Turning Goals into Actions

By Dr. Charles R. Hall

“People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” In a survey of 1,100 executives, more than 80 percent said they were dissatisfied with their career progress and level of effectiveness. Why? They lacked the planning skills to aim for and achieve reasonable, attainable goals.

Planning is central to the attainment of all goals. It’s true for short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals, as well as those of either a personal or professional development nature. And, needless to say, an individual’s effectiveness at planning often has great impact on that individual’s effectiveness at achieving goals.

But despite the importance of planning, many managers shy away from it, believing it requires too much time. (And yet, somewhat ironically, these same managers are often the ones called upon to help create five-year plans for their companies!) Planning does take some time, but it needn’t be excessive if approached correctly. In fact, when done effectively, planning represents time well spent in that the “benefits” well exceed the “costs”.

What Planning Is and Isn’t

Perhaps some common misconceptions of what a plan is and what it does have caused many people to shy away from the planning process. First, planning is not deciding each step in detail in advance and then blindly following through. Nor is it taking a leisurely stroll through the mind in hopes of coming up with a loosely connected stream of thoughts.

Good planning lies somewhere in between these extremes. What’s more, a good plan should be looked on as a means for achieving goals, not as an end in itself. As Eisenhower once put it, “Plans are nothing, but planning is everything”. While it’s impossible to completely avoid crises and unexpected events either in business or in your personal life, you should still try to plan as much as you can. Good planning pays off by creating direction, excitement, and motivation. It also increases your ability to manage those around you.

Turning Goals Into Action

A key consideration in effective planning is learning how to transform goals into attainable steps (actions). Many businesspeople have trouble with this; consequently, many of their goals (especially long-term goals) may never get addressed adequately (or at all).

However, there is hope. By developing effective monthly, weekly and daily plans, businesspeople can more clearly see the attainable steps needed to fulfill their goals. And there are several approaches that can be used for this. One simple four-step method for converting goals into actions includes:

  1. Pinpoint intermediate “target” to hit.
  2. Decide on tangible measures to identify when each “target” has been reached.
  3. Create a plan to reach those tangible measures.
  4. Break the plan down into daily actions.

A similar way to transform goals into a workable plan of action is with “planning inventory.” First, list five major goals you’d like to achieve in your lifetime either regarding your business or personal life. Select the goal you’d like to achieve first. Next, identify the steps you must take to reach that goal, moving in chronological order. Finally, break down the first step into one-day tasks you can accomplish. Subsequent steps can be used to develop subsequent daily plans.

What you can realistically hope to attain each day is a matter for your own judgment. But you can make it easier by regularly referring to your planning inventory, and carefully assessing the tasks that go into the steps needed for achieving each goal. In a sense, these steps are interim targets, and they provide a good measure of your progress.

The Planning Process

The more often you plan, the better and more comprehensive those plans will become. As much as possible, try to integrate your short-term,, medium-term, and long-term goals. The following process, which details planning at all levels, can help bring all those goals together.

Step 1: Yearly planning. The best way to find time for important but easy-to-delay tasks is to include those chores in your annual “time budget”. Start by making a yearly plan that includes the long-range projects enough time so that you can make steady progress toward completing them. Then assign specific dates so you know when to work on these projects, what you will accomplish each time you work on them and how much time you’ll need. Mark those target dates in your calendar, and don’t break them! Keep the plan close at hand so you can easily check your rate of progress.

Step 2: Monthly planning. At the end of each month, take an hour to decide what you want to accomplish over the next month. Decide on plans for reaching those goals on a week-to-week basis. Include items from your list of long-range goals.

Step 3: Weekly planning. Every week, decide and list what tasks you want to accomplish; the priorities for each task; ant the time, effort and materials required to complete each task. Once a week (Friday is best), select the goals for the following week, and work up a plan for reaching those goals. Break the upcoming week’s goals down into lists of daily objectives, and detail these objectives on daily “to do” lists.

Step 4: Daily planning. Use the same procedure you used for weekly planning to sketch out each day. Start on the highest-priority task, working at it until you have finished it or can’t go any further. Then move on to the task with the next-highest priority. Be sure to leave 25-50 percent of you day unscheduled. Unexpected tasks or emergencies may arise that require you immediate attention. These types of top-priority tasks generally can’t be put off.

