A common thought people have when considering a time-tracking application, or any time management system, is how to keep track of those intangible goals. By that I mean those goals that don’t have a clear beginning and end, that are ongoing but for an indefinite period of time. Obviously, it is simple to determine how much time we spend engaging in these activities, but how do we track time against them to determine efficiency? Unless you can do this, it becomes easy to spend either too much or too little time on a task to produce a benefit. All this considered, the issue actually lies with the goals themselves, not the time management methodology. Here are three ways to set achievable, trackable goals.
1. Become S.M.A.R.T.
This advice is fairly common, and for good reason. S.M.A.R.T. goals are, by definition, simple to track and determine progress for. What is that definition, you ask? S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Thus, if you can convert all your goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals, they will lend themselves well to any time management system. By introducing a time constraint, it is possible to measure progress as a function of the overall time required to complete the goal. In other words, you can recalibrate efforts to an appropriate level if you are progressing too slowly or expending too much energy on a goal that does not require it.
2. Clearly Prioritize
Whenever you set a new goal (or begin setting goals in the first place), developing a hierarchy of priority can help immensely. There are many tools for this, including the popular app iOS “clear.” By contextualizing goals in terms of relative importance, it is easy to determine allocations of time and energy. If they are S.M.A.R.T., you can also determine whether or not you are spending the right amount of time on a lower priority goal. At first glance this seems obvious, but the reality is unless we take the time to actually sit down and prioritize, odds are that we don’t actually know what is most important at any given time. Particularly when you are working on multiple projects in different areas of a business, prioritizing will save a lot of hassle and will give you the ability to say “no.”
A goal that is not communicated faces a bigger hurdle to success than one that is. As humans, we often need to have our feet held to the fire before we can produce our best work. So, whether it be in a team meeting or simply in a quick email to a co-worker, let someone know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Even if they do not have a stake in the outcome, the knowledge that someone else is expecting you to complete a goal will increase the pressure (in a good way), and also the likelihood that you will finish. Disappointing yourself is one thing, disappointing a co-worker or manager is something else entirely!