Everyone has the same amount of time each day, yet some people accomplish several lifetimes of achievements in the same time others waste wondering what to do. Some people spend more time planning a party than they do their own lives. Successful people control their time by setting goals.

Goals have been called, “a dream with a deadline.” A goal is any result towards which effort is directed. A well-formed goal however, states any desired result with a time-defined end point. Without a date for completion, it’s still only a good idea.

Opportunities for setting goals abound everywhere. To achieve meaningful results, goals need to support a larger mission and vision. You may have one mission with numerous goals, or one mission with only one goal needed to complete the mission. Simple or complex, goals keep you focused when the going gets tough. They develop from gaps between where you are and where you want to be. These gaps create tension, which leads to desire, which fuels motivation. Gaps create "seed" goals. These are the germs of thought that stimulate fully formed ideas about what you want to accomplish. Dissatisfaction, pain, anger, or imagined possibilities, are all examples of gaps waiting for closure.

Well-defined goal statements are the foundation for achieving meaningful results. They clarify:
1. what results will be accomplished
2. when the result is to be completed
3. who is involved
4. types of resources needed
5. where or location (if appropriate) results take place

Steps for Goal Setting

STEP 1 — Identify Goals
With a mission and vision in mind, identify "gaps" between where you are and where you want to be. These imagined results become "seed goals." On a separate sheet of paper, list all of the “seed” goals needed to achieve your mission and vision. These will be short, undeveloped lists of activities needed to complete the mission. You will prioritize them later. Then assign roles of “who will do what.”

STEP 2 — Write Goal Statements
Writing goals down on paper makes them tangible. Otherwise, they tend to remain in the daydream arena. The old saying, "What gets written gets done," is a powerful motivator. Written goals clarify thinking, make an idea “real,” and stimulate the drive to accomplish a bite-sized portion of activity. It’s also satisfying to cross off completed activities.

Effective goal setting means being SMART. Using the acronym, SMART, write the components of well-defined goal statements for each gap or seed goal.

S = Be specific. State what you aim to achieve or the desired outcomes from your efforts. The more specific in pinpointing what you want, the greater the likelihood for success.
Example: Reduce absenteeism.

M = Add a measurement if possible. The accomplishment could include criteria (i.e. numbers or standards) that can be used to determine if you’ve reached a more precise goal. You may also include cost and resource constraints. This places a financial value on the outcome and is useful in determining the need to rewrite the goal if the effort fails to produce results. A failed attempt however, is really a learning opportunity revealing the way not to proceed next time.
Example: Reduce absenteeism by 10%.

A = include an action verb (increase, eliminate, acquire, build, partner, solve etc.)
Example: Reduce

R = Be realistic. Don’t set an impossible goal, but also don’t underestimate what
people can do when asked to s t r e t c h! Nothing’s more frustrating than going for something that seems impossible, yet many people have achieved remarkable achievements going against all odds. Studies shows that goals tend to be reached if the end result is seemingly slightly out of reach, rather than too easy or ridiculously difficult. If it's too easy, people will lose interest. If it's too difficult, people will lose confidence and stop.

T = Make it time sensitive. Give your goal a deadline.
Example: Reduce absenteeism by 10% within 6 months.

By the time you’ve satisfied all the criteria for a SMART goal, you will have a complete goal statement. SMART goals reduce misunderstandings by being clear, measurable, realistic, and time-driven.

STEP 3 — Develop Goals
Prioritize goals. Decide which goals are most urgent and important. Estimate how much time you (or others) will need to complete the goal(s). Use the 80-20 formula for assistance in time allocation--invest 20% of your time on your top priority to be 80% effective. Look for roadblocks and factor them into your plans. Set additional goals to resolve or work around them. Obstacles are those frightening things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.

STEP 4 — Create an Action Plan
Schedule goal activities in your calendar planner. What gets written is more likely to get done if seen as a thing “to do.” Items not completed today get moved to the next day. Instead of the goal being a “BIG DEAL,” a small, bite-sized activity appears as a line item in your daily calendar. Do at least one thing each day to help advance your goal.

