How to balance long term goals and short term goals (when you are really busy)

Have you ever wondered how to manage long and short term goals to make sure that while you are getting on with the everyday stuff you are still achieving your long term objectives?

Surprisingly, lots of people have trouble with this, so here’s what you need to do.

1 Start with SMART goals, targets and objectives

Make sure you have got your objectives really clear to start with, so that you will know when they have been achieved.

Make them nice and specific, even if they are the long-term ones years away.

2 Take the long-term ones and break them down into very small steps.

The further away and bigger they are, the smaller the tasks need to be. Here’s an example.

Back in 2003 we had no products at Vinehouse. So I set myself the long-term goal of having 20 products within the next five years.

To break it down, I started with just an average per year. It’s about three. Then I started working on a plan for the first product, our booklet “How to Write Objectives That Work”.

To fit in the time it took between all the consultancy projects and training I was doing at the time, I broke that one down:

  1. Identify the key topics
  2. Identify the sub topics for each of the key topics
  3. Write one or part of one key topic (there are about 10 of these)
  4. Review and re-write the topics

Breaking it into smaller and smaller tasks meant that I was able to squeeze them in whenever I had a moment. This could be on a train, in a hotel room or even waiting for a call. Or I could schedule in a short time: an hour or just half an hour, to do a small task.

In this way I made progress on the long-term goal whilst still keeping up with all the daily short-term goals.

Just getting one or two of these tasks completed each week meant that in a couple of months I had virtually written the first booklet, but it didn’t seem like a huge effort.

We now have 14 of booklets, and lots of other products besides. We met our goal and in the mean time still managed to achieve the short–term goals.

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Another Tip for Achieving Long-Term Goals

Review your progress. It’s always good to see that you are progressing towards your goal. Have a little chart or graph where you log your progress.

It makes a huge difference to realise that your task is half completed. Even a chart you fill in with pencil will do, it doesn’t have to be fancy at all.

Should Mission Statements be SMART Objectives or SMART Goals?

Have you seen many mission statements? I bet you have. In case not, here are a few:

  • To be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders.
  • It is our job to continually foster world-class infrastructures as well as to quickly create principle-centred sources to meet our customer’s needs.
  • Our challenge is to assertively network economically sound methods of empowerment so that we may continually negotiate performance-based infrastructures.
  • To improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities.
  • Respect, integrity, communication and excellence.
  • G.M. is a multinational corporation engaged in socially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide products and services of such quality that our customers will receive superior value while our employees and business partners will share in our success and our stock-holders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.
  • To create competitive advantage by building a strong team
  • To be the most trusted supplier of _________
  • To build a global medium as central to people’s lives as the telephone or television… and even more valuable.
  • To be the most trusted supplier of _________

Two of these are from Dilbert – can you spot them? The others are all ‘real’.

Have you any idea what most of them mean? What is a ‘trusted supplier’? How would you know you were the ‘best’?

Mission statements should be SMART too

I believe that mission statements should be written just as clearly and concisely as SMART goals or objectives. But not everyone would agree.

Just this week I was talking about this to an audience of very well-educated MBAs. One of them, Elena Shalneva, a financial PR executive, piped up to say she wrote mission statements as part of her daily job.

It was one of those worrying moments. I’m not an expert in mission statements and I know that many people think they should be motivating rather than concrete. I don’t like statements that are fluffy, like the ones above.

Elena, it turned out, agreed with me. She said that she didn’t like the ones that were just marketing statements.

Why do mission statements need to be SMART?

It’s more difficult to write a clear mission statement that is clear and concrete. It’s also more obvious if you fail. When the mission statement is woolly, then no one knows if you fail, but it sounds nice.

But a mission statement that is clear and concrete makes it much easier for people to understand and, for those in the organisation, it’s much easier for them to see how they can contribute.

For that reason alone, it just has to be the best option.

SMART mission statement from Star Trek

Nancy Slessenger posing as Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek

Here’s one of the best-known mission statements. And it isn’t fluffy. You may recognise it:
“To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

If you don’t recognise it, here are the words that usually precede it:
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission…”
(Beam me up Scotty)

Get help on making your mission and objectives SMART – Get “How to Write Objectives that Work” now

SMART Objectives But Still No Good

Wine glass illustrating badly aligned but SMART objectives or goals

SMART objectives. goals and targets can still cause problems if you run out of glasses

Could you run a drinking party in a brewery?

Well, perhaps not if you didn’t have enough glasses to go round. Imagine going to a pub, ordering a glass of wine and then being told that you couldn’t have one, not because they didn’t have your preferred wine in stock but because they have no wine glasses.

