Musings on objectives setting

A few days ago, I had a short Twitter exchange with a couple of friends on  objectives. Sara mentioned that she was not setting objectives for the New Year. Nacho made a point of my objective tracking approach, which I detailed in a post in the blog back in 2011 (Personal mid-year review). Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not follow such a thorough approach anymore (1), though I do set myself some personal yearly objectives, have them noted down, track them, etc.

In that post from 2011, I made reference to a previous post in which I commented on a HBR study and a post post by Sid Savara. The main takeaways from those readings were: have the goals in written, have plans towards achieving them and share the objectives with someone (at least with someone you have confidence with, not necessarily with everyone!).

In this post I quickly wanted to share some examples of the objectives I set to myself (2):

  • Reading: as I mentioned in a previous post in which I shared a summary of (my) 2015, I set myself a minimum objective of reading 10 books a year. I do not read any book for the sake of meeting the objective. It is rather that I have dozens of very much dear books in the shelves waiting to be read and I keep buying (and grabbing from my parents’ home) books that I think would teach me something or add some value. Ideally, I would like to read about 2 books a month. That would make over 20 books in a year, however, during some periods along a year I read less often, I found that I am not that fast reader (in English and French and neither in Spanish!) nor all the books that I pick are that easy or short, so I linger every year around the 10 books. Do I share the objective? Up to now, not explicitly, though I force myself to write at least a yearly post commenting the books I have read… thus, I do have to read them! Follow up: it is not very structured, though I know at any moment the books I have read along the year (I keep a record) and every now and then make some numbers of pages to be read per day, per week, in order to complete this or that book at a given point in time.
  • Writing: here I always remember a tip from Conor Neill, a professor at IESE, who says that we should strive to write something everyday, at least 500 words (see the blog post where he explains the benefits of doing so, Writing to reflect. Mindful leadership). In my case, apart from job emails, files, presentations…, I do not write (and reflect on) for this blog (or any other format) on personal interests everyday. Ever since I started the blog, back in February 2010, I intended to write regularly. What does that mean? Initially I aimed at publishing 8 posts per month, I lowered this target lately to about 6 posts per month. That would make about 70 a year. In 2015 I just met that target. Previously I had always been above 80 posts. See below the monthly production.

Blog post per month

Blog post per year

  • Speaking: on this front I was very consistent when I joined Toastmasters in December 2007, trying to give a public speech every two months. I kept being quite engaged until more or less mid 2012. I then dropped Toastmasters until I re-engaged myself in mid 2014 at the corporate club of Airbus in Toulouse. I am now trying to figure out the pace at which the club attendance allows and I am able to prepare myself to speak often (by speaking I refer to giving prepared speeches, as every two weeks in the club almost everyone gets to speak either with a role of evaluator, in table topics, etc). Thus, a vague objective (speaking regularly), not quantified, not yet in written, though shared.
  • Flying: for this objective scheduling is key. As I mentioned in the post where I shared my path to the private pilot license (PPL), it took me 4 years to obtain it mainly due to the difficulty in finding slots. From March 2015 (once I had passed the theoretical exam) I was more rigorous, always trying to have at least two slots scheduled with the instructor and airplanes booked at any point in time. This enabled that, even if many slots had to be cancelled due to weather conditions (or any other issue), I was more regular with the flying, I managed to obtain the license and fly over 19 hours. For the 2016, the goal is clear: to fulfil the requirements to maintain the license, that is 12 flight hours with 6 take offs and landings in the last 6 months prior to the license expiry date. On top of that, in order to carry passengers it is required to have completed 3 take offs and landings in the previous 90 days. Thus, the requirements by law help you in aiming at flying often. On the other hand, I was trained to fly on Robin DR 400 airplanes and another objective I have is to learn to fly another model, Diamond DA20 in order to have more flexibility with the scheduling of airplanes and be able to fly oftenhow often is often? At least a flight per month (ideally 2), about 2 flight hours a month… this objective, then, is well followed up with the aeroclub scheduling tools, navigation logs, etc.
  • Running: with the running I have many and varied objectives. From running (e.g.) 2,000 km in a year, to completing at least 2 marathons a year, to beating personal best times (PBs) in different distances (10k, half marathon and marathon), to other miscellanea objectives (e.g. running x days in a given week, y kilometres in a given week or month, running some special race, running a number of days while on holidays…). For the completion of marathons and aiming at PBs I do schedule training plans at the online tool provided by Garmin (the provider of the GPS watch I use). Thus, the objectives are clearly defined, shared (with Luca, colleagues, in social media) and well followed up.

And it is here that I wanted to stress on the definition of the goal, its writing and its sharing. I will take the objective “running 2,000 km”. In 2014 I started to publish online in Twitter regularly both the goal and how I was progressing.

With the online tool I have the objective clearly written down and tracked, I know whether I am ahead or behind, the weekly or monthly mileage needed to attain the goal, etc. The sharing of the goal in my inner circles helps with the finding slots to run. The sharing of the goal more widely encourages and pushes oneself. See below how I reached the objective in 2015. You can see that while the training towards Seville (February) and Madrid (April) marathons lasted I was well ahead the reference. After those marathons took place I fell behind, even if I only fully stopped for a week after Madrid marathon. I kept running below the reference weekly mileage until the end of June, when I was 70km behind… I then subscribed for Millau (September) and started building up mileage for it, then extended the training up to Toulouse marathon (October), stopped only 3 days after it and, since then, I always was around or over the reference to attain the goal (even if I had to stop for over a week at the end of November due to a cold that got me down with severe throat ache).

Running mileage 2015 progression

***

It is clear that each one has a different approach and there is not a single one that fits us all. Many will not want to be constrained by fixed goals, nor be reminded of them by having them written, even less sharing some goal they are unsure to meet, not to talk about publishing it on social media! This is just how I go about trying to meet some personal objectives.

(1) At least not for every objective and plotting a global indicator.

(2) These goals are easy to share others are kept in the inner circles.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Musings on objectives setting

  1. Pingback: Reading language | The Blog by Javier

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