Knowing what you want – setting goals

Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal album coverImage via Wikipedia

Life is all about balance. Life and projects characteristics are not very different. Both life and projects deal with continuous change so the idea is to have a loose framework with enough structure that it provides a path to follow. If the structure is too tight or detailed you are doomed to fail which is only de-motivating.

So let’s see 2009 as a project. What are your requirements of 2009? What do you want to accomplish in your work, your projects, your life, your health etc? Treat is as a brainstorm; write down everything that comes to mind (like you would do in a requirement session in your projects). This is not a time to criticize.

After you have your brainstorm list, let’s review every goal and make them more specific. In my projects I am a big proponent of using the SMART-principle for everything from requirements, project objectives, risks and communication plans. Can you imagine going to a restaurant and the menu lists items like “Some meat prepared with a special sauce and a side”?

Many of you have heard of the SMART-principle. A as a refresher; goals should be:

This means it should be specific enough that there is no confusion about what the goal (or requirement or project objective) is about. Answering questions like Who? What? Where? When? Which? Why? How? will help you define a specific goal.


How do we know we are successful at the end? We should establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the achievement of each goal we define as well as completion criteria. For example, one of my goals for 2009 is “Reach the cave level-1 scuba dive certification in Mexico before the end of 2009.”


If we create a personal goal we need to believe the goal is achievable without significantly impacting our family or significant other and also get their support. If we are working on project goals they should be agreed to by all stakeholders. Agreement is not the same as approval since you could agree to disagree.


It is good to set your goals high, however, they should be realistic. The goal should be physically possible within the given constraints. “I am going to win Wimbledon by the end of the year 2009” if you have never touched a tennis racket in your life is not very realistic neither is “The system shall be 100% reliable and 100% available”.


Every goal should have a specific time limit so you are able to measure your progress. A time limit also keeps you accountable or you can ask someone else to help with keeping you accountable.

Setting goals and striving to reach them should become a habit so don’t get discouraged and keep trying. The more SMART you make your goals the easier it will be to know if you are on track. Give it a try: think about what you want to accomplish in 2009 and write it down in SMART language. Tomorrow we will discuss how knowing where you are today and how you got there will help you reach your goals. This counts both in your personal life as well as for your projects.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Nathalie Udo


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