This is what happened to a friend of mine recently.

How It Happens

The problem was caused because the company had a budget for wine glasses and it had all been spent that year, so no one was allowed to buy any more glasses. As you can imagine, this had an impact on sales.

Anyone can see that this is a false economy. So how could a pub possibly end up in this situation? Very easily, and so could you.

A SMART Objective

Here’s the kind of objective that leads to this problem:
Keep spending on wine glasses within the budget of £500 over the year.

Is it a SMART Objective?

This is specific, certainly measurable – you can tell how much you have spent on wine glasses, absolutely achievable (just don’t spend the money), realistic and relevant (whichever you prefer) and it has a time scale. So it is SMART Objective or SMART Goal.

But it is not aligned with some of the other company goals and objectives. And there’s the problem.

Cost Cutting

The trouble is that when there is a large emphasis on cost-cutting (and who hasn’t got that at the moment?) it’s easy to get a bit carried away and start cutting off your nose to spite your face.

So it’s very important to get these objectives right.

What Should The Objective Be?

The objective here needs to be about profit:
Achieve £100 profit/day

Or (probably more sensible)

Achieve an average profit of £500/week over the year. This takes into account seasonal and weekly fluctuations.

Or you could have a profit objective for the whole year:
Make £26,000 profit by Dec 31st.

Why Your Objective Needs to Be Like This

All these give the pub landlord the ability to manage his or her own costs and focus on what’s important, instead of telling the landlord how to achieve it.

It may be useful for the landlord to know what you generally expect each pub to spend on glasses or what sales you can expect of specific products through the year. But each pub will be different to some extent.  The landlord needs to be able to make decisions that will enable him or her to achieve the objectives in that particular pub.

Hamstringing a manager makes it very hard for them. But often, senior managers think that it’s what they need to do. It gives the impression that the senior managers don’t trust the people on the ground. Perhaps they don’t.

I remember a time of financial constraint when I worked in a factory many years ago. We were told that no manager in our grade could sign a Purchase Order for any more than £5.

You can imagine how we felt. And you won’t be surprised to learn that we spent the next few weeks working out ways to get round the system.

Even then I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just let us know what the problem was so we could work with them to solve it.

More on SMART objectives, SMART goals or SMART targets and what they should include.

Feedback Made More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

“I have some feedback for you.” How do you feel when someone – especially your boss – says that to you?

Do you have trouble giving feedback to others? Do you hate getting feedback? Most people do.

What would it be like if, instead of someone else having to give it to you, you could get it without any embarrassment or awkwardness?

It’s hard to think of any disadvantages of this situation.

Back Seat Drivers

If you drive, you probably prefer to look in the rear view mirror yourself instead of having someone else tell you that there is someone behind you. That way you get the information immediately and without any filtering.

At work we often make people wait (till their performance review or appraisal) to get feedback.

By then it’s way too late for them to do anything about it. Imagine someone telling you that, in a meeting three months ago with a very important customer or senior manager, you had spinach in your teeth. And it’s happened several times since then.

Why didn’t they tell you before? Much better to have a mirror and check yourself before an important meeting (or perhaps immediately after eating spinach).

The Best Way to Get Feedback

I have a device on my car that tells me if I have left any lights on. It’s so much less annoying than getting up in the morning to find the battery is flat (which has happened). There are lots of ways you can get feedback if you put your mind to it.

Once you have set up systems to do this and you monitor them regularly you will find that your performance improves much more quickly than before.

Find out more about how to give and get feedback in my booklet “Feedback for the Faint-Hearted”

Feedback – Tool or Weapon?

You have a choice. You can take control of feedback and use it as a tool to improve your whole life, or you can let it be used as some kind of unguided missile.

If you get feedback that surprises you or comes as a nasty shock, that tells you that you need to review your feedback systems and improve them.

So start by working out your objectives (make them SMART objectives or goals) and then ask yourself how you would know you were making progress against them. Then work out a way of getting that information often enough to keep you on the right track.

To find out more about what SMART goals and SMART objectives are really for see this blog.


Personally I love graphs. I can’t help it. But don’t worry if that’s not your style. Find another way. As long as you know you are moving in the right direction.

You’re Getting Warmer

Feedback illustrated by a picture of a thimble

Getting warmer with "hunt the thimble"

Did you ever play that game “Hunt the thimble”? One person would hide a thimble while another member of the group was out of the room. The thimble-hunter would then have to find the thimble using the clues of ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’ that the others shouted out.

That’s all you need. Something to tell you if what you are doing is getting you warmer or colder.

Photos © Rob Whyard 2011