Let’s not do lunch.  Let’s not do coffee, or happy hour, or dinner either.  Let’s not even say any of those things unless there’s a date and time and location set, or at the very least an agreement about when and how the date and time and location will be agreed upon.

Handsome man enjoying burger and coke

Handsome man enjoying burger and coke

Let’s not do what some people call setting goals.

Many of them are not really goals because they have no time frame attached to them.  They are dreams, fantasies, or at best they could be called intentions. Let’s not misunderstand – intentions can be good when they are good.  Intentions, generalized ideas of what you want to happen, help to sort through seemingly unrelated and endless data in the environment and pick out what might be in alignment with the intentions.  Better sorting of your environment means that you notice when opportunities arise, or connections, or information, or resources become available.

A key drawback in relying upon intentions, though, is that they involve a waiting process.  Goal achievement, on the other hand, is an action-taking process.  Unless a specific target date is attached to a specific, measurable, achievable, stretching intention, it’s not really a goal.

No more rolling target dates
Did you ever tell yourself or others that you would lose 10 pounds in the next month?  Guess what – your brain hears “in the next month” and that month keeps rolling forward.  If you want that goal to provide a sense of urgency and to inspire behavior in alignment with it, your brain has to be able to see that targeted day, month and year approaching. (“Sometime soon” is a standard “let’s do lunch” accompaniment. It’s another rolling target date.)

The big reason why set delivery dates “slip”
One of the commonly stated obstacles to goal achievement (delivery of the desired result on time) is “too many interruptions.”  If that’s your issue, then let’s think it through. How much of your day is currently consumed by interruptions?  If it’s 50%, rather than fight that fact or ignore it and be frustrated later, build it into your plan. Double the amount of time you allow for each of the action steps in your goal.  Build the interruptions right into your plan and set the progress evaluation dates accordingly.

This post is all about doing what you say you will do – about setting target dates and hitting them consistently. So today we won’t deal with the question of whether you should be engaging in interruption prevention by planning, building relationships, developing your staff, or by establishing sacred office hours and ground rules.  But if you’re frustrated that your goals keep languishing while less important tasks are intervening you won’t see better results until you take that into hand.

Forward- oriented timeline planning
Do this by thinking from your start date, through all of the action steps involved in your plan.  Give each step its own evaluation target date based upon the expected elapsed time needed to complete it.  When you add all of the time up you’ll arrive at your ultimate target date for the goal to be completed.

Deadline (backward) oriented time planning
There are instances where the target date for your entire goal is absolutely immovable.  So you start from there and work backward.  If you want the whole goal to be complete by September 30, by what date do you have to be finished with step 10?  By when do you have to complete step 9 (the step right before that one)?  And so on – and with any luck you won’t have to start implementing your goal two weeks ago to have it done by the drop dead date.

Leadership is about taking responsibility for your results. It’s about doing what you say you are going to do – it’s in your follow-through. Maybe you can do lunch after all – with Harry next Tuesday at noon at the diner on the corner of Market and Third!