Are you like everyone else when it comes to setting goals? Do you define what you want to achieve and then start working towards your big goal?

You work hard on a daily basis to reach that goal, but at some point you start to feel frustrated, because you’re not making any noticeable progress after all.

This makes you very confused and angry, yet you can only blame yourself for this situation. You have made a classic goal-setting mistake.

Do you know what it is?

You know your destination…but you are still lost.

Let me tell you about a real experience I had couple of years ago. This happened when I was competing in a national level triathlon race.

A triathlon consists of three different sports (swimming, cycling and running) and every race starts with the swimming part. As soon as the start signal goes off, all the contestants run into the water and start swimming.

After myself and the rest of the contestants had swam for some time, I realized that this one guy was swimming in the wrong direction. He kept going and going, until at one point he stopped. He realized that he had swam in the wrong direction and now everyone else was in a completely different place. Naturally, he had to change his course and catch up with the rest of us.

This kind of scenario can happen in your life, whether you are a triathlete or not. You set a goal and start taking action on it, but unfortunately this is not enough. If you don’t know your current position in relation to your goal, then you are going to be like the triathlete I just mentioned; you will keep going and going but your actions will only take you further from your destination.

When you get further away from your goals, most likely there is one critical piece missing in your goal-setting process. Eventually, this missing piece might get you lost — and even make you quit on your goal.

Now, you don’t want that to happen, do you?

Space rockets and agile programmers – you can learn from them

When a rocket is launched into space, do you think it just follows a straight line from earth to its destination in space?

Nope, it doesn’t.

It makes small adjustments to its course along the way. This is how it stays on track and reaches a very specific but distant destination in space.

It’s the same with agile programmers: they know exactly where they are in relation to their end goal (a finished application). They make necessary adjustments to their actions along the way if they find that they are on the wrong track.

Back to you: do you know why you get lost so easily? Well, it’s because you are not adjusting your course like that space rocket, or not following procedures like those agile programmers.

In both of the previous scenarios, adjustments are made all the time. In contrast, you just set your goal and take action on it, without stopping to correct your course. If you don’t reflect on your current progress and just keep doing your work, then the confusion is inevitable.

Finally, you should also pay close attention to your attitude.

You might think that pausing to reflect is a waste of time (it’s slowing you down), even if you understand the need for it. If you think like this, you clearly need to change your attitude towards the reflection time and understand its true value. Stopping down for a moment could save your whole project. Instead of just blindly taking action, you’ll start to see where you have deviated from your goal and you’ll be able to take corrective action immediately.

When you are on the right track, you are more motivated to keep on working towards your goal instead of quitting.

15-minute time block to the rescue

Let’s talk some Scrum. It belongs to a family of agile software development methodologies and one of its characteristics is a daily 15-minute time-boxed meeting called The Daily Scrum.

Every day during the 15-minute period, the team has a meeting stood up, where everyone reports their progress by answering three questions:

  1. What have you done since the last meeting?
  2. What are you planning to finish by the next meeting?
  3. Is there anything standing in your way?

With these questions, it’s easy to see what everyone has been up to, what’s going to happen next, and if there are any issues that might be stopping the developers’ progress.

“Ok, so this stuff is for software developers,” I hear you say. “How does that help me?”

This is exactly what we are going to find out next.

Reach your destination – by slowing down the smart way!

Daily Scrums can be applied on your own work as well. Let’s see how to do it:

  1. Know your goal and sub-goals. It goes without saying that you should have a clear and explicitly defined goal, as well as milestones related to your end goal. If you don’t have this plan set, then do it now.
  2. Schedule and location. Schedule a 15-minute block on your calendar, which occurs every day, at the same location, at the same time. To make sure you don’t exceed the 15-minute limit, get a timer, set it to 15 minutes and start it as soon as your meeting starts. The best time for this is before the end of your working day. This way, you have some kind of idea what you have done, if you have encountered any issues and what you  want to do next. The fixed location helps you to form the Daily Scrum habit.
  3. Have your meeting. Answer the three Scrum questions I mentioned earlier and write them down in a document. Then, spend some time figuring out if you are on the right track in relation to your goals.
  4. Take action accordingly. Once you have had your Daily Scrum, form a plan for what to do next. Do you need to do something differently? What does it take to remove the obstacles in your way?

Take a moment to think about the best answers to these questions.

Conclusion

As you can see, daily reflection is very important so that you can see where you are in relation to your goal. Otherwise you could be working hard for nothing. In a worst case scenario, you may have to start your work all over again.

With a 15-minute daily meeting, you can stay on track and take corrective action right away, instead of doing it weeks or even months after starting your work.

Over to you: how do you keep track of your current situation in relation to your goals? Do you review your work in any way? Please share your comments and experiences on the comment area.

(Photo credit: Old Compass via Shutterstock)

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