I've just come back from speaking at the HR Advisors conference in Wellington. A number of other presenters, although not all talking overtly about goals, reinforced the importance of them.

From David Keane, speaking on 'The Art Of Deliberate Success': 'Really successful people don't appear to be very busy. They don't waste time on peripheral things, but instead have great clarity about what they want to achieve - and put focus and energy into only those things.'

Someone else highlighted Simon Sinek's powerful TED talk on 'Why'. (Check it out if you've not yet seen it.) If we begin all our actions from the internal focus of why something is important to us, our results will be very different from the people who begin with what or how. It's inside out thinking - starting from our deepest motivation and then working out to the details.

Another consistent conference thread was 'Design Thinking', which could be loosely described as a quick way of getting better results. It's not analytical thinking, but instead a process for problem-solving using brainstorming: it encourages creativity and innovation rather than perfection. You don't get bogged down in the how but instead focus on the big picture and then work down.


Clarity, deep motivation and big picture thinking are at the heart of goalsetting.

Is structured goalsetting too rigid?

There are a range of opinions for and against structured goalsetting. Some say it's too rigid. Others say that it's absolutely vital or we won't make any significant progress in our life.

I've specialised in time management for 24 years. Never at any time has my opinion changed as to the MOST IMPORTANT factor - a clear set of comprehensive written (or pictured) goals. If we don't have that starting point, how on earth can we make the best time choices when options (often masquerading as interruptions or other people) present themselves? I'm not saying it has to be a rigid process, however.

Robyn's Ten Tips for Effective Goalsetting


. Find a quiet spot.

2. Don't attempt it with other people making noise around you - you must have 'alone' thinking time.

3. Think as far into your future as you can - at least a year out and ideally much further ahead.

4. Listen to your intuition.


If something comes into your mind, don't dismiss it with thoughts of: 'I can't do that', or 'It's not practical'. Replace those thoughts with 'why not?'. Feel the excitement of the possibility. Picture the future.

5. Initially do goals for yourself, not the others in your life.

It's not selfish - it's just easier. If other people will be involved with some of them, negotiate later. Some things may have to be shifted out a bit but you need to be clear on your own thoughts before you can have a useful conversation with someone else.

6. Nothing is too small or too large.

A small thing can sometimes be the trigger that leads to the fulfilment of a much bigger goal.

7. Don't limit yourself - forget 'realistic' for now.

Dream big. It isn't your imminent tasks or relatively easy projects we're interested in at this stage. They come later. 'Realistic' is entirely too limiting for long-term dream goals. Who wants to be realistic? Or only choose goals that are easily achievable? How boring!

8. Write your goals down.

Many people will say, 'Oh, I know what's important to me. Why do I need to record it?'

Have you noticed that the exercise of putting your thoughts down on paper forces clarity?

9. Be very specific.

Don't just say 'I want more money', 'I want a new house', or 'I want to travel'. Instead specify how much. Describe what the house will look like. What atmosphere? How many rooms? Do you want a garden? Where will you travel? For how long? What specific activities do you wish to do when you're there?

10. Find or make pictures to represent your words and thoughts.

Make a collage, a poster, a scrapbook or some kind of visual reminder. Pictures are incredibly powerful. Get them wherever you'll see them constantly - it might be your fridge, your office wall or maybe your bathroom. After a while they'll become wallpaper and you'll hardly notice them most of the time. However, the message continues to impact your sub-conscious. It might take some years, but you'll be amazed at the result.