I’ve talked about productivity and similar resources various times, though sparingly, since writing consistently for the past eight or so years this October (can’t believe it’s been that long).

Though I try to stay true to the whole slogan that I pronounce (that is, Practical WordPress Development), there are times that I like to share things that I think can’t help those involved in the industry that is tangentially related to software or web development.

Writing

And in this case, that’s what this post is about; however, I’m going to try to break it into two short reads. In short, the purpose of this is what it means to set a goal, how to go about achieving it, and how to do so both regarding working on self-employment, fitness, or otherwise, as well as how it relates to side-projects (and specifically programming).

I’ll start with the former, first.

How to Set a Goal: Anything but Programming

For many of us, we’re often told to set achievable goals, right? I mean, achievable differs from person to person as does the goal.

But what happens when we don’t achieve the goal?

  • Was the goal too high (or too intense)?
  • Was a misstep (or were missteps) made at some point?
  • Can the goal be recalibrated so it’s a multi-step goal?

It can be demoralizing whenever we miss a goal be it in business, in fitness, or in other hobbies. It breeds a sense of defeat and rightly so.

But does it justify not trying again? I don’t think so.

Instead, why not keep the same goal but set mini-goals before getting to it. And here’s the second part of it that I’ve personally found about goal setting:

It’s one thing to set a goal, but when setting a goal, you need to make a plan.

In other words, maybe the idea of “how to set a goal” goes something like this:

  1. set a goal,
  2. make a plan.

It sounds silly, exudes common sense, and it sounds like what we should be doing each time we set out to achieve a goal, right? But, for whatever reason, how often do we fail to meet a given goal?

Personally speaking, there are plenty of times I’ve done it myself:

  • in business, I didn’t hit a target regarding profit for a quarter,
  • in relationships, I’ve messed up something that could’ve been alleviated had I defined what the goal was and then worked wth the other person to understand and achieve it,
  • in fitness, I did hit some reps or a certain time for a given mile,
  • and so on.

So yeah, it happens. I’m sure it’s happened to you in some way at some point, too. It’ll probably happen to us again in multiple ways. But why not try to minimize that?

So “How Do I Do” the How I’m Gonna Do It?

For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been doing a lot more reading than usual. I’ve been able to accomplish this because of how I’ve been planning my time and orienting myself in my day-to-day.

On top of that, I’ve been trying to coordinate certain things around fitness for the final quarter of the year, budgeting for the business (and my wife and I doing so at a personal level if I’m honest).

I’ve never shied away from sharing that I have and that I use notebooks (and a lot of them).

How To Set a Goal: Notebooks

But I don’t think I’ve ever articulated the degree to which it not only helps to write down what I want to do but how I plan to do it. And I’m sharing this because in doing this, especially over the last six weeks – and even throughout the summer months – I’ve found that there’s more to the “how I plan to do it” than I’ve previously considered.

And in those steps of trying to get a goal marked down as a task to achieve or an event to add to a calendar, there’s the natural list of things that need to get done. Here’s the thing, though:

Break that “list of things” down into even more granular order.

I was going to use an example of self-employment, but why not something more fitness-oriented and less financial-oriented?

  • You have a goal to run a 10k (or 6.2 miles).
  • To start, you decide to head out for a run to start getting into shape.

That’s not exactly a great plan because it requires incremental improvement. But how much incremental improvement? Where do we start? And so on. Let’s assume that you’re someone who hasn’t done a lot of running in a long time, so you need to start with the basics.

How To Set a Goal: Running

First, define the goal:

  • Set aside three months to work up from nothing to 3 miles.
    • That means you have 12 weeks to work up to running three miles.
    • Ultimately, then, you want to be able to run one mile longer than you did the month before.
  • This is roughly 90 days to achieve that goal. But there are more details to that
    • You don’t want to run every day because you need to let your body rest.
    • So you break it out into three days a week.
    • That means the schedule is roughly 30 days to work up from nothing to 3 miles.
  • So for a given month, you’re adding one mile.
    • For a given month, you’re running three times a week, or you’re running 12 times a month.
    • Each run, then, should be slightly longer than the last.
    • At a minimum, you should be running about 8% more each time. In the first week, you’re running a quarter of a mile. In the second week, you’re running a half a mile, in the third week, you’re running 3/4 of a mile, and in the fourth week, you’re running one mile.
    • Then you repeat. The thing is, it does get harder. Some runs are also easier than others so you feel like you can go further but then you may injure yourself and set yourself back. Conversely, some runs are harder than others, and you feel like you can’t go the distance. So don’t or walk part of the way.
  • After being consistent, listening to your body, and formulating a plan so that it’s broken down into the most granular level possible, you have a way to achieve a larger goal because you’ve aimed for it accordingly.

To be clear, this is just an example. I’m not a coach, a nutritionist, or anything like that. In other words, don’t take this anything more than an example – it’s not advice nor prescriptive.

What About Concrete Steps?

It’s meant to demonstrate how to take a larger goal and then break it into a plan. So it would go something like this:

  1. I have a goal to achieve.
  2. To achieve this goal, I need to be able to do this thing.
  3. To be able to do this thing I need to be able to do another thing a few times.
  4. So I need to define a goal that allows me to achieve that thing once.
  5. Then I need to set a goal that allows me to achieve that thing a few times.
  6. After that, I aim to achieve the goal multiple times.
  7. Then I aim to achieve the initial goal.

This particular process has been something that I’ve been using to break down each thing I need to do that seems a bit daunting at first. It’s one thing to look at a goal and then shy away from it because it seems too big.

It’s another thing to look at a goal long enough until it’s not only possible to see it as something made up of smaller things, but that each smaller thing is completely able to be tackled on its own.

It’s like taking the composite pattern outside of programming, reducing it, then performing it.

This Is Common Sense

Some of the above may seem obvious or intuitive. But to some, it’s not. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If it were common sense, then it might be less of a challenge for us to achieve certain things, too.

(Further, I’d add that if you think it’s not, then you simply haven’t talked with enough people who struggle with procrastination. The struggle is real, as they say.)

The whole point of me wanting to share this is because it’s something that I’ve personally experienced, it’s something that’s helped, and it’s something that will maybe help you. That is, I’m not the only one who’s experienced this type of thing before.

Next, Programming

Anyway, programming seems to fit the part and partial with this right? You have a goal of building something and the steps necessary to complete the said goal is the statements written as part of our conditionals and loops and constructs.

Then those constructs are part of a function which works within a class, perhaps, that interacts with a larger system.

But I’ll talk more about this in the follow-up post.

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