Planning Aids

Many types of planning aids are available to help keep you on course. In addition, they can often help you manage an abundance of other information. Examples include pocket planning books, electronic planners, computer programs, simple “to do” lists and wall charts.

Rather than going overboard and buying the whole nine yards, you should examine each of these options carefully. Then choose the one that best fits your needs. Some people are happy with traditional pocket diaries, while others swear by the new electronic time management gadgets. Businesspeople who spend much time in their offices often opt for time management programs they can use on their computers. In any event, pick a planner based on your needs, and if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Whatever method you choose to log tasks, make sure you maintain your list! Little is gained if you buy a fancy notebook, mark down all of the next month’s projects and then forget about everything three weeks later! As the days and weeks pass, add or subtract items according to your needs and available time.

Starting a “To Do” List

A “to do” list, whether kept in a notebook or an electronic planner, is the key component of any time management planning method. Get in the habit of writing down what you want to accomplish. The 5 or 10 minutes you spend making out this list will help you reap enormous time management and productivity benefits.

First, make up a list of all the tasks you need to complete in the next week. Then develop priorities for the tasks on this list. As needed, include notations of calls to make, people to see, letter and reports to write, deadlines, assignments and priorities.

Of course, the most important items on this list are the tasks that need to be done that day. Make sure these tasks receive that highest priority! Include the deadlines for those tasks, as well as the estimated time it will take to complete the work and notations of any special requirements (“write a summary memo,” “send by overnight courier,” etc.).

Write out the list first thing in the morning or at the end of the previous workday. The latter generally works better, because you can arrive at work knowing what needs to be done. It’s a great way to help reduce stress.

The list can be as detailed or simple, as creative or straightforward as you like, although a certain amount of detail helps avoid confusion later. If a list merely says “Make follow-up call,” with no further elaboration, you may wonder hours later who it is you’re suppose to call! Some list keepers even go so far as to write the phone numbers of the people they’re supposed to call, to save time on having to look up the numbers later.

Periodically, consult the week’s master list of things to do, and update it as needed to reflect any relevant changes, such as that pressing new project that’s just been handed to you. But keep in mind a word of caution: Don’t get caught in an “activity trap,” wherein you’re doing tasks just to keep busy. Schedule some time for some of the less-tangible tasks that are hard to define – improving your work, planning for the long-term, developing creative ideas – and may be easy to put off.

Organizing Priorities

The key to managing time is setting, starting and then finishing high-priority tasks. But how do you determine which tasks fall under that heading? The trick is to develop a ranking system:

A” tasks have a high level of importance. They must be completed right away or by day’s end.

B” tasks are of moderate importance. They should be done sometime, but not necessarily right away.

C” tasks are of low-level importance. It would be nice to finish them, but getting them done isn’t essential. They can often be skipped or delegated.

According to Pareto’s Principle, 80 percent of the value or benefits will come from 20 percent of the activities you do. That’s why it’s important to set priorities and tackle the vital projects first. When setting priorities, determine which activities have the greatest effect on profits or success, and place them first. Focus on results, not activities. Don’t become so involved in finishing tasks or “busy work” that you lose sight of the real priority – completing high-payoff tasks.

One of the benefits of keeping this type of list is the satisfaction of crossing off each of item. Remember, a simple check mark or line drawn through each item is better than marking it into oblivion; you may want to look back at the list to see what you’ve accomplished (this will help you improve your ability to estimate time requirements for future projects). But, perhaps most important, ending the day with a list that is pretty well crossed off provides a great lift – and a great sense of accomplishment.

