Our point? While goal setting is clearly a worthwhile effort, there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. So with that in mind, we'd like to look at the right way (because we figure you aren't too interested in the alternative).
Start with the big picture. Experts contend that your ability to meet your goals will increase if they're framed within a larger narrative. The narrative doesn't need to be particularly epic or bombastic; on the contrary, it can be relatively simple, "Excel at my position" or "Get a promotion" work just fine. In fact, some suggest writing up a "vision statement" listing the three or four areas that complement each other. Let's say you want that promotion. Ask yourself, beyond professional demands, what are other considerations in play? Are you eating right, exercising, not getting enough sleep? These "personal" goals will inevitably affect your ability to reach your "professional" ones.
Assess what's missing. Taking this point further, step back, and again, ask yourself what non-professional areas in your life lack fulfillment. Career coaches refer to the "5ps" -- parenting, partnership, personal, pay, and professional. Look at each element, identify areas for improvement, and most importantly, determine what areas are within your sphere of influence. For example, let's say you got a raise last year. Congrats! But odds are that, while you'd like even more pay, getting another significant raise in 2015 isn't in the cards due to economic circumstances facing your employer that are beyond your control. So turn your attention towards more realistic goals.
Adopt guidelines, not rules. Rules are good in theory, but as we all know, they sometimes have to be broken (see the aforementioned doughnut example). In fact, experts argue that setting up hard-and-fast rules can also set you up for failure. Things change, people need to adapt. So keep things loose while still adhering to goals and themes. If a theme is "Get Healthy," consider a goal like "Go to the gym during downtime" instead of "Go to the gym five times a week."
Get specific. Certain overarching goals like "Get Promoted" need to be supplemented with more specific goals. For example, take the most important metrics applicable to your job and set a goal of exceeding 2014's mark by 20%. Also consider seemingly smaller yet attainable goals that feed into the bigger picture. For example, things like, "Pick up a new skill," "de-clutter my workspace," or "find a mentor within my firm." These aren't the same as "Get promoted," but they can certainly help you get promoted.
Cut out the noise. Do you check your work email between 10 and 11 pm? Do you find yourself wasting time on social media at work, thereby eroding your productivity? Identify patterns and behaviors that may keep you from reaching your goals, and make it a goal to stop engaging in them.
Now if you'll excuse us, we have to take a walk down the street and get some fresh air. Actually, we need to pick something up. Just a little bit to eat, that's all.
What do you think? What are some good tips for effective goal setting?