Tag: goals

Going from Abstract Goals to Measurable Results

A few posts back I wrote about how important it is to think about results when you’re leading a remote team.

The TL:DR was that whether your team is remote or local,  clear, measurable expectations up front, ideally through consensus. Those expectations should come with a set of results that everyone agrees will have the desired outcome, results that help move bigger pieces into place, help to create impact toward a larger objective or outcome.

It turns out that these results are the trickier part of that equation – we very frequently, as humans, have personal and professional desires that don’t fit that neatly into check lists or “improve 10%” style goal sheets.

I’ve spoken to a few folks about this since creating that post, so I’d like to dip into this idea with a little more depth, if you’ll allow it.

Results are measurable, but they are only indicators.

OK, Simon, what does that mean?

I’m going to borrow from a friend of mine here, Bryce Boratko. I met Bryce when I was working in Providence, RI – I had three jobs at the time, one at a bakery, one at a community college, and one at the newly-opened Crossfit Providence.

Bryce was a former chef, having worked in Michelin starred kitchens, turned really extraordinary strength and conditioning coach. He was coaching at Crossfit Providence, and I remember a conversation that I had with him around that time.

I was talking with him about how I enjoyed Crossfit because it was a kind of exercise that mimicked my sport at the time, rugby. I liked that it made me better at rugby, or felt like it did.

He nodded, and said, “What do you want to get out of working out here?”

I said, “I want to get stronger!”

He kept nodding, “Ok, how will you know when you’re stronger?”

And I didn’t have a great answer for that. I’d been