Words of Wisdom on Goal Setting

You miss 100% of the shots you never take. ~ Wayne Gretsky

Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all of your energies on a limited set of targets. ~ Nido Qubein

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. ~ Anthony Robbins

Write it down. Written goals have a way of transforming wishes into wants; cant’s into cans; dreams into plans; and plans into reality. Don’t just think it—ink it! ~ Author Unknown

Nothing happens unless first we dream.~ Carl Sandburg

When a goal matters enough to a person, that person will find a way to accomplish what at first seemed impossible. ~ Nido Qubein

The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move. ~ Brian Tracy

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~ Author Unknown

Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement. ~ Brian Tracy

Life takes on meaning when you become motivated, set goals and charge after them in an unstoppable manner. ~ Les Brown

Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive. ~ Robert H. Schuller

It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement. ~ Mabel Newcomber

Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal. ~ Elbert Hubbard

If one does not know to which port is sailing, no wind is favorable. ~ Seneca

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. ~ Henry Ford

The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher. ~ Thomas Henry Huxley

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible. ~ Doug Larson

Goals are dreams with deadlines. ~ Diana Scharf Hunt

To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.~ Kofi Ann

All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible. ~ Orison Swelt Marden

First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end!~ Aristotle

It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach. ~ Benjamin Mays

The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.~ Jim Rohn

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.~ Jimmy Dean

What is not started today is never finished tomorrow. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Every day you spend drifting away from your goals is a waste not only of that day, but also of the additional day it takes to regain lost ground.~ Ralph Marston

Goals are simply tools to focus your energy in positive directions, these can be changed as your priorities change, new one added, and others dropped.
~ O. Carl Simonton

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things. ~ Albert Einstein

By losing your goal, you have lost your way.~ Kahill Gibran

Set Smaller Goals, Get Bigger Results


What do you dread at work? Maybe it’s filling out expense reports. Making a cold call to a sales lead. Giving a long-delayed performance review to T.J. (aka “the Crier”). You dread it, you avoid it, you procrastinate. You check out Google News instead.

There’s a way out of this cycle, and it comes from self-help books. (We read them so you don’t have to.) Start by thinking about housecleaning, the most unpleasant part of our everyday existence, other than forwarded kitten emails. Here’s a surefire way to fight chore inertia. It’s called the 5-Minute Room Rescue, and it was proposed by the FlyLady, a “home executive” turned organization guru. You set a kitchen timer to five minutes. Then you rush to the dirtiest room in your house — the one you’d never let a guest see — and, as the timer ticks down, you start clearing a path. When the timer finally buzzes, you can stop with a clear conscience. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

The trick, of course, is that the dread is always worse than the thing that’s dreaded. So once you start cleaning house, you probably won’t stop at five minutes, especially when you see progress. You’ll get Big Mo on your side — or at least Big Mop — and an hour later, things will look great. By scaling down the goal — just five minutes! — you can overcome your own inertia.

In One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Dr. Robert Maurer of UCLA’s School of Medicine writes about his patient Julie, a divorced mother of two, who was 30 pounds overweight, depressed, and fatigued. He knew that the solution to her problems was exercise. He also knew that talking about thrice-weekly aerobics was likely to get him slapped. So he gave her a challenge: “How about if you just march in place in front of the television, each day, for one minute?”

That was the kick start she needed. One minute of low-intensity exercise did nothing to improve her health but everything to improve her attitude. When she came back for her next visit, she asked, “What else can I do with a minute a day?” Within a few months, as Dr. Maurer slowly stepped up Julie’s challenges, her resistance to a serious exercise program disappeared.

We’re all used to hearing about stretch goals, and when you feel empowered, stretch goals are useful ambition teasers. But when you feel overwhelmed, stretch goals are a recipe for paralysis. Michael Phelps needed a stretch goal. Julie needed a whisker goal, a target that was a hairsbreadth away from the status quo. We need these more modest steps because they help us get past the “startup costs” — the apprehension and fear — that deter us from doing the tasks we hate.

Ken Blanchard, author of the classic The One Minute Manager, knew that managers hated having to give feedback to employees. So he gave managers a whisker goal that he called “one-minute praisings.” He pointed out that most managers put off giving feedback until something goes very wrong, and then they swoop in with criticism. He called it “seagull management”: Managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly out. He challenged managers to give frequent, quickie assessments. Concentrate on catching your employees doing something right, he counseled, and then reinforce it with immediate, specific praise.

Whisker goals are particularly well suited to our current moment. Adversity taps our strength. When you’ve just laid off someone, it feels like too much to bear to offer constructive criticism to another employee. When you’ve given up your bonus and had your budget cut, it feels like too much to consider going back for that master’s degree. In hard times, we retrench. We maintain. We certainly don’t stretch.

