The importance of setting goals

Fail to plan, plan to fail.

When I was in high school, I first heard the above quote when I was 13. It sounded like a truism, then again, one that I intuitively related with. We don’t achieve goals we didn’t set out for. Running on the premises that:

  1. Life is filled with temptations and short-term candies
  2. Forgoing short-term temptations to put in effort takes conscious effort
  3. Any goals that are worth achieving requires effort and investment

Then, planning or setting goals is the battleplan to success.

SMART goals

SMART goals are the present gold standard (pun intended) to setting goals. They are,

  • Specific: The goals you set out for must be explicit and clear, in that when you decide what to work on later, there will be little to no effort required in decision making.
  • Measurable: The metric by which you progress towards said goal must be measurable. Else, it’ll be defeating when you toil daily without being able to quantitatively know if you’ve made progress or not.
  • Attainable: The goals you set must be reasonably attainable. If you’re 25, and you aim to get a Gold Medal in Olympics for Swimming, don’t be surprised if you one day wake up feeling defeated.
  • Relevant: Is the goal you set out for relevant to the bigger goals you have in life. E.G., If I aim to code for 3 hours daily to improve my coding skills, is it genuinely relevant if my bigger goal is to become an actor?
  • Time-Bound: The time allocated to achieving said goals must be limited. This is to curb Parkinson’s law (Work expands to fill the time allotted). Any person who has been through schooling would know the extra time to finish a project or assignment would usually mean leaving it to the last minute. This is to mitigate that.

The struggle

I am a greedy man. When I first started setting out habits for myself, I initially set out to only focus on 3 habits: which are to work for 3 hours a day, exercise daily, and wake up at 7am. After 2 weeks of smooth sailing and loving the results, I immediately set out more goals and habits for myself. Which includes,

  • Guitar
  • 6 hours of work a day
  • Reading before bed
  • Writing
  • Making youtube videos weekly
  • Chess
  • Typing practice
  • Doing Math & Physics
  • Learning Deep Learning
  • Coding

It was highly encouraging for the first week after. Ticking the boxes on my habits app was addictive. But sloth slowly creeps in, and to a perfectionist like myself, days, when I don’t tick all my habit boxes are immensely discouraging. Which led to vicious cycles of feeling worse about myself and dropping more habits. This is fine if I can still keep my keystone habits (work, sleep, exercise). But even those were dropped later due to how bad I’m feeling.

I’ve soon realized that every man has 24 hours a day, but that doesn’t mean a man should spend all his waking hours being productive. It is tiring and unsustainable. Our goal here is sustainable optimal progress. Analogically, this here is a marathon. Winning a marathon requires optimal sustainable pace, not sprinting the first mile and panting the rest of the way.

P!

Over a conversation with a close friend, we’ve come to realize that the optimal strategy to long-term maximum productivity is not planning every minute of life optimally. No, it is acknowledging that motivation and emotion are vital to our daily performance. And that consistent habit is a keystone to achieving our goals. Thus prioritizing (P) our goals depending on urgency and importance is vital.

For example, I wrote down a list of things that I hope to work on this year. Funnily enough, the list stayed essentially the same as the one before. Thus, I prioritized it based on my most important and urgent macro goal. Which is to apply for a scholarship this March.

Thus, for me, these are the goals now, in order.

  1. Coding for startup
  2. Fitness
  3. Writing and Blogging
  4. Learning A.I.
  5. Doing Math
  6. Guitar
  7. Chess

And I’ll only allow myself to do anything on the lower ends after I’ve finished the intended hours I set apart for the goals above. And if I didn’t do anything on the lower back because I spent extra time working on the items above the hierarchy, it’s okay cause I’m spending more hours on what’s more critical anyways!

This was a eureka when I first discovered it, especially for people on a maker’s schedule like myself. If you’re giving this a try, I’ll love to hear how this goes for you. Feel free to get in touch!