A Coaching Power Tool created by Leslie Couch
(Business Coach, UNITED STATES)
In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia Robert Heinlien, Author
When Maria sought coaching, she had undergone a huge change in her life over a several month period. The recent economic slowdown forced her and her husband to make significant family decisions. From her position as a successful entrepreneur in a fast-paced urban setting where everything seemed under control, she now spent her days struggling to manage a massive house in the country, a busy household, and a relationship with a mate who mirrored her own feeling of overwhelm.
Maria had not lost her vision of rekindling her business nor her dreams of becoming a writer but she felt like she was not moving forward towards making these visions a reality. She tried to-do lists to manage her time but they never showed progress. Her days, already full with scheduled tasks, often reached the breaking point as emergencies and unscheduled events disrupted plans, changed priorities and gobbled up any free time. Her sense of overwhelm was exacerbated with a feelings of guilt and failure at the lack of advancement toward her own goals.
Maria’s dilemma is common. Many of us feel frustrated that in our very busy lives, we tick off myriad items on our to-do list but still make little headway, if any at all, towards our vision. We know that a vision will remain a vision if we do not take action. However we must be mindful of the type of action we assign ourselves to ensure that our effort is really moving us in the direction we want to go.
Is Your To-Do A Goal Or A Task?
Much has been written about the importance of goal setting in manifesting the fulfilling lives we want. A goal states what we want to achieve; our desired outcome. A goal is the objective to be accomplished by an action step. Goals are frequently vague as to the what, when and how but their purpose is to give a why to our actions and link our actions to our ultimate vision. For instance, if someone has a vision to become a best-selling writer, a goal might be:
…get published in a trade magazine.
Goals can get more detailed. In 1981, George T. Doran PHD developed the SMART acronym for creating more effective goals. The more a goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely, the greater the possibility of achieving it. Expanding the aspiring writer’s goal to include the SMART steps could be:
…get published in X magazine by the end of the year.
Goals, then, can map the purpose of our life.
Goals have a place on the to-do list to remind us of where we are headed. But without specific action steps – or the how – the goal may always live in the future.
A task, on the other hand, is an action step. It is the work to be done. Tasks keep us moving, and organizing them into a to-do list can be quite useful in helping us manage our time. Tasks inform us of what, when and sometimes the how in our daily lives, but they can be ambiguous as to the why.
Most tasks on our lists appear there because we believe we must do them. In fact, the American Heritage Dictionary defines a task as:
a specific piece of work required to be done as a duty or chore.
Without knowing the why, however, we can find ourselves filling up our day with tasks that are not tied to our goals, or are not really necessary for us to do.
Some tasks are obviously associated with a goal. For instance, our aspiring writer might list:
…call X magazine by Tuesday to submit manuscript.
Even these tasks may be time wasters if they are out of synch with where we are with our goal.
Examining our to-do lists in this way allows us to shift perspectives and gain awareness of our actions. If we recognize an item as a goal, does it have the necessary and correct action steps to achieve it? If we see an item as task, why are we really doing it? Will it move us forward or can it be eliminated?
If we are making to-do lists, we are taking a big step in managing our actions to ultimately achieve our goals.
The first step in making our actions more effective is to clearly define our goals. Since goals are the link between our vision and our action steps, we may want to ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is our vision for the direction in our life?
- What are our key values that we want to live by?
- How do we define success?
- What would we like to accomplish in the next year, five years, etc.?