Here's Why You Don't Have The Time To Achieve Your Big Goals
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
If you’re having trouble finding time for your big goals, you’re not alone. We recently asked over 1,500 leaders: “Did you successfully complete your goals for today?” and provided three responses to choose from: “Yes,” “No,” and “I have no idea.” The most common response was “I have no idea.” The problem is that too many leaders aren’t sure what their goals really are.
So let me make it perfectly clear from the start: your goals are not your to-do list and your goals are not whatever is filling up your email inbox. These are actually everybody else’s goals, and if your time is getting sucked up helping other people achieve their important goals, you’ll never find the time to achieve your own goals.
Just think about your email inbox for a minute. Where did those emails come from? They didn’t come from you. They came from all these other people who are sending you requests for work that they need to have done. By definition that means they’re not your goals. Does it mean they’re unimportant? No, if your boss sends you an email and asks you to do something, it well could become your goal. But it didn’t initiate as your goal. It started as somebody else’s goal. And as we begin to prioritize and focus on the value-added work that will make our goals a reality, we first need to decide who originated the goals that are taking up all our time. Are they yours or somebody else’s?
The data is very clear that far too many people are pursuing way too many goals. For example, on the online quiz “Do you set SMART Goals or HARD Goals?” we’ve discovered that more than half of respondents say they have lots of goals that they’re actively pursuing this year. But our research shows that having only 1 or 2 major goals is much more likely to drive truly great performance. So when we confuse our to-do list with our major goals for the year we’re really just hurting our own performance.
Once you know that a goal is 100 percent yours, the next step is to affirm that it is actually a goal worthy of your investment of time. One way is to look at where you’re heading and determine what kind of goals will best get you there. A few questions to ask are:
- What’s the big accomplishment I want to achieve this year?
- Why is this important to me?
- How will I/ the organization benefit from achieving this goal?
- What are the potential consequences to me/ the organization if I don’t achieve this goal?
This starts to give you some direction with your time. Because generally speaking, leaders focus on those things that are the most urgent instead of the things that are most important. It’s a common scenario: you’re all ready to dig into your big goal when some urgent email arrives in your inbox. And even though it holds less importance than your goal, you put full focus on the email and somebody else’s goal. The questions above establish that your goal is mission critical. Because if you can’t designate your goal as hugely important, you’ll let less-important urgencies suck away your time.
Now, this is the place where a lot of leaders say “Gee, Mark, this is just making more work, and I don’t have the time for that.” But what I want to remind you of here is that the most effective leaders are those who take the time to do this. Because it’s the most effective way to identify the value-added work that will make your goals happen and avoid the non-value added work that distracts from your goals. So if you take the time now and do this work now, it will actually open up the time you need. Because the big a-ha moment in making time for goals is not that there isn’t enough time in the day, but rather: what’s the prioritization of the time you do have? That’s what we’re trying to get to here.
Once you know that a goal is truly yours and that it is worthy of your time, you need to make sure you’ve got enough passion for your goal. Or, in other words, “Why do you care about this goal?” The people who will pursue their goals regardless of time constraints or challenges will answer with something like, “This goal is my passion, it’s what I’m here to do,” or, “I love my children too much to not accomplish this,” or even, “What I really care about is the finish line; I’m totally pumped to get to the payoff.”
But when people say, “My boss is making me do it” or “I’m not sure, it just seems like the thing to do” it’s pretty clear that we’ll abandon this goal the first time we run into a competing deadline.
To find time for your goals, make sure that you’re not treating your to-do list as your goals, and don’t pick more than 1-2 major priorities for the year. And then, whichever major goals you choose, make sure they’re ones you’re really passionate about. Every day, hundreds of other priorities will compete to steal away your time and energy from your goals. If you don’t have 1-2 major goals, about which you’re deeply passionate, those hundreds of other little priorities will win.
Mark Murphy is the author of Truth At Work: The Science Of Delivering Tough Messages, Hiring For Attitude and Hundred Percenters.