But retrenchment is the wrong response to adversity. Adversity calls for change, and change doesn’t arrive via a miracle: It arrives via a kick start. During World War II, the government needed to orchestrate a massive increase in industrial production at the exact same time as its most talented industrial minds were being called away to fight. Government officials trained new people to look for tiny steps forward, not big leaps. A training manual advised workers to “look for hundreds of small things you can improve. Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout — or go after a big new installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

Change can start with small measures, and it can be rewarded with small prizes. Maurer cites a Toyota employee-suggestion program. The carmaker receives 1.5 million employee suggestions every year, and it holds an annual awards ceremony to celebrate the single best idea. The lucky employee gets a fountain pen. (Lehman Brothers handed out million-dollar bonuses. How’d that work out?)

Dread and inertia are the enemy. But you have a powerful ally: the kitchen timer. Set it for five minutes and get to work clearing a path.

Top New Years Goals 2013

6 Productivity Tips from Famous People


What does it take to be successful? Genetics? A brilliant, innovative mind? Not really. Based on anecdotes from famous successful people, it is often the little things, applied routinely and diligently, that can push you over the edge. Lifehack recently rounded up a slew of productivity tips from famous names, and some of their advice is brilliant in its innocuousness. Here are some intriguing examples:

Vladimir Nabokov used 5-by-8 inch notecards to lay out his novels. The cards allowed him to compose and reorder his scenes quickly and efficiently.

Stephen King’s voluminous output is not, as most people suspect, due to a deal with Satan. Instead, King says that he writes 10 pages a day. Every day — including holidays.

Bill Gates cites being impulsive as a powerful attribute. He says that when you have a good idea, you should act on it right away.

Benjamin Franklin was notorious introspective. He self-assessed daily — each morning, he would ask himself “what good shall I do today?” Every evening he concluded with, “what good have I done to-day?”

Playwright Henrik Ibsen worked best by constantly reminding himself about the competition. His desk contained a portrait of his arch-rival August Strindberg.

Build in stress release. Bavaria’s King Otto began each day by going shooting. In this case, the details are a bit more complicated — he hunted his peasants, though he fired blanks and his advisors acted out getting shot for his entertainment. Perhaps you could just play Angry Birds.

17 Good Habits For A Successful Life

By Jeff Nickles

I feel strongly that these are good habits that everyone should adopt to be more successful.

Students go to school to get an education for a better, more prosperous life.  However, many of the good habits needed to truly be successful are learned outside the classroom.  Developing good habits that will help individuals of all ages succeed can never start too early.  These routines will help us create success for the rest of our lives.  They are the tools we need to live life to the fullest!

Good habits everyone needs for success!

This list of good habits will serve you well whether you are a parent, student, entrepreneur or just a regular person.  Learning these habits now will help everyone get ahead in life.

1.  Get on a good schedule.

We need structure and routine in our lives.  Our bodies expect it.  They perform best when we operate on a regular schedule.  We especially need to eat and sleep about the same time each day.  If you are the parent of a young child, it is your job to teach this habit early.  This routine stays with a person their whole life and helps them to develop good work habits.  Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it!

2.  Eat a healthy diet.

Our brains need the right food to perform at their peak.  Don’t go to school or work on an empty stomach.  Students need to train themselves early to eat a balanced and healthy diet.  We tend to carry the habits we learn when we are young forward with us for most of our lives.  Learning to eat right now can avoid many health issues down the road.

3.  Learn to exercise.

We need physical activity to stay healthy.  The benefits of regular exercise are well documented.  We need to find exercise routines that are fun and match our individual tastes.  Developing a good exercise routine is a habit that will increase both the quantity and quality of your life.

4.  Practice gratitude.

It is so easy to get in the bad habit of envying what others have.  The grass often seems greener on the other side of the fence.  It is vitally important to learn gratitude.  Practice thinking about the things you have to be thankful about.  I do this with my daughter each evening when I put her to bed.  I ask her to recall the good things that happened that day.  We then take a few minutes and give thanks for those things.  This helps us both to train ourselves to be grateful.

5.  Develop good study habits.

Studying effectively is a skill.  People that live life to the fullest are lifelong learners.  They never stop trying new things.  One needs to study and gather new knowledge in an effective and efficient manner.  Learning how to study and acquire the knowledge to succeed doesn’t just occur naturally.  It needs to be taught.  Take a study skills course or ask others for tips on improving your study habits.

