Monday, December 16, 2013

Should you bother to make Goals?

I've seen a lot of articles online lately basically stating that goals are pointless and you shouldn't bother making them, it's routines that are important.

The thinking goes: don't set yourself the goal of building a wall, just focus on laying each brick as perfectly as possible. Another one is: don't focus on running a marathon, instead set yourself a daily running routine.

This logic is faulty, and here's why:

I agree routines are very important, and you won't reach your goals without them. But you must have goals, because they give your routines purpose.

To use the two examples above: yes lay each brick as well as you can. But you have to know if you are building a wall, or a house, or a pyramid.

And yes you should set an exercise routine to incorporate those actions into your day. But you will train differently if you are running a marathon than if you are striving for a personal best in a 10k. And anyway you shouldn't run the same amount of time and the same path every day because your body will quickly adapt and the benefits will decrease.You have to create an exercise routine that mixes it up to continue to benefit your body.

However, there are times when setting goals is not appropriate. For example, I don't make a 5 year plan. Life is not linear, and unless your goal for example is to finish university or something similarly clear-cut, it's often not possible to predict what your life will be like 5 years down the road. In these cases, it's better to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

For example I had wanted for a long time to publish my ideal planner. I even had it all written up and knew exactly what it would be. But I moved so often I wasn't in one place long enough (or in locations where it was possible) to find a publisher. Then when my publisher approached me about making the Plannerisms planner, I was ready and prepared to jump on that opportunity.

So the answer is, you have to have both: routines to work the actions into your daily life, and goals to give the actions purpose.

This is how I designed my Plannerisms planners. There are goals pages that give you space to map out what you would like to happen and how, and the weekly pages give you the space and structure to incorporate these actions into your daily life and track your progress.

I wrote a similar article a year ago discussing the difference between Goals, Resolutions, Projects and Tasks which you can click here to read. That article is in my page of Goal Setting Tips where there are links to other articles, research I've read and more ideas for goal setting and tracking (which is the important part).

So as you can see, I'm a big fan of goals and flexibility, which doesn't have to be contradictory.

What about you? Do you set goals? Why or why not?


  1. Definitely a goal setter. Homeschooling is definitely easy to map out, I have been thinking this year on a five year goal as my youngest will graduate--so I better have myself ready to jump in the work force after 25 years of playing house. I have yearly goals for myself, and even made some shorter term goals this last year. My husband is not a goal setter, I can not even get him to committ to something tomorrow--it drives me crazy. He says he likes to live spontaneously and not be tied up in a bunch of stuff. In 20 years I have not seen him get a step closer to anything that he has wanted. Routines and tasks help me to accomplish my goals, tracking my goals this past year helped me see that when I think I'm on track--I'm probably only getting to it 4-5 times a month. That has been an eye opener. So I will continue to track for 2014 so that I can get to my goals 3-4 times a week.

  2. My big "mission" for 2014 is to get my life in order; I want to get the house, which we moved into over four years ago and continues to be incomplete, sorted and reasonably tidy and clean. I want to get my affairs in order; write a will, keep my files orderly, keep up with my accounts... I want to keep up with my laundry, learn to be conscious of time, and generally keep on top of regular maintenance of my life. I find my loftier goals keep getting stymied by the perpetual clutter and mess and disorganization. If I can get these things sorted out and learn to keep them that way I can be much better situated to find success in the rest of my life.

    To achieve this goal, I have been developing a list of routines I will establish or reinforce in the coming year. So yes, routines are important, but so are goals. And I think that reviewing and thinking about my resolutions is also key. I typically choose one or two resolutions to really focus on, things like "be more social" or "network more" or "be classy."

    1. Joshua since when have you not been classy.....I'd say you have achieved this

  3. I'm not a big goals person--but only because I'm too busy surviving to figure out what the hell I want. I think the routines instead of goals thing is stupid tho. How the hell do you know you've done what you set out to do if you don't make goals to achieve via the routines.
    That's like saying "Don't discipline your kids, just give them routines to follow". Geez.

