A Goal Framework is one very simple way to break down complex goals into simple action steps – it’s one way to actually get goals (rather than just setting them). The basis of Frameworks is the idea of doing one small thing every day towards a goal, and having all these small steps add up to larger milestones, and eventually, the end goal. It also has the built-in idea of inevitability, which is the concept that you will get to the goal by the end of the framework period.
Goal Frameworks comes from the business discipline of Project Management. In the business world, project managers are essentially matrix organizers who pull together resources and ideas from different parts of a company to push through a project that benefits the entire company. We can borrow their best practices and structures and apply it to our personal life, to help us achieve our own goals.
Goal Frameworks tend to work well for goals that are 1-3 months in length. They also aren’t fixed in stone. Much like a business project, iterations and updating are required as the project progresses.
Here’s an outline of all the component pieces of a Goal Framework. This is something we developed internally at Asian Efficiency, and we’ve never seen anything similar elsewhere.
The Overview acts as an introduction and simple reminder for the goal at hand. Simply write out what the goal is, and how it benefits your life in the long term. This doesn’t have to be complicated – a couple of sentences will do – and we’ll provide examples in the section below.
Angles are different ways that you can approach/attack a goal. We write them down in order to work out what to do. Essentially, they are a list of different ways that you will progress towards your goal.
The “standard” angles for most goals are:
- Acquiring knowledge: via books, audio, video, mentors.
- Implementation: doing it in the real world.
- Drills: creating supporting structures and exercises to make habits stick.
- Reviews: check-ins to assess progress and help with iterations if necessary.
If you’ve done your goal setting properly, then you’ll already have a couple of reasons why you’re pursuing a particular goal. With a Goal Framework, you want to expand this – come up with a long list of reasons why you want something. This will help with motivating you to stick with the Framework as you progress towards the goal.
In Project Management terms, scope refers to the upper limits of a project. It’s basically defining what will be included in project, and what won’t be. With a Goal Framework, a scope stops the goal from stretching out beyond it’s original intent and makes it realistic.
You want to write down the upper limits of what a goal includes – and if necessary, what it doesn’t. One of the main reasons most people never achieve their goals is that they set a moving target – they begin with a goal, and continually stretch it out as they progress.
This is essentially a day-by-day plan of what you’re going to do. Best explained through the examples below.
Clarification and Guidelines
Here you want to write out principles that will help you make decisions that arise as you pursue your goal, as well as address any questions and answers. These can be choices regarding scope, regarding how you should behave when you hit barriers or roadblocks, or when emergencies arise.
Check-ins are your metrics and measurements for the goal.
Usually, you want to measure in:
- Time spent on a goal.
- The currency of the goal – be in dollars, words written or points scored.
- The number of processes completed. This tells you if you “put in the work” or not.
Goal Frameworks can really be applied to anything, for example:
- Reading a book.
- An exercise program.
- A new diet.
- Learning public speaking skills.
- Learning a new software program.
We’ll provide a couple of simplified examples below – from them, you will be able to see how you can structure your own Goal Frameworks.
Example: Business Book
This is a very simple example – reading a business book.
To read, understand and implement the chosen business book, within 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks, I will have read the book, have a comprehensive Mindmap of the book, and an Implementation Plan that can be put into action.
- Daily reading quota.
- Start a mindmap and update with “big ideas” as they arise from reading the book. Mindmap will be fleshed out once reading is done.
- Start an implementation plan and update with “big ideas” as they arise from reading the book. Implementation plan will be improved upon and codified once reading is done.
- Importance to my business.
- Better understanding of [business topic].
- Better understanding of business information technology.
- Gain a different perspective about [business topic].
- Cross it off my reading list.
This goal is limited to this book only. Mindmap and implementation plan can take into account existing knowledge (in my mind) and the problems and challenges of my current business, but nothing beyond. If necessary, read the footnotes in the book for clarification on certain points, and use Google for online research to better understand concepts from the book.
