Turn Your Never-Ending To-Do List Into Actionable Goals

If you’re reading this post, you probably have a daily to-do system. And at least once or twice in your career, you’ve likely experienced the high that hits on rare afternoons when you get through it all. Everything on the list is checked off. The inbox is empty. It’s a great feeling. We get it.Unfortunately, it’s usually fleeting. Within minutes, inbox zero is gone and to-dos are piling up again.Wouldn’t it be great if you could celebrate that sense of accomplishment for more than a millisecond? And not just occasionally, but every week?You can. The key is understanding the difference between task-based reminder lists and measurable, actionable goals. Today we’re going to review what actionable goals are and how to set them. 

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Daily To-Dos vs. Daily Actionable Goals

In its true form, a to-do list should be exactly what the name implies: a list of action items that need to get done, each one taking no more than an hour or two at most. If you’re on a call with Judy and promise to email her a TPS report by the end of the day, a reminder is added to the to-do list.Goals, on the other hand, are defined by Merriam-Webster as “something you are trying to achieve.” With goal lists, you’re no longer just emailing Judy a TPS report. You’re setting an objective to wow her with your creative cover sheet and three killer testing procedure specs.Where a lot of people go wrong is mixing the two together. To-do lists can easily become an overwhelming catalog of everything that needs to get done, instead of a culled list of the action items that will help you stay on track and reach more fulfilling achievements.So how do you do it?

Actionable Goals: Step 1: Set Your Overarching Goals

actionable goalsTo-dos answer a simple question: “What are you planning to do today?”Actionable goals, on the other hand, are your motivation. They represent what you ultimately want to achieve and the results you’ll use to measure (and celebrate!) success.What do you want to accomplish within the next quarter? What are the primary objectives, and what key results will you use to measure them? When you stop to answer these questions, your lists are transformed from simple sets of task-based reminders into productivity-boosting daily goals—each one driven by a master list of milestones. This is how your daily to-do list is transformed from a dumping ground of everything you must get done into a key driver of success.A great way to set actionable goals is by learning a few techniques.Use a program like Jell. In Jell, you can set all your company goals at every level in your company and all team members can view them in one place. It doesn’t matter if you use biweekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual goals, everyone can track their progress at every step of the journey. You can also use our OKR templates for goal setting.Once goals are set, you can fully integrate them into your workflow. Goals won’t be forgotten about again. Your goals will be in the front of your mind, increasing the likelihood of success. Check-in with your team every day and hold one another accountable with our daily Slack updates. Jell also allows you to check if goals were accomplished by regularly reviewing the metric and scoring team progress.

Ever heard of the SWOT analysis?

