Your SMART Goals Are Anti-Productive… Do This Instead.


So it’s week two in Bali and we’re deep in the hunt for a villa.

We wanted to settle down fast so we booked 10 nights at a wonderful homestay and we decided to find our new nest before we ran out of time on our booking.

But by the end of last weekend we were halfway to hitting our deadline and the perfect place still hadn’t popped up on our radar.

We were sunburned, dehydrated and disappointed. We’d spent hours driving from from viewing to viewing to viewing, feeling increasingly anxious, frustrated and stressed.

Which is crazy! I mean, the whole point of living in Bali is NOT to feel caught up in the day-to-day rat-race, am I right?

So as we sat down for dinner on Sunday we took a time-out to review and reflect on our strategy.

And that’s when I realised we’d been making a classic goal-setting mistake that I should have picked up on way earlier.

Because while “Sign a 12-month lease on a villa by the 4th of October” is text-book SMART goal setting, finding the perfect home is like finding the perfect partner or becoming financially free or getting promoted.

You can’t just will those things into existence within the next fortnight because you suddenly decide they should happen. There are just too many factors outside your control to guarantee how fast and how smooth you’ll make progress.

Which is why SMART goals are awesome for planning but absolutely terrible for execution.

In fact, linking your sense of daily achievement to outcomes beyond your control is anti-productive.

You just end up beating yourself up for not hitting milestones that you could never predict in the first place. Which almost always leads to procrastinating on rather than realising the aspirational visions you set for yourself.

So what’s the solution? What’s the magic step we were missing?

The answer is to convert your output (result) goals into input (effort) goals you DO have control over.

So “Find a partner by January 1st,” becomes “Go on two dates a week until the end of the year.”

Or “Retire by my 50th birthday” becomes “Save 20% of my earnings indefinitely.”

Or in our case: “Sign a 12-month lease on a villa by the 4th of October” becomes “Visit 2 villas a day for the next 7 days (then reassess).”

Result? Instant relief, clarity and control.

We may not hit our output goal by the end of the week.

But there’s a great chance we will have accomplished our new input goal.

And we’ll have maximised our chances of finding a new home, without feeling stressed, anxious or miserable and without burning ourselves out in the process.

Isn’t that awesome? Can you see how it shifts your perspective?

In fact it’s such an important idea that I’ll be talking a lot more about it (as well as a secret way to supercharge it even further) in the free live training session I’ll be giving this Wednesday.

So if you’d like to hear more about what it takes to Become a Productivity Powerhouse: Beat Procrastination, Destroy Distractions and Get Big Things Done…

You can learn more and sign up for that here:

And I’ll look forward to catching up with you soon.

In the meantime, good luck, be awesome and go well!

Arthur is a productivity coach and writer who helps top young execs and entrepreneurs be more productive, find more balance and live more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →
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