Productivity is a desirable but elusive quality. Just what can be done to progress from average or marginal productivity to a high level of achievement? One thing that is at the forefront of any attempt at self-improvement is a written statement of goals. Written goals, especially if they are broken down into manageable chunks, give us a framework that we can use to keep track of our progress. We can then carry out our own personal performance review and development.


In the book, The Success Principles, Jack Canfield has a lot to say about goal setting and review. Goals need to be measurable. They need to be worded in such a way that there is no doubt when they have been reach. Canfield says that a goal that is not measurable is just a “good idea.” For instance, “I want to write a book” is a good idea. “I will complete 200 pages of my book by January 31st,” is a measurable goal.

Canfield also suggests making a goals book, in which you write your goal at the top of the page, and then create a scrapbook of motivating pictures or words related to that goal. For instance, if I wanted to make money from home, I might cut out pictures of money or of people working on their computers or talking on the phone. Read over those goals and look at the pictures daily or even more often.

Another principle of personal performance review and development is to break the goal down into smaller steps. Richard Carlson, author of the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” books, calls these “baby steps.” So does Marla Cilley, aka the Flylady, author of the book Sink Reflections. Canfield calls this principle “chunking it down.”

Make a list of those baby steps, then read those goals and smaller chunks often. For many goals, keeping a record can be useful for self evaluation. For instance, if I want to get more done at my work-at-home job, I might keep track of how many hours per day I am actually working it. This doesn’t include tasks like cleaning my email inbox! It means the time spent actually contacting prospective clients or doing the contracted work.

A simple habit of noting the time started and stopped can be extremely motivating. Plus you’ll have a record of past achievement, sort of a chart of self improvement statistics, which will enable you to tell how much you are improving. A chart like this is especially useful for fitness goals, too.

Specific measurable goals are good for your employees and for your children, too. Every time a goal is reached, even if it is a baby step, it improves the self-esteem. That means that the next goal I undertake or give my employee will seem just a little more doable. Canfield suggests keeping a record of victories. He also encourages people to spend a few minutes every night reviewing the day looking for small successes.

Goal setting is one of the foremost weapons in the battle for self improvement. Use them wisely and review them frequently for the greatest gain in personal productivity.

Barbara Wood is a writer and educator living in the Missouri Ozarks. Home organization has been a lifelong pursuit for her, and has led her to study many great books on productivity, time management, and organization.

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