SWOT stands for
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats
A SWOT analysis assesses those four aspects of your business. Not only does SOT analyze what your company is doing best now but it also helps you devise a strategy for later. It also reveals areas that need improvement or areas competitors can exploit.Perform a SWOT analysis on your company by answering the following questions:StrengthsWhat do you do well?What unique resources can you draw on?What do others see as your strengths?WeaknessesWhat could you improve?Where do you have fewer resources than others?What are others likely to see as weaknesses?OpportunitiesWhat opportunities are open to you?What trends could you take advantage of?How can you turn your strengths into opportunities?ThreatsWhat threats could harm you?What is your competition doing?What threats do your weaknesses expose to you?Once you’ve analyzed using the SWOT method, we recommend picking (3) top priorities and turning them into SMART goals. What do we mean?
  1. SWOT analysis question: What threats could harm you?
Answer: Fast employee turnover
  1. SWOT analysis question: What could you improve?
Answer: Answering inquiries in a timely manner.
  1. SWOT analysis question: What opportunities are open to you?
Answer: Getting a CRM for our sales team.Now, let’s take these three SWOT answers and turn them into actionable SMART goals.
  1. SWOT analysis question: What threats could harm you?
Answer: Fast employee turnoverSMART goal: To retain existing talent and save on the cost of trainees, we want to reduce the current annual turnover rate of 25% to 15% by Dec 31, 2021.
  1. SWOT analysis question: What could you improve?
Answer: Answering inquiries in a timely manner.SMART goal: All customer service requests through all channels will be resolved within 24 hours of receipt.
  1. SWOT analysis question: What opportunities are open to you?
Answer: Getting a CRM for our sales team.SMART goal: Meet with 3 potential CRM companies and compare costs by August 1, 2021.Those are all examples of turning your (3) SWOT analysis questions into SMART, actionable goals.Now you’re ready to move on to setting SMART goals.SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound. Just like the above examples, look again and notice that each are SMART.Another example of this is: By December 31, 2021, 100% of Sales team members will successfully complete their Hubspot training.As you can see, this goal is specific (100% of the sales team), measurable (you can monitor who has and hasn’t finished the course), it’s achievable (all the sales team has the capability of taking this course), it’s realistic (again, all sales team members can do this), and it’s time-bound (they have to complete this course by December 31, 2021).Can you write your own SMART goals? Let’s review what they are.Specific  Your goals need to be as clear and specific as possible, otherwise, your efforts won’t be focused, and you may never get around to meeting them. When drafting your SMART goals, answer the following five “W” questions:
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is it important to accomplish it?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?
Example: Let’s say you’re leading a sales team and you’re down 3 employees for the holiday season. A specific goal might look like this: “I want to hire 3 new employees to cover our peak sales time.MeasurableMeasuring goals is important so you can track your progress and stay motivated. Analyzing progress helps you stay focused, meet deadlines, and feel proud of achieving your goals.For measurable goals, ask the following questions:
  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How do I know when the goal is accomplished?
Example: You’d like to hire 3 employees and have them trained by Nov 1, 2021for the holiday season.AchievableAchievable means realistic and attainable to be successful. Stretch your abilities but they should remain possible. When you set achievable goals, you can identify previously overlooked opportunities that can help move you closer to your goals.Achievable goals answer these questions:
  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic are the goals, based on other considerations?
Example: Ask other employees to refer their friends for the job. Ask my own network if anyone is interested in a sales position. Actively post on job boards and attend career fairs or networking events.Tip: Avoid setting goals that are dependent on another person’s decision. For example, I’d like to get a promotion by September, 20, 2021. The promotion depends on your HR team and supervisor approves it. This isn’t an achievable goal. RelevantRelevancy ensures your goal matters to you. It aligns with other relevant goals of yours. All of us need support and assistance from time to time when achieving our goals, but we must retain control over them. Goals drive everyone forward, but you’re still in the driver’s seat, responsible for the goal.Relevant goals answer yes to these questions:
  • Is this worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
  • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
Example: You might want to hire 3 additional salespeople to step in during the holiday sale, but do you have enough money and resources to bring 3 additional people onboard? Do these align with the other needs of the company? Is it a worthwhile goal right now?Timebound Any goal you make needs a time limit or target date. This sets a deadline so you can focus on the goal. It also makes the goal more realistic because no matter what, this date is going to come up and you better have achieved your goal by then. It also helps you prioritize your goals.Timebound goals answer the following questions:
  • When?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do 4-6 weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?
Example: In the sales team example, you need to hire 3 salespeople by November 1, 2021. The date is timebound. No matter what, 3 salespeople need to be hired by this date.Tip: As you define the “what” and “when” of your longer-term objectives in this first crucial step, set a realistic timeframe for measuring success. Give yourself—or your team—deadlines you can comfortably live with. 

Actionable Goals: Step 2: Break Out Your “Mini-Goals” for Project-Based Lists

With goals set, you’re ready to break down your overarching goals into subsets of smaller projects that will get you closer to achieving your goals. For example: If your objective is to generate 100 new leads, one of your project-based goals might include creating an extraordinary content marketing strategy.From here, you can further break down your subset into more granular, actionable goals: Complete a thorough competitive analysis to reveal missed opportunities, identify three unique concepts, and so on. By breaking down each overarching goal into a flow of individual actions, you redefine simple tasks as quantifiable, achievable goals.The beauty of this approach is that instead of long lists of daily to-dos, you end up with digestible, project-based lists of actionable goals. Simply start each day by taking a few minutes to pull up your outline, pick up where you left off and be honest with yourself about what you can realistically prioritize and get done in the coming day.Tip: Try out a tool like Toodledo or Trello to outline project-based lists and keep them separate from your daily “to do” reminders. 

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Actionable Goals: Step 3: Collaborate

actionable goals 2021This is the step that most people miss. When your daily goals are made visible to colleagues—through daily standups, for instance, or by setting OKRs—outstanding tasks won’t leave you in a state of paralysis. When you get stuck, you’ll have an engaged team to call upon for the solutions you need to get back on track. (Their positive feedback as you accomplish milestones can be a powerful motivator, too.) Jell lets you customize your daily standups for your team’s schedule. This is especially important for teams working across different time zones.You can also customize which questions to ask your team every day. You can choose from text, list, multiple-choice, or number style questions.That is how you set actionable goals! Keep your goals SMART, break them down into smaller “mini” goals, and collaborate with your company.Of course, you will still need to be somewhat flexible: You may have a creative idea in the middle of your project that alters your overall actionable goals, and items that seem important Monday morning may not be as pressing by Thursday afternoon. When you have a master plan, each minor adjustment will take your entire staircases closer to reaching wildly fulfilling goals.So, get ready to celebrate. 

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