Goals, I talk about them a lot here and we set a lot of them for ourselves but how can we really get the most out of goal setting?
Have a well defined outcome: Let's say we are playing basketball and we want to improve our free throws. One goal would be: get better at making free throws. A better goal is increase my free throw percentage from 60% to 70%. In the first example the goal was nebulous, there was no way to codify improvement and no level of improvement would be good enough to stratify the goal. In the second we know where we are starting from and we know where we want to end.
Give yourself a time frame: Giving yourself a deadline on a goal force us to pay attention to it. It can also give us the pressure we need to keep working at the goal.
Create a strategy: Without a plan of action a goal is not a goal. I have said this before. Your strategy is not the plan it is how the plan fits in to your life. For example I'm working on an editing project. The plan is to work on editing at night and writing new posts in the morning. So far it has not worked out that way and I need to adjust my strategy to make that happen. When I was first writing the blog my strategy was I had to be at the computer writing by 9am every day. This helped me create the habit of blogging I may need to set myself the same sort of rule for editing.
Be realistic: A goal that is not realistic can do more harm than good. If we set a goal for our self that is beyond our reach it damages our confidence and reaffirms or creates a negative impression of ourselves. However if we set goals that are difficult but doable they can be used to increase our self confidence improve self image and motivate us to work on the next goal. This need to be realistic does not apply only to the goal but also to the time frame, trying to do something in less time then you need is just as damaging as trying to do something to difficult.
Set goals you want to accomplish: We often set goals related to things we think we should be doing, or that we think we should be stopping. This is fine but if those goals do not coincide with what we want they can become a chore. If we are setting goals based on what others tell us we should be doing they become easier to push aside and ignore, rendering them ineffective. Let's look to the free throw example. Let's say you are working on your free throws because your coach told you to. You hate being out there every day just shooting free throws it is the most receptive and boring part of the game to you. What you want is to get the coaches approval not to get better at making the shot. So reword the goal: Impress the coach by improving my free throw percentage to 70% in the next two weeks.