  4. My goals for 2013 did not manifest because of a lack of pertinent routines. My husband says perhaps those weren't valid goals for me, and that's why I did not have the motivation to make them happen. He's got a point. Intuition tells me I should be letting go - moving into a greater emptiness and simplicity - so I think 2014 is going to be about accepting the things I formerly wanted to change, and letting go even more completely of stuff, ideas and activities. The big cycles of life just don't follow our calendar year.

  5. I'm probably goal-focused, but I don't write them down. I'm a creative type, and one of the challenges is that "measurable" thing. Writers often measure by word count, like writing 2K words a day, but that's deceptive. If the words aren't well-written because you were trying to meet a measurable goal and you end up revising extensively, how is that a good use of time? Just something to think about ...

  6. I accomplished 85% of my 2013 goals without a structured plan and did not realize that until I recently looked at what I had written down. So I am a fan of goals and think intentional planning towards them is a 'must'. I suspect had I done this, I would have accomplished a 100% ;-) Note to self in 2014...

  7. In my fantasies, I set goals.

    In reality, I'm too scared to set goals. :/

  8. Absolutely believe you need both goals and routines. I meet with an accountability partner once a week and we set goals for the week. Usually we have the same goals for the whole month. But goals give you purpose and a feeling of accomplishment when you meet them. Plus goals move you forward in your life. Without them you just coast.

    1. Patty, I NEED an accountability partner.

  9. I have read all of Laurie's posts on goals, and also several time management books which place major emphasis on identifying goals and using them to prioritize your tasks and time. And I just seem to be unable to really "get" goals. If you ask me to write a list of projects I need to complete, I can do that rapidly and without trouble. If you ask for a list of things I want, I can do that too. But ask for goals and I just seem to shut down. I think that untangling this knot might turn out to be a life-revelation for me. I am not sure if I block goals because I am afraid I won't achieve them (which is bollocks, I achieve pretty much anything I really put my mind to), or simply that I somehow don't quite grasp what exactly a goal is. I read the posts and they make sense, and then I sit with a paper and pen and try to write things down, and what I end up with is a list of projects. The projects can be grouped by context or theme but still don't really seem like goals.

  10. Before I read this I thought I wasn't really a goal setter, but then I thought about it... surely most things we do are done with a goal in mind (although maybe only subconsciously).
    Even something simple, such as cleaning routines have a goal (even if it's not specifically been stated) - to keep home tidy and clean - and yes, I totally fail on that one. Not because I don't set the goal, but because I don't always follow through on my plans, but the goal is there. The routines should be a way of achieving the goals (no matter how insignificant the goal seems to be).
    I'm not a great goal setter in the sense of "what do I want to do with my life?" type things, because realistically, I have no idea - may be that's because I'm an accountant and my head is just numbers lol :-)
    However, I do still have goals - I am working my way through my 101 in 1001 days list, which I can class as a goal. Some of the things on the list are smaller goals, some are just tasks, and without taking on this challenge I wouldn't have even thought of doing many of these things.
    I have various projects at work, for which I have goals - each project is done with a goal in mind. Without the goal it is easy to go off track, or get too focussed on certain areas of the project without reference to the main purpose of the goal, which can result in actions which may not be in line with the overall goal, or which could result in areas or other departments that need to be considered being totally ignored.

  11. I used to be a serious goal setter, but this year has been really tough and I have come to realise that goals can be really self destructive if not thought through properly. My professional life is full of goals which have to be met, Key Performance Indicators which have to be measured and penalties for not meeting them. These are more then enough goals for one person to cope with.

    For 2014 I have asked myself why I set myself the goals that I did for 2013. The answer was to improve my health and welling. In setting goals and then failing to meet them all I did was make my health and wellbeing worse. This year I have the ambition to be regular with my routines, and the outcomes of that will be what they will be. So, for example, my goal isn't to be able to press a 16kg kettlebell, but to practise Kettlebelling regularly, I will get to 16kg when I get to it, not by a specific date. As long as I practise, it will come. This feels much kinder to myself than putting extra pressure on.

    I fear that goals in my private life mean I am so focused on making the goal, I don't experience the journey along the way.

  12. I'm not a goal-setter at all. I think it stems from having to set goals in intermediate school (junior high or middle school to you, Laurie). What goals does an 11- or 12-year-old kid have, for goodness' sake?