How to Learn From Unfulfilled Goals

Web working, whether you’re a freelancer or a corporate employee, tends to be performance-based. We are judged by our output, which includes the daily and the weekly goals we meet.

Sometimes, however, we don’t meet all of the goals we set. I’m guilty of this. Every month there’s at least one goal I don’t accomplish. In fact, if I miss just one goal, I count myself lucky. These mistakes were the hard way for me to learn about goal-setting. But is there any other way to learn?

I believe there is. You can learn from how I’ve handled my own mistakes. Perhaps you can learn something that will keep you working on those New Year’s resolutions and goals you’ve set, and deal with the ones you were unable to meet.

Focus on your success. It’s easy to sink into disappointment, or even depression, if you don’t accomplish your goals. The more important your goal was, the more disappointed you’ll feel.  But sometimes, if you look at the list of things you’ve accomplished, you’ll discover that you’ve achieved some things that weren’t in your list of daily, weekly, or monthly goals.

For example, you might not have met the deadline of the application for the freelance gig of your dreams, but you did finish an outline for a book idea you suddenly had. You might have been slow in one of your big projects, but you were able to finish ten minor projects earlier than expected. Don’t let your mistakes occupy your mind so much that you prevent yourself from finding long-term solutions for them.

1078182_failureFind out what went wrong. The inability to accomplish a goal means that something went wrong. The mistake might be found in the process you set, the time available to you, or the other people you’re working with.  Here are some of the common mistakes I’ve made when setting goals:

  • Vague phrasing. “Become a better writer” or “Learn more about social media” is not a goal.  Your goals must be concrete and specific enough that it’ll be easy for you to identify whether you’ve accomplished it or not.  Instead, set something like “Write at least three blog posts that don’t get modified by the editor” or “Finish reading the free social media ebook I downloaded”.
  • Lack of time. It’s also possible that you underestimated the time it would take to accomplish your goal.  I’ve learned to double or triple my expected time of completion for some projects, because I know that I’ll be underestimating it if I don’t.
  • Lack of communication. If you’re working with a team on a specific goal, examine why you weren’t able to deliver the results you wanted. Was the schedule of deliverables clear from the beginning? Is there a proper venue for group discussions?
  • Too ambitious. The problem with ambitious goals is that they tend to be large in scope.  Break down the project into smaller milestones and next actions. Schedule these appropriately. You might take 30 minutes or more to do this for large projects, but you’ll be saving time in the long run.
  • Too simple. The opposite of ambitious goals are the ones that seem too simple – they’ll take only two to five minutes of your time. Sounds easy, right? But sometimes, the fact that they’re too simple makes them easy to avoid. “Oh that’s easy, I can do that later.” Until later becomes tomorrow, then next week, then next month. David Allen has a solution for this known as “the two-minute rule”. If there’s an item on your to-do list that takes less than two minutes to do, then just do it the second you think of it.

Know why you want to set this goal in the first place. Did you just set this goal because it’s on a list you made six months ago and it’s embarrassing to erase it? Or did you set it because you think it’s a goal you should have, but not necessarily a goal you want? By knowing why you set certain goals, especially personal ones, you can find the initial motivation you had and use it as your continuing inspiration.

Let’s face it – even if I wrote all of this down and you spent fifteen precious minutes reading it, goal setting will still be a trial-and-error experience for everyone.  But with a little warning and by learning through another person’s mistakes, we’ll be more aware of what we’re doing the next time we sit down and write our goals.

Do you always accomplish the goals on your list?  If not, how do you deal with missed goals?  If you always manage to accomplish your goals, what contributes to your success?

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