Ten Tips to Time Mastery
For many business professionals, time can be a tidal wave of pressure that threatens to crash the best-laid plans with the slightest provocation.
1. Diagnose where your time “flys.”
Keep a detailed daily log of your activities. Look for pockets of wasted time. Time wasted is any activity not directed to achieving specific goals.
2. Reduce time-wasting activities.
We create a great many of our time drain problems. Eliminate time drains uncovered in your activity log. Look for interruptions, meetings, crisis, inability to say “No,” lack of objectives/priorities, indecision, procrastination, unclear communication, attempting too much, leaving tasks unfinished.
3. Respect your time.
If you waste a minute a day, by the end of the year you will have lost the month of February. Treat time as "personal capital." Invest it in activities that pay off in dividends such as increasing revenue, customer retention, stress reduction, work-life balance etc.
3. Restrain time commitments.
Avoid overcommiting. Work overload leads to diminishing returns. Don't take on more than you can comfortably handle. There’s always enough time for what really matters. Save time for yourself each day. You’ll build reserves of energy you’ll need when things get hectic.
4. Sort the urgent and important.
Decide what goals must be done now (urgent) and what contributes to the mission (important). To feel in control of your time, work on reducing the number of urgent and important matters (A priorities), so that you can invest 80% of your time in important but not urgent matters (B priorities). These are goals that create life-balance, preventative measures, crisis elimination etc. Use the 80-20 rule to separate the vital few from the trivial many. Invest 20% of your time in your top priority to be 80% effective.
5. Eliminate distractions.
To eliminate time wasters, be ruthless about getting eliminating situations that intrude on your personal time. Assign interruption times, move to a quiet location, use voice mail, or start work before the crowds come in.
6. Find information fast.
Studies show that 20% of time is spent searching for and/or just handling information. To be organized, be able to put your hands on whatever you need in your workspace within 60 seconds.
7. Break the procrastination habit.
Possibly the greatest time waster of all, make a radical change in your routine and break major goal tasks into subtasks. Take it one bite at a time. Start on the easier parts first. Use the “Just so long as I’m here” technique to get the ball rolling. Reward small victories.
8. Use other people's time to leverage your own--delegate.
The greater your responsibilities, the more help you need from others. Always ask, "Who else can I get to do this for me?" Delegate, delegate, and then delegate more until you are doing only what you can do.
9. Be creative with your time.
Discard costly habits and replace them with more innovative techniques. Barter time with others; trade favors, consolidate activities geographically, plan ahead, have a Plan B ready. Keep your eye on the goal, exploring new ways of reaching it if you hit a wall. Nothing worthwhile ever came easily.
10. Add hours to your time budget by working smarter, not harder.
Use e-mail, faxes, speed-reading, memory management, referrals, making good decisions quickly, only handling paper once, multi-tasking, delegation, and other time saving tools to work smarter!

Author's Bio: 

Named "Consummate Speaker of the Year," Lorna Riley is 25+ year international professional speaker, trainer, published author, and CEO of Chart Learning Solutions & the American Training Association. She is a member of the National Speaker's Association and has earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation, an honored classification held by less than 8% of professional speakers.

Lorna's background includes sales, management, education, and a wide variety of industries. She has created over 60 training programs, 4 Coaching Guides, 60 e-Learning modules, and assessments in Sales, Leadership, Management, and Customer Service. Her organizations offer accountability programs, performance management, e-Learning, workshops, keynotes, and hiring suitability assessments. She has presented over 1,000 programs to audiences worldwide.

Lorna has authored nine books, including co-authoring with Warren Bennis, Bob Nelson, and Margaret Wheatly, three audio albums, is a frequent contributor to trade publications, and featured in national magazines and radio.

Contact Lorna Riley, 760-639-4020, www.chartlearningsolutions.com or www.straightreferrals.com