Three Ways To Set Useful Goals

2 min read

“The goal is not always meant to be reached, but to serve as a mark for our aim.”
      –Joseph Joubert

Set goals that are directly measurable

Example: Speed up test suite to run under two minutes on our CI server

The gold standard of goals! Total clarity on what I’m trying to do, and whether or not the goal has been accomplished. A measurable goal is an achievable goal. But sometimes the measurement is difficult, prohibitively expensive, or truly impossible. Luckily I have some other options:

Set specific measurable strategies

There’s nothing wrong with a vague goal! Not all progress can or should be framed against a metric. But I still want to be able to see some progress, and demonstrate that progress to my boss and HR (aka the people that can give me a raise ;)

Example goal: Do some competitive analysis (how much? for what purpose? when?)
Example strategy: Create a five-point framework to compare product offerings
Example strategy: For every new feature we build, gather screenshots of how three competitors did it

Just try harder - but track your effort

Example goal: Be more detail oriented

Not only is this goal really vague but I have no idea how to even start. That’s totally ok! Targeting a specific area for improvement is a step in the right direction. But I still need to make and demonstrate progress.

Solution: write down the things I try and reflections about how they’re working. Even if I don’t know where I’m going with this goal, at least in six months I can look back and see how far I’ve come. Hopefully I’ve made some changes that have moved me in the right direction! If not, at least I know a bunch of things that haven’t worked - still very useful. Either way I can demonstrate my effort and progress to my boss and HR.