Argh, Goal Setting

Cut out people who make you sad.

– Annoying Facebook users.

There’s so much folk wisdom floating around and I’m tired of it too. It’d be impossible to believe all the phrases we use and hear day-to-day. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover we’re told, but if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck we’re told. Good things come to those who wait we’re told, but a man ho stands on a hill with his mouth open will wait a long time for a roast duck to drop in we’re told.

Okay, of course the context matters, and each of them has it’s time and place, but they’re often used even when it’s not true. Amazingly it still seems right, seemingly just because it rhymes. That’s so weird isn’t it?

Conventional wisdom however has some lessons to learn and it’s foolish to ignore it all because of the misuse. In particular, “Goal setting” *shudder*. You probably know the commonly touted acronym already, but if you didn’t it’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). Rehearsed in office buildings and schools across the world, and despised by many.


If you look closely though, there’s actually one thing in there to learn from. Achievable is obvious so that can be removed, and it’s the same as Realistic so that one can go too. Time-bound is just a kind of measure so that can go under Measurable, and when something is given measurements it’s more specific, so those are really the same thing too. So, we’re left with really only one thing to learn from SMART at all. Measure.

Firstly, you can measure how much time you spend working or studying with Toggl or other time tracking software (or even just a pen and paper, that works too). You should do this for just the same reason why you would measure your health metrics regularly and track them, not only for if you’ve achieved a better or worse health, but more importantly why.

When you track your goals, you can extract what works and doesn’t work. Even if you weren’t doing anything with the data you collect, I promise that even just the process of recording it down and knowing more about your goal will make you more aware and help to improve your performance almost on its own.

Give it a shot. It doesn’t have to be time tracking, it could be anything from test scores to heart-rate to words-per-minute.


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