Goal setting 2017: Big and small objectives work best in tandem

Goal setting 2017: Big and small objectives work best in tandem

It’s budget season, the time of year when business owners consider how high to set their sights on improvements over the coming year. Should they aim for the stars and risk uncertainty and discouragement, or play it safe with easy-to-achieve standards that make staff members feel warm and fuzzy?

Experts advise they do both. In general, goal setting is advisable from both a business standpoint and a personal standpoint, as research shows we become more motivated and achieve more when we establish specific goals instead of aiming toward vague improvements. And many recommend a one-two punch when it comes to specific goals — generating excitement in terms of big, overarching goals, then breaking them down into less-overwhelming sub-goals so team members are motivated by smaller victories along the way.

Psychologists say that system works because the chemical dopamine is released in our brains when we take steps toward our goals, creating a sense of pleasure and elevating our moods. As such, savvy business owners motivate their employees through manageable achievements aimed at reaching overarching goals that steer for the stars — without being so far out in space only NASA could reach them.

“The cultivation of small wins can propel you to bigger success,” advises Monica Mehta in Entrepreneur. “(But) setting the bar too high with goals can actually be counterproductive. Each time we fail the brain is drained of dopamine, making it not only hard to concentrate but also difficult to learn from what went wrong.”Looking for more guidance in setting and achieving your 2017 goals? Consider the following:

  • People are motivated most when they believe their actions will produce positive outcomes that they value, according to a Harvard study. “If the goals are too difficult to attain compared to their value, people may give up on their goals,” it advises. “(An) optimal amount of challenge (not too easy or not too difficult) compared to one’s skill is also the key ingredient for optimal enjoyment — or in other words, for the sense of flow.”
  • Be as specific as possible with your plans. The most effective goals can be measured in objective terms and clearly indicate what each person must do to make them happen. Author Charles Duhigg recommends sub-goals focus on the acronym “SMART” — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timeline.
  • Setting finite amounts of time to finish important goals forces you to expend more energy quickly, rather than letting the scope of the work drag out and become uncontrollable.
  • Match the most important tasks on your agenda with the time of day affording you (and/or your employees) the most focus and energy.
  • Each morning, keep your eyes on the prize by filtering down three priorities to complete by day’s end. That will reinforce a sense of accomplishment and keep you moving in the right direction.

One other word of advice: Remember to give employees continual updates on how close they are to meeting their goals.

“Without feedback, you’re walking blind,” advises the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “This is not to say information should be sugar-coated …  however, feedback is more effective when it reinforces what the employee did right and then identifies what needs to be done in the future.”

Contact RingSquared about how it can help you reach your marketing goals for 2017.