- Read 30 pages a day.
- Mindmap as-I-go.
- Write Implementation Plan as-I-go.
Clarification and Guidelines
- When I have idle time, read the book.
- When I have to make the decision “what should I do now”, read the book rather than watching TV or reading news.
- Number of pages read per day.
- Completed mindmap.
- Completed implemenation plan.
Example: Getting Organized
Here’s a more complex example of a goal framework, and one that you can use yourself, or pass onto others who need to get organized. Note that it’s not a full example (you’ll be able to tell from the Scope Limitation), but it’s a foundational basis you can build upon.
To become more organized and systemized in the way I handle my papers and tasks. To become more productive as a result of this – getting more things done in less time. To never accidentally “forget” something that needs to be done, and to always be on top of things. To do all this within the space of 1 month.
- Theory: Asian Efficiency’s articles on Simple Task Management, Schedule Management and Productivity.
- Implementation: Clearing out any existing items.
- Drills: Implementing a morning ritual to start each day productively.
- Review: A weekly review to see what has been cleared, and what needs to be cleared the following week.
- No more missed deadlines.
- No more things accidentally forgotten.
- Always on top of things.
- Better sense of balance and that life is manageable.
- Physical space and sorting.
- Existing items in mind and physical storage (post-it notes, todo lists, papers).
- No backdating logs or journals (e.g., schedule).
- Todo list.
|Week 1||Gather papers into inbox.||Gather and Sort physical inbox: throw out, file, or set aside for digitizing.||Digitize physical items.||Read article on morning rituals.||Practice Morning Ritual. Continue clearing physical inbox.||Morning Ritual. Physical Inbox clearance.||Morning Ritual (continue for 4 weeks). Physical inbox clearance.|
|Week 2||Brain dump. Read Simple Task Management.||Brain dump. Pick and set up Simple Task Management system of choice (text document or Things).||Brain dump. Sort: cross out, file, or convert to action.||Brain dump. Sort: cross out, file, or convert to action.||Brain dump. Sort: cross out, file, or convert to action.||Tidy up task management system with actions from brain dump.||Day off!|
|Week 3||Read Schedule Management.||Digitize paper diary.||Digitize paper diary.||Digitize paper diary.||Digitize paper diary.||Schedule in future appointments from brain dump.||Schedule in future appointments from brain dump.|
|Week 4||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.||Practice. Morning Ritual. Task Manager. Schedule Management. Inbox-to-list process.|
Clarification and Guidelines
- When it doubt, throw it out.
- One source for everything – one calendar, one task list.
- When labeling or tagging items, more detail is best.
- Amount of physical space cleared.
- Number of todo lists – how many have been consolidated.
- Physical calendar digitized.
- Tasks completed.
- Reviews completed.
Goal Frameworks are a simple and structured way to turn seemingly-overwhelming goals into simple day-to-day tasks and items that add up to that large goal. It isn’t necessary to use Goal Frameworks for all goals, and the process does work better with some than others.
Photo by: paul (dex)
Questions or comments? Want help creating a framework for a particular goal you have in mind? Ask away!
This is very interesting take on goal setting! I’m looking forward to put this into practice!
I would like to add one piece to this framework: Accountability.
That would add some pressure to get stuff done and executed on a daily basis.
I actually wrote a bit about telling others as a form of accountability in the upcoming newsletter for January:
I’ve found that accountability works well for some people, and horribly for others. I believe it has to do with how we reference our self-image. People who have a primarily external measure of self-image do great with accountability – tell others about your goals, and make sure they know you want them to hold you accountable. People who have an internal measure of their self-image do horribly with accountability. No matter how many people they tell, they need to become internally motivated to make the goal work. No amount of kicking or screaming from other people is going to push them to get more stuff done.
Of course, there’s always external pain/pleasure accountability, ala give your friend $700 and he only gives you $100 back for each day you’re up and working hard at 6am =)