals do not drift away like the clouds.

    (Many people comment that the positive effects of reading or attending Anthony Robbins seem to fade after a few days. But I think that is Anthony Robbins’ only objective – to create a buzz of can-do in us. I think that the best way to use Robbins is to make big plans and goals while he has you fired up, and then, in the spirit of GTD, get a Next Action and Outcome down on paper, and maybe some planning bullet points as well. After that, the weekly review will see to it that the commitments and the hard reality of the Next Action do not disappear from your life.

    Robbins says we should never leave the scene of a decision, i.e. a new goal, without taking some specific action towards its fulfilment. That action can only be the Next Action.)

    Goal setting can really only be done in an upbeat frame of mind – I think that a new goal recorded as "outcome plus Next Action" will anchor it in our lives, even after we come down from the buzz of optimism.

    Goals, when achieved, will present a different version of one or more of the current realities of our lives, and that is why we can become disillusioned by them when we return to humdrum mode. But they are also like climbing a stairs in that you can’t reach your destination before you take the next step.

    Sorry for the rambling post – that’s the danger of thinking in print!


  • #2
    I'm with Cosmo on this one. I never liked "goals" anyway...

    In a purely personal way, I've been more successful with projects simply because of how it was presented to me (in the book) and the place I was in when it was presented. The concept of "any task with more than one step" is a project sunk in for me -- somehow linked to the "it's OK to file just one slip of paper in a folder". It allowed me to think about the small things themselves, without getting all wheezy about it.

    The other thing was the project planning. I've made project plans for all sorts of big things (releases of software, major marketing compaigns, remodeling the kitchen), but somehow never applied it to smaller, more personal, or more "internal" things. Since becoming attached to GTD, I've made project plans for all sorts of things that wouldn't have received the attention before.

    That said, I like what Dave said about making the goals when you're jazzed up and optimistic. I still get the urge to refresh and renew every autumn (corresponding to the new school year -- despite the fact that I haven't been a student for a looooong time), and that is the best time for me to re-evaluate, make new goals, and try to get things started.


    • #3

      But look at the terminology you’re using – “Outcome”, “task”: I think these cover items like “replace fridge”; “clear out attic”; “establish staff performance feed-back system”; etc.

      Someday/maybe is a good initial bucket for the things you might do if you ever get the time/opportunity.

      But I still think “goals” captures the possibility of stretching ourselves, for example: the three stone overweight couch-potato decides that he will run a half marathon in six months time; a desire to live and work on the coast; a novel to be written.

      I think a lot of goal-setting gurus got goal-setting a bad name: they placed far too much emphasis on writing down our wildest dreams, and then encouraging us to believe that we can make them happen (hence Cosmo’s term “Blue Sky goals”). I think most of us know what’s humanly possible. We can all make a good stab at guessing whether we have a hope in hell of becoming an astronaut. We will know if we are catwalk material or not. We will know if we are to be the next Michael Jordan or not.

      But there are many things possible for us where the only barrier to success is our comfort zone. John Roger and Peter McWilliams wrote a very accurate and witty book on knowing how your comfort zone holds you back called “Do It!”: it’s a priceless read. Goal setting is the grappling hook you throw outside your comfort zone to bring you to a better place.

      Funnily enough, once a reasonably realistic goal is set, it can drop down to the level of just another item on a task list. For the half marathon, it could be: buy footwear, obtain progressive running schedule for next nine months, research best dietary pattern for distance running, etc. As jkgrossi said on another thread, quoting Hyrum Smith, "Character is the ability to follow through with a worthy decision after the emotion of making the decision has passed"; (or my own favourite: “What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that's another matter.” Peter F. Drucker).

      I think goal setting is a format in which to carry out those things that need us to make a real heave.

      At the end of the day it’s probably just a personal preference: I feel that most, if not all the things I will ever do in work are just complying with my job description. At best, I would use the term “targets” for desired work related outcomes. I reserve “Goals” for those things that I know will give me a deep sense of satisfaction.

      I have no problem capturing a goal as a project within my GTD system. What else could it be? I just think the type of outcomes that goals deliver are a lot more special than the outcomes we have to achieve in order to fulfil our roles, duties and responsibilities in life.



      • #4
        Sorry, log-on failed again "Guest" should read "Busydave"


        • #5
          I think most of us know what’s humanly possible.
          Not a chance!


          • #6
            Originally posted by Anonymous
            Not a chance!


            • #7
              I think most of us know what’s humanly possible.
              No! I meant... most of us don't know what is humanly possible especially as it pertains to themselves. Most people grossly underestimate what they are capable of


              • #8
                Hi Coz

                Yep, I think it’s just down to semantics in the end. Your “visions” are just what I meant by goals.

                And yes, GTD is THE best way to let them get a foot on the ground and start moving forward.