6.  Never give up!

I remember being told in school that, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”  I think this is a Vince Lombardi quote and it is certainly true.  It takes perseverance in life to enjoy any kind of success.  I also remember hearing, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  These sayings come back to me time and again when I feel like giving up.  Perseverance is a habit.  It is one that can be developed just like any other.

7.  Manage money wisely.

Why don’t they teach a good personal finance class in school?  Students need to learn to earn, save, budget, track, and wisely spend money to be successful in life.  Good money habits can never start too early.  There are a lot of good resources out there to help.  I recommend taking a look at what Dave Ramsey has to offer for various ages.  Of course, you can also find a lot of fantastic money tips reading blogs!

8.  Respect the environment.

It seems to be hip to be “green”, but being a good steward of our environment is really not that new.  Wise parents have been teaching these principles to their children for ages.  We only have this one world and we depend on it for our survival.  Every person needs to do their part to protect what we have.  Develop habits now that will help you to be a good environmental citizen for a lifetime!

9.  Strive for excellence!

Why do a job if you aren’t going to do it right?  We need to develop the habit of giving every task our best effort.  Excellence should be the standard we strive for in all we do.  We can’t start letting ourselves or our children do the least possible to get by.  If we do, then they are going to receive less than the best results from their work.  Teaching excellence now will ensure habits for success will carry forward.

10.  Live the Golden Rule.

“Do unto others…” is a guideline we should all follow.  Think of the conflict and tragedy that could have been avoided if people simply applied the Golden Rule in all their relationships.  If we make this a habit, then we will find a lot more success in life.  Respecting people of all races and beliefs is a hallmark of living life to the fullest.

11.  Practice good hygiene.

You really can dress for success!  Habits like brushing your teeth twice a day and washing your hands regularly not only contribute to health, but also lead to routines that give one a sharper appearance.  First impressions are powerful and are mostly derived from the way a person looks.  Like it or not this is true.  Start today to ensure you do what it takes to leave a lasting good impression.

12.  Always tell the truth!

The truth often comes out whether we want it to or not.  Lying generally just complicates the situation and makes us look bad.  Look at the scandals many of our politicians fall into because they fail to admit the truth.  It is much better to just develop the habit of telling the truth even when it is difficult.  This will save you a lot of heartache and misery in life.

13.  Ask for what you want.

Develop the habit of asking for what you want.  How else are you going to get it?  It is really that simple.  Often, when I ask, I am amazed at how quickly I get exactly what I wanted.  Just give this one a try.  If you are a parent, teach your children to ask others for what they want.  This is truly a behavior you want to come naturally.  It will build confidence and self-esteem that will serve your kids forever!

14.  Be a regular reader.

Being a good reader is a skill that often separates the good students from those that struggle.  Becoming a good reader takes practice.  The more you read and are read to, the better you get.  Reading has numerous benefits.  It builds one’s vocabulary, expands the imagination, and rekindles creativity.  Make reading a routine!

15.  Be punctual.

Arriving on time is important to one’s success.  People always notice when you are late.  It is an indicator of whether you mean what you say and can be trusted.  Do not introduce doubt about this into people’s minds by showing up later than expected.  Create the habit of being punctual now and you won’t have to worry.

16.  Respect authority.

Failure to respect those in authority positions can lead to all kinds of problems in life.  It doesn’t matter whether it is your boss, a police officer, or a university dean.  People in authority have a job to do and often worked hard to get into the position they are in.  They deserve to be treated with proper manners and reverence.  Learning to say, “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” will get you noticed in a positive way.

17.  Tend to your spiritual needs.

We cannot ignore our spiritual needs and truly live a full and rewarding life.  We must recognize that there is a higher power and pursue our faith regularly.  We may not exercise our beliefs in exactly the same way, but I encourage you to find what works for you and explore it to it’s depths.  A solid spiritual life will serve you well.

Good habits developed now will last a lifetime!

These are good habits you want to set in concrete now.  The quicker you make these habits that you live by, the better life you will experience.  If you are a parent, then print this list and work on it with your children.  Back to school is an excellent time to focus on new habits that will last a lifetime!

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