Create a great 2017: a goal-setting guide (part one)

Magnus Still on getting the wheels in motion for those New Year’s resolutions

When was the last time you set out to achieve something important? Perhaps it was getting into a university, then graduating? Or having a family? Or finding a job? Or maybe it was something more ordinary like bringing food home for dinner or making it on time to a meeting.

For some, the term goal setting triggers negative feelings. But whether you recognise it or not, all the above examples are completely normal goal-setting activities.

January is a great time for reflection: a great time to look back on the year that has past, and look forward to the year ahead.

I would very much like to encourage you to stop for a minute and make a small decision. Over the next few weeks, simply start collecting ideas for your 2017 goals – without pressure – and write them down. The goal is not to do anything in particular during this idea phase, but just to store up a treasure chest of ideas.

The only decision I would like you to make is to decide HOW or WHERE to store those ideas. You can write them on your calendar, jot them down on notepaper, send yourself emails, or use an app. I can assure you that a lot of creative energy is expended in simply writing these ideas down.

If you do this one task you will have already taken the first important step towards creating a great 2017 for yourself and the people you care about.

Most likely, I will have several notes with similar goals that can be merged. Some will be family related, some on health, fitness and sports, some for my professional development, some client-specific goals, and others related to business. After clustering, I can then prioritise according to which are truly important and which are more marginal. For instance, I would love to do the Ironman in Hawaii, but it would be too much of a conflict with my family and professional goals.

Next comes the very simple but five effective planning tools: What, Why, When, Who and How.

WHAT is the actual goal. Keep it clear, simple, and most importantly, measurable. ‘I would like to write fewer emails’ is a good start, but if you know you manage 40 emails per day on average, a better goal would be, ‘No more than 30 emails per day’.

WHY is a very important component of goal-setting because the motivation behind the goal makes it easier to remember and to act on the goal throughout the year. For example, I had two motivations for becoming healthy. On the one hand, I always thought it would be cool to one day become a triathlete. A more important motivator was the frustration of hardly being able to walk or play with my kids because of my back pain. Reminding me of both the positive and the negative WHY kept me going.

The WHEN often comes as a shock, but serves to create clarity and keep oneself accountable. For publishing the book, I had made it totally clear to myself that it must happen at the IAMA conference 2016. That decision kept me very focussed and my team and I were able to break down many barriers to make that a reality.

WHO is also very important: You have a goal, but do you have to tackle it alone? I certainly had to get out and train for my triathlons – no one could do that for me – but my new friends in the triathlon club helped keep me motivated. Moreover, I didn’t have to invent the training programme, understand which bicycle to buy, or massage myself. The point is to utilise the team you surround yourself with and optimise their best talents to help you achieve your goal.

HOW. A third of the game is the actual goal-setting, covered above. Next time I will look at just how you can make the goals you have collected a reality.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the December 2016 edition of IAM. To read more articles from Magnus Still, and our other industry experts, click here and subscribe.