Top athletes, kick-ass business people and pretty much all high achievers in nearly every field all set goals because setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation – plus it helps you to organize your time and your resources. This certainly was true for me.
Hello my cubicle convictions, open space schemers, corner office objectives, home den dutiful and coffee shop schemas. My name is Brock Armstrong and I am not the workplace hero. If there is a Workplace Hero around these parts, it is you my friend. And I will explain why, in a few minutes. Right now, I want to give you some data.
The first Workplace Hero podcast episode was released on March 5, 2017. Here is a snippet of the Facebook live video I did to celebrate.
Since then, I have released 30 episodes (including this one) which have received a total of about 12,000 downloads, ranging between 647 downloads for Katy Bowman’s “To Sit or Not To Sit” episode and 250 downloads for the “What Happens at Work Stays at Work” episode.
When I started the podcast, I of course had high hopes of thousands of downloads and advertiser’s banging down my virtual door but at the same time I really had no idea if anyone would listen or care (aside from my mom). And as you can see, this podcast is by no means a wild, runaway success but it is also by some measures and stats I have seen passed around on the podcast forums, performing better than 95% of the podcasts on the Apple Podcasts app.
Even more important than that though, this podcast has been a blast to produce. It really has scratched an itch that I have had for a while. I have worked as a tech and/or producer on 13 different podcasts and all but two or three of them have been interview style podcasts. You know, where two people sit down and have an organic conversation (usually over Skype) and then it was my job to try to make it sound good and make sense.
Well, I have always been more interested in creating a more produced, scripted, researched and polished podcast. This is likely due to my background in music and my occasional dips into broadcast radio. Workplace Hero is that podcast. I love the artistry that I can bring to it. The time I take to add sound effects and drum beats and music soothes my soul. Truly.
Now, I know I am rambling a bit but I do have a point here…
So let me get to it.
When I decided to commit to this podcast, I was worried that it would be harder, more time consuming, slower to take off than I had anticipated and I didn’t want to prematurely pull the plug on it before I had a chance to really experience what it was like to be a solo podcaster. I didn’t want to get 5 episodes in, realize that my mom is the only one commenting on the blog posts (which she kinda is) and that I am only getting 200 downloads per episode (remember that I have worked on shows that get 100,000 + downloads per episode so that is my frame of reference) and end the adventure before the podcast really had a chance to grow, build an audience and become part of my daily life.
So… I remembered (incorrectly, I might add) something I had read that Tim Ferriss said when he started his podcast. I incorrectly remembered him writing that he decided to do 30 episodes to see if he liked liked podcasting. What he actually wrote was “ I decided to try long-form audio for six episodes. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would throw in the towel and walk.”
Well, despite what Tim actually wrote, I decided my number was 30.
I was not allowed to stop, pull the plug, take a week off or break stride for 30 episodes. Once I reached 30, then I had a decision to make. Until then, it was business as usual. A business that is losing me money and time every week but also a business that I enjoy and hope is helping people in some small way, each week.
Today, I am happy to say that I made it to 30. Six months later, here I am sitting down to write the 30th episode.
—Fan Fare— (it literally says in my script the words fan fare… that’s how I roll.)
Anyway, whether or not my goal was set deliberately through calculation and research or was set due to a misremembered quote from the 4-Hour Workweek guy, I am very glad that I set that goal. There were certainly times along the way that if the goal had not been there – and publicly stated (which is crucial) – I am sure I would have wimped out.
Over at MindTools.com they ask the question:
Why set goals?
Well, top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in most fields all set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation and it helps you to organize your time and your resources.
By setting sharp, clearly defined goals you will see and be able to measure forward progress in what might previously have seemed like a long and occasionally pointless grind. You will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you’ve set. This certainly was true for me.
I could have easily been distracted by the downsides of working so hard on something that is growing so slowly, or spent more time staring at my website and audio analytic data than focussing on the topic for the next episode. But by having the overarching goal of hitting 30 episodes, I could see my forward progress. And by committing to those 30 episodes, I knew that once a week I needed to buckle down and put in the time required to create those episodes.
