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Always Struggling With Hard Decisions? This Mathematical Formula Will Help You

Always Struggling With Hard Decisions? This Mathematical Formula Will Help You

Imagine this scenario: you’re a boss with a string of job candidates to choose from. You have to make the final decision on each candidate at the end of each interview. If you make an offer to a candidate, you cannot interview the others; if you don’t make an offer you can never hire that candidate again.

That’s a hard decision to make. With these kinds of constraints, how are you going to maximize your chances of hiring the best candidate?

At what point in the process do you say, “Alright, I’m just going to hire the next candidate that is better than the previous ones?”

This is the “Secretary Problem,” sometimes known as the “Marriage Problem” – and mathematician Martin Gardner solved it in 1960.

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The Solution to the Formula for Making Hard Decisions

Here’s the formula’s solution: after you have interviewed 36.8% of all the candidates, just hire the next candidate that is better than the previous ones.

Essentially, the formula proves that 36.8% is the optimal stopping point. Don’t hire or marry any candidate within the first 36.8% of the group, but after that, simply choose the first one that is better than the first 36.8%.

As a practical example, if you had to interview 50 candidates, starting from the 19th candidate onward, you should hire the next candidate that is better than the first 18 ones.

Note that this doesn’t mean you will always select the absolute best candidate (you may end up with second best if the very best candidate is in the first 36.8%), but this puts the chances of you doing so at 36.8%. Pretty decent odds given the situation, I would say!

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36.8%, by the way, is the value of 1/e, where e is the base of the natural logarithm. You may or may not have recognized that little alphabet from your high school math classes.

For the mathematically-inclined who want to know exactly how the solution was derived, you can read about it here. You can also check out the more reader-friendly Wikipedia page on the Secretary Problem.

How Practical Is the Formula Really?

Like all math problems and formulas, there are always some strict constraints that don’t make it as practical as we would like.

For example, if you were going over a list of job candidates, you could most likely just interview them all and call back the best one after. No need to make a definitive offer at the end of each interview.

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However, since there is always a risk that in the interim the candidate may accept another job offer, it might be wise to follow the 36.8% rule, especially if you know the candidates are in high demand.

Making Hard Romantic Decisions Using the Formula

What about when we try to apply it to the romantic department? Well, since you (probably) can’t date a whole string of people and then go back and select the best one like in the hiring process, the problem now is that you don’t know how many candidates there are in the first place!

How you can you determine 36.8% of a number if you don’t even know what that number is?

Good news, because mathematicians have figured that one out, too, and the answer is still 36.8%! Only now, it’s 36.8% of the total time.

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Here’s how it now works: let’s say you gave yourself a certain period to find a suitable lifelong romantic partner – 5 years for example. After 36.8% of 5 years, which is about 672 days (or 1 year, 10 months, and 3 days), you should just propose to the next romantic partner who was better than the previous ones.

This is known as the unified approach, and was proved in 1984 by German mathematician F. Thomas Bruss. You can read all the mathematical details on how this was derived in his paper here.

Making hard decisions is part and parcel of life; and no mathematical formula will be able to help you with all of them. That said, it is useful to know that in certain scenarios, there is a formula we can use to maximize our chances of obtaining the most favorable outcome.

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)

How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)

Everyone needs a goal. Whether it’s in a business context or for personal development, having goals help you strive towards something you want to accomplish. It prevents you from wandering around aimlessly without a purpose.

But there are good ways to write goals and there are bad ways. If you want to ensure you’re doing the former, keep reading to find out how a SMART goals template can help you with it.

The following video is a summary of how you can write SMART goals effectively:

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals

refer to a way of writing down goals that follow a specific criteria. The earliest known use of the term was by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, however, it is often associated with Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept.[1]

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There are other variations where certain letters stand for other things such as “achievable” instead of attainable, and “realistic” instead of relevant.

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What separates a SMART goal from a non-SMART goal is that, while a non-SMART goal can be vague and ill-defined, a SMART goal is actionable and can get you results. It sets you up for success and gives you a clear focus to work towards.

And with SMART goals comes a SMART goals template. So, how do you write according to this template?

How to Write Smart Goals Using a SMART Goals Template

For every idea or desire to come to fruition, it needs a plan in place to make it happen. And to get started on a plan, you need to set a goal for it.

The beauty of writing goals according to a SMART goals template is that it can be applied to your personal or professional life.

If it’s your job to establish goals for your team, then you know you have a lot of responsibility weighing on your shoulders. The outcome of whether or not your team accomplishes what’s expected of them can be hugely dependant on the goals you set for them. So, naturally, you want to get it right.

On a personal level, setting goals for yourself is easy, but actually following through with them is the tricky part. According to a study by Mark Murphy about goal setting, participants who vividly described their goals were 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully achieve their goals.[2] Which goes to show that if you’re clear about your goals, you can have a higher chance of actually accomplishing them.

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Adhering to a SMART goals template can help you with writing clear goals. So, without further ado, here’s how to write SMART goals with a SMART goals template:

Specific

First and foremost, your goal has to be specific. Be as clear and concise as possible because whether it’s your team or yourself, whoever has to carry out the objective needs to be able to determine exactly what it is they are required to do.

To ensure your goal is as specific as it can be, consider the Ws:

  • Who = who is involved in executing this goal?
  • What = what exactly do I want to accomplish?
  • Where = if there’s a fixed location, where will it happen?
  • When = when should it be done by? (more on deadline under “time-bound”)
  • Why = why do I want to achieve this?

Measurable

The only way to know whether or not your goal was successful is to ensure it is measurable. Adding numbers to a goal can help you or your team weigh up whether or not expectations were met and the outcome was triumphant.

For example, “Go to the gym twice a week for the next six months” is a stronger goal to strive for than simply, “Go to the gym more often”.

Setting milestone throughout your process can also help you to reassess progress as you go along.

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Attainable

The next important thing to keep in mind when using a SMART goals template is to ensure your goal is attainable. It’s great to have big dreams but you want your goals to be within the realms of possibility, so that you have a higher chance of actually accomplishing them.

But that doesn’t mean your goal shouldn’t be challenging. You want your goal to be achievable while at the same time test your skills.

Relevant

For obvious reasons, your goal has to be relevant. It has to align with business objectives or with your personal aspirations or else, what’s the point of doing it?

A SMART goal needs to be applicable and important to you, your team, or your overall business agenda. It needs to be able to steer you forward and motivate you to achieve it, which it can if it holds purpose to something you believe in.

Time-Bound

The last factor of the SMART goals template is time-bound (also known as “timely”). Your goal needs a deadline, because without one, it’s less likely to be accomplished.

A deadline provides a sense of urgency that can motivate you or your team to strive towards the end. The amount of time you allocate should be realistic. Don’t give yourself—or your team—only one week if it takes three weeks to actually complete it. You want to set a challenge but you don’t want to risk over stress or burn out.

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Benefits of Using a SMART Goals Template

Writing your goals following a SMART goals template provides you with a clearer focus. It communicates what the goal needs to achieve without any fuss.

With a clear aim, it can give you a better idea of what success is supposed to look like. It also makes it easier to monitor progress, so you’re aware whether or not you’re on the right path.

It can also make it easier to identify bottlenecks or missed targets while you’re delivering the goal. This gives you enough time to rectify any problems so you can get back on track.

The Bottom Line

Writing goals is seemingly not a difficult thing to do. However, if you want it to be as effective as it can be, then there’s more to it than meets the eye.

By following a SMART goals template, you can establish a more concrete foundation of goal setting. It will ensure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—attributes that cover the necessities of an effectively written goal.

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Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

Reference

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