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Clarifying purpose and vision/outcome in projects (and goals?)

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  • Clarifying purpose and vision/outcome in projects (and goals?)

    I've come to the conclusion that my project planning is a weak area of my GTD implementation. I've always felt a bit uncomfortable reading the GTD book sections on Natural Planning Techniques and have recently decided my aversion is probably because a part of me feels inadequate in this regard and hasn't faced up to stuff that needs facing up to.

    Reading again it seems that two core ideas are the need for clear purposes and a clear vision of outcomes for one's projects.

    I'll spill the beans on some of my project and goals now at the risk of making a fool of myself...

    It seems to me, having a clear purpose and outcome means I can easily say when I have achieved that project. As an example a project on my previous project list was "Improve web page", but to clarify I've had to face the fact that I'm not sure what the outcome could be defined. So my revised project is "decide on desired outcome for improvements." I've thought about putting "improve web page" on my 3 - 6 month goals but on reflection this just turns a vague project into a vague goal which is perhaps equally bad. I can put "web page improvement/maintenance" on my list of areas of focus so perhaps that's all that's required.

    Do people think that higher altitude goals (2-6 month, 1 - 2 years, 10 years) also need to be equally clear or can they be more vague? In my case they definitely are. For instance I have "be happy" and "be healthy" as ten year goals. Am I completely off track here?

    I feel that clarification of purpose and outcomes is definitely useful for me. On the other hand, I've reaped massive benefits of GTD in doing what I've been doing up to now and don't want to throw out any babies with the bath water.

    Any comments appreciated.
    Last edited by tominperu; 07-15-2007, 12:15 AM.

  • #2
    You've got to know if you've reached the goal.

    Making the goal/outcome measurable is the key. As you said you've got to know if you've reached the goal.

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    • #3
      What TesTeq said. If you can't tell when you've reached it, it's too vague.

      How do you define health? Able to walk to the mailbox without breathing hard, or able to run a marathon in 3 hours or less? Able to touch your toes, or to rest your feet on the back of your head while balancing on your arms? Different definitions require different levels of effort, different intermediate goals, and therefore different next actions.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        SMART goals

        Originally posted by tominperu View Post
        Do people think that higher altitude goals (2-6 month, 1 - 2 years, 10 years) also need to be equally clear or can they be more vague? In my case they definitely are. For instance I have "be happy" and "be healthy" as ten year goals. Am I completely off track here?
        I agree with TesTeq and kewms on clarity. There is even more to be observed - in defining goals, I found the SMART formula invaluable. Goals should be:

        - Specific
        - Measurable
        - Attainable
        - Realistic
        - Timely

        Some more background and guidelines have been compiled nicely at http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/smart-goals.html.

        Rolf
        Last edited by Rolf F. Katzenberger; 07-15-2007, 03:52 AM. Reason: Typo

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        • #5
          Originally posted by tominperu View Post
          As an example a project on my previous project list was "Improve web page", but to clarify I've had to face the fact that I'm not sure what the outcome could be defined. So my revised project is "decide on desired outcome for improvements." I've thought about putting "improve web page" on my 3 - 6 month goals but on reflection this just turns a vague project into a vague goal which is perhaps equally bad. I can put "web page improvement/maintenance" on my list of areas of focus so perhaps that's all that's required.
          Can you remember what made you want to improve your web page? Quite often I get an idea that I feel enthusiastic about but somehow after some rationalising it turns into a project that I can't be bothered with. I wonder if that's what's happened here. Did you get a specific idea about something which would look good on your website but then decide that the whole website generally needs improved (a project without scope or acheivable targets)?

          Comment


          • #6
            1. SMART-Goals are just part of the game. Offcourse you also have ongoing goals. You don't want to be happy in ten years, you want to be happy all the time (my guess).

            2. Longterm goals, final goals, ongoing goals: you can make them vague if you combine them with a next-step like SMART-Goal.

            3. A few days ago somebody asked about the RPM way of doing this. In RPM you have Categories of Improvement instead of Areas of Responsibility. It's basically the same thing. For each Category you have a very vague goal called the ultimate vision. It is more a description of how awesome everything will be. Dave Allen calls this "Imagine wild success!". Then tyed to each ultimate vision you have a yearly result and a 90-days result. (Result= RPM speak for SMART-goal)

            4. I think these Areas/Categories thingie, Covey calls them Roles, is about having balance in your life. A horizontal dimension in your plans.

            5. A goal itself shoul have a purpose (not written down additionally). What I mean is this: why do you set a goal? To motivate you, to give you clarity, to give your life meaning, to organize your relationship, to enjoy your life more and so on. In my opinion it is important to be clear of the why when you set goals.

            6. As a freelancer I found that a good business-goals structure replaces the old boss one had in corporate land very well. One has more clarity how business is going and therefore I am more relaxed.

            7. Som Web goals stuff I found usefull:

            Steve Pavlina writes a lot of goals. In particular these two articles I found unsual interesting.

            Michael Hyatt is a quarterly planner as well. I found the part about his Life Plan an eye opener.

            A description of the RPM stuff.

            The six human needs I found essential to understand why I am setting each particular goal.

            I found the theories from Luke Setzer, let's say, enhacing to my thinking about this stuff.

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            • #7
              goals as true/false statements

              A 2002 post by Frank Buck provides the following insight (he begins with an example involving a project phrased as 'train the puppy'):
              Starting with the last example, training Ruby. I would put an entry on the Projects list that says "Ruby has been trained." (I like to phrase things on the Projects lists that are either true of false. True statements get checked off; false statements indicate more work is needed and hence a next action is required.) As behaviors come to mind that you want Ruby to acquire, I would list those in the note section of that Project. During the weekly review, looking at that entry and its notes will trigger you as to some specific actions to take (Books-A-Million--Buy dog training book on @Errands, Jim--Where did you take your dog to be obedience trained on @Calls, Vet--what treats would you recommend to us in training on @Calls, Teach Ruby to sit on @Home).

              Same idea with the other two. Something like "Bronte's no longer needs speech therapy" and "I am fluent in Greek." When you do your weekly review and see these two false statements, think in terms of what specific action would move them a little closer to being true. As other ideas come to mind related to those projects, capture them in the note section of the project.


              I have found this to be profoundly useful -- in fact, the whole thread discussion, "issues with defining projects -- top end" -- actually made a big difference in how I conceive of my projects. If my skills were better, I'd paste in a link, but I was easily able to find it by using "noun" as a keyword in a search (this phrasing of desired outcomes begins with a noun rather than with an action verb -- a nifty way of differentiating n/a's from projects)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by treelike View Post
                Can you remember what made you want to improve your web page? Quite often I get an idea that I feel enthusiastic about but somehow after some rationalising it turns into a project that I can't be bothered with. I wonder if that's what's happened here. Did you get a specific idea about something which would look good on your website but then decide that the whole website generally needs improved (a project without scope or acheivable targets)?
                Yes, you guessed exactly right there! And indeed, I think that's why I've been procrastinating on this project. The outcome has been vague and therefore not obviously attainable (the A in SMART). That was why I homed in on that example.

                Katherine and Testeq are saying that Goals (higher levels rather than objectives of projects) should also be specific, so that it is obvious when you've achieved them. I'll try to implement that to improve my planning. I don't want to lose the more vague elements completely and will put them on my areas of focus.

                Reading the book again on higher altitudes it seems the order is:

                10,000ft projects (obviously must have SMART objectives)
                20,000ft Areas of Focus/Responsibity in which the projects operate (seems they don't need to be SMART)
                30,000 ft Goals for 1-2 yrs (I guess these should be SMART)
                40,000 ft Vision for 3 - 5 years (I suppose SMART too?)
                50,000ft Intuiting life purposes and maximising their expression (sounds pretty vague to me)

                It seems that the very higher level thinking that DA describes involves the asking of lots of how and why questions rather than just thinking about specific long term goals. I'm pleased as this backs up my intuitive idea that there is a place for mulling over these vaguer notions as part of the process. Perhaps the trick is develop a system that includes both the more general open ended elements and the specific.
                Last edited by tominperu; 07-15-2007, 02:37 PM.

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                • #9
                  I'm now using a revised table for consideration of higher levels with column headings:

                  1) Life purposes and issues
                  2) 3 - 5 year visions (SMART)
                  3) 1 - 2 year goals (SMART)
                  4) Present areas of focus
                  5) Projects (SMART)

                  I also have another group sitting under the "Present areas of focus" which is "Possible future areas of focus". I've used areas of focus rather like a checklist in the past but DA's idea is that this is a list that can change every month. I figure having a reservoir of past and possible future areas of focus means I will find it easier to adjust the more select list every month as necessary.

                  I'll see if this works.

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