So, how do you start to set personal goals? Well, to begin with, you have to look at your goals in levels.
First you create the “big picture” of what you want to do with your time (over the next 6 months let’s say since that is how long it takes to release a 30 weekly podcasts), and identify the large-scale goal that you want to achieve in those 6 months.
Then, you break this big picture goal down into the smaller and smaller targets that you must hit to reach your big picture. For me that was to choose a topic each week, decide whether to get an expert on to talk about it, do some research, write my script, record the audio, edit the audio, and post all of that for the world to see. Each week. Without fail.
Finally, once you have your plan, you start working on it to achieve these goals.
Easy right? Well, not for everyone. I know more than a few people who have had great ideas, decide to try one and give up on it before they have given it a fair shake at all. Sure, there are ideas that don’t deserve being seen through to the end but hopefully those get vetted before the domain name is purchased, the logo is drawn and the company name is registered. I have had more than a few of those ideas. Ideas that died while I was trying to explain it to a friend, trying to choose a name for it, and one idea even died as I was pitching it to a potential investor. That was awkward.
The people over at CodeOfLiving.com have a great list called “5 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important” this is it in a nutshell:
1. Goals Give Your Focus
Imagine having to shoot an arrow without being given a target. Where would you aim? And say you did aim at some random thing (out of sheer perplexity). Why would you aim there? And what would the purpose be? Get the idea? This is a literal example of what life is like without a goal or target in mind.
Remember the story Alfred told Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight movie? When they were slowly realizing the the Joker had no real goal? “…some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” As cool as Heath Ledger was in that movie as The Joker, don’t be like him. Get some focus and have a goal.
2. Goals Allow You To Measure Progress
By setting goals for yourself you are able to measure your progress because you always have a fixed endpoint or benchmark to compare with. Take this scenario for example: Brock makes a goal to have a podcast with a minimum of 30 episodes. He starts writing and recording each week and works really hard but along the way, he loses track of how many episodes he has completed and how many more he needs to make. So rather than panicking Brock simply counts the number of episodes he has already done and he instantly determines his progress and knows how much further he needs to go. And believe me. This actually happened a few times. But when I counted the episodes, I immediately felt great and refocused because I could actually measure where I was on my trajectory. Occasionally it seemed daunting but at the same time, it made me steel my resolve.
3. Goals Keep You Locked In And Undistracted
By setting goals you give yourself mental boundaries. When you have a certain end point in mind you automatically stay away from certain distractions and stay focused towards the goal. This process happens automatically and subtly but according to research does happen. To get a better idea, imagine this. Your best friend is moving to Switzerland and his flight takes off at 9:00 PM. You leave right after work at 8:30 PM to see him off and you know it’s a 20-minute walk to get to the airport. So you make it a goal to reach the airport in 15 minutes by jogging so that you can have more time to say your goodbyes. Would you get distracted by “anything” along the way? Would you stop for a break or a snack? Would you stop by your house before going to the airport? I bet you answered no for each question and at the end of the day, this is what a goal gives you. FOCUS.
4. Goals Help You Overcome Procrastination
When you set a goal for yourself you make yourself accountable to finish the task. This is in complete contrast with when you do things based off a whim and it doesn’t matter whether you complete them or not. Goals tend to stick in your mind and if not completed they give you a “Shoot! I was supposed to do _____ today!” reminder. These reminders in the back of your head help you to overcome procrastination and laziness.
But keep in mind that super-long-term goals can actually promote procrastination. Most people aren’t good with dead lines that are 3 years away. So whenever you’re given a long term goal, break it down into several short-term goals so you can complete a chunk every week or even every day.
5. Goals Give You Motivation
The root of all the motivation or inspiration you have ever felt in your entire life are goals. Goal setting provides you the foundation for your drive. By making a goal you give yourself a concrete endpoint to aim for and get excited about. It gives you something to focus on and put 100% of your effort into and this focus is what develops motivation. Goals can be looked at as simply tools to focus your energy in positive directions, these can be changed as your priorities change, new ones added, and others dropped.
Ok, so I think we all understand that goals are important but what are the key aspects to learn and remember when setting our goals? Well, let’s start with the acronym S.M.A.R.T. which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.
Goals are no place to waffle. They are no place to be vague. Ambiguous goals produce ambiguous results. Incomplete goals produce incomplete futures.
Always set goals that are measurable. I would say “specifically measurable” to take into account our principle of being specific. And that is all I will say about that since we covered this earlier.
One of the detrimental things that many people do—with good intentions—is set goals that are so high that they are unattainable. You have to not only believe you can achieve it but actually be able to. Which leads me to…
The root word of realistic is “real.” A goal has to be something that we can reasonably make “real” or a “reality” in our lives. There are some goals that are simply not realistic. You have to be able to say, even if it is a tremendously stretching goal, that yes, indeed, it is entirely realistic—that you could make it. You may even have to say that it will take x, y and z to do it, but if those happen, then it can be done. I am in no way saying that you shouldn’t have a big hairy audacious goal, but it must be realistic.
Every goal should have a timeframe attached to it. One of the powerful aspects of a great goal is that it has an end—a time in which you are shooting to accomplish it. As time goes by, you work on it because you don’t want to get behind, and you work diligently because you want to meet the deadline.
Ok. So here is your homework. Sometime this week, I want you to sit down and define your dreams and goals.
One of the amazing things we seem to have innately as humans is the constant ability to have dreams of a better life and the ability to establish and set goals to live out those dreams. We can pretty much always look within ourselves and dream of some better situation. We can dream of better financial, emotional, geographical or even business lives. But we also the ability to pursue those dreams—and the cognitive ability to lay out a plan along with the strategies to achieve those dreams.
So, what are your dreams and goals? Have you ever really sat down and thought through your life values, or your ethos, and decided what you really want out of this life, this year or even this month? Your goals are there inside you. We all have them. They might be right on the surface just waiting to jump out, or they may be buried deep and require some coaxing.
Your homework is to schedule some quiet “goal time” this week. With no people around. Certainly no cellphones. No computer or tablet. Just a pen and paper. And of course your thoughts.
Remember not to judge your goals, just let them happen and then write them down.
What really interests you? What would you love to do, for fun or for a living? What would you like to accomplish? What would you try, if you had no fear of failure?
Write down your goals as you have them. Again, don’t judge. That is for later. Right now, just have them and write them down.
Now, when the well is truly dry and you are just coming up with random crap, take some time to prioritize the good dream you wrote down. Which are most important? Which are most exciting? Which are possible in the short term? Which are longer term? Put them in the order in which you will plan to actuate them. Remember, we should all be like Luke Cage, always moving forward, forward always.
And the final step in your homework is to pick one of the goals and tell someone about it. When someone else knows what your goals are, they hold you accountable simply by being a good friend and occasionally asking you “how’s it going”.
I have a monthly Master Mind Skype call (ok, we actually call it Skype Beers) with my friend Dean and he is the perfect person to keep me accountable. Not because he is a slave driver or a jerk but because he is genuinely interested in my projects and always asks about them. And that is all a good goal needs.
If a goal is set and you are only one person who knows it, does it really have any power? I would say, no. A goal is never as powerful without some one holding you to your word.
For me this worked extremely well.
End of Season One
And so, my Workplace Heroes, this brings me to the end of Season One of this podcast. I am going to take a break from the weekly delivery for a bit to focus on a few other projects and go hike around Peru. When I am back I will declare my next goal and see that through to it’s completion. But please don’t unsubscribe from this podcast or the newsletter because I have some fun plans to slip into the feed from time to time. And I think you are going to enjoy it. So stay tuned, as they used to say back in the time when TVs actually had tuners.
Until then, you know what to do. Go make this goal count.
Workplace Hero is researched, written, narrated and recorded by me Brock Armstrong in smoky downtown Vancouver. Podcast artwork by Ken Cunningham and music by my old band, The Irregular Heartbeats. Feel free to reach out anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any workplace heroics you need help with. I am sure they have wifi on Machu Picchu, right?