Several people have asked me the difference between a goal, resolution, project and task so I thought I'd go into some detail on what each of these means and how you can apply them to your life.
First I want to define a Resolution and how it's different from a Goal. Gretchen Rubin cleared this up for me in her book The Happiness Project (not affiliated, just giving credit). She points out that a Goal is quantifiable and has an ending. Running a marathon is a goal. You train for it, and complete the marathon. After that it's up to you whether you continue training or become a couch potato.
A Resolution, on the other hand, has no end. It's a lifestyle change. "Quit Smoking" or "Be More Cheerful" are things that you'll have to continue doing for as long as you want to reap the benefits.
Gretchen does point out that the more specific you are with your Resolutions, the more likely you'll be able to keep them. "Laugh at least once per day" is easier to keep track of than "Be more cheerful." Incidentally, a Resolution can become a daily Goal: did you laugh today? Then you can check off that you did, in fact, laugh today and thus have reached that small goal for the day.
So let's talk about what, exactly, is a Goal.
Goals can be long-term (complete university degree), shorter term (finish report) or just today (read Chapter 3). A goal is something you can measure, and you can complete in a specified period of time.
As an example, let's talk about something many people set as a New Year's Resolution: Lose Weight. Unfortunately, Lose Weight is not a Goal. You can't measure it. How much weight? By when?
"Lose 10 pounds" is closer to being an actual goal, but it's still lacking the time element. Lose 10 pounds at some point in your life? How about, "Lose 10 pounds by June." Now THAT is a Goal. You can do that.
Here's how to break down the Goal of "Lose 10 pounds by June." How many months/ weeks do you have until June 1? This will tell you how much weight you need to lose each week. Generally 1 pound per week is sustainable, some people can even pull off 2 pounds per week. There are about 3500 calories in a pound of body weight, so to lose a pound per week you'll cut 500 calories per day. Science aside, eating less fatty and carby food and more veg and lean protein plus exercise will help you lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way. Keep it up until June, and you'll reach your goal.
The other thing a Goal needs to be is trackable, and this is where most people succeed or fail. People who track their progress are MUCH more likely to reach their goal. Weigh yourself every week. Measure your waist. Count calories if you can stand to, or food points, or the number of fruit and veg portions you eat each day. Record your exercise. When you track your progress you know what you've accomplished and how far you have yet to go. You also notice setbacks and can get yourself back on track.
What's the difference between a Goal and a Project? Or a Goal and a Task? Timeframe, mainly.
For example, you may have the goal of painting your living room. Remember, to be a true Goal you need to set a time limit, so let's say you want to paint your living room before your in-laws visit 3 months from now. This is an example of a Goal that is also a Project.
A Project has multiple steps. Think of all the things you have to do BEFORE you actually apply paint to your living room walls. Research paint types and choose colors. Buy brushes, tape, and plastic to cover your floor. Prepare the walls by removing old wallpaper, filling any cracks or holes, and smoothing the surface. Move furniture, cover the floor, tape edges. THEN you can actually paint. Then let the paint dry, apply another coat if needed, dry again. Remove the tape and floor coverings, move furniture back into place. Done!
Each of those steps can be considered a Milestone toward reaching your goal of painting your living room. Milestones need to have a time element of their own. Back-count from the Done date to figure out the deadlines for each Milestone. How long will it take you to research your paint options? When will you actually have time to go buy the paint and supplies? When will you do the actual painting? Look at your planner and schedule time to complete each of the Milestones.
Now you'll know if you're on track to reach your Goal in time or not. Your in-laws are coming next weekend and you haven't chosen your paint yet? Unless you've got the week off work, you might not reach your goal. Think realistically about how long it will take you to complete each step to make sure you have adequate time.
Each Milestone can be broken down into individual Tasks. A Task is sometimes called an Action or a Next Action. For example, the Milestone of Choosing Your Paint can be broken down into several tasks: Look online at paint brands and types. Look up customer reviews of different paints. Go to the store to look at paint colors and types. Ask someone who knows about paint what they recommend. Get paint samples and bring them home to get an idea of what the colors would look like in that room. You get the idea: a Task is something you can do without having to do something else first.
Unfortunately, in real life most goals aren't as clear-cut as "Lose 10 pounds before June" or "Paint the living room before 3 months from now." Maybe you want to get a promotion at work, publish your e-book, make more friends, or improve your credit rating. Whatever your goal is, be sure to set a time frame, break it down into actions, and measure your progress.
I designed the Plannerisms planners to give you space to write out your big Annual Goals, break them down into Quarterly Milestones, Monthly Goals and Daily Tasks. Importantly, there's space to record your progress every step of the way so you can see what's working and what's not, and exactly how far you have to go to meet your goals. Click here to see my post on Using the Plannerisms Planner as a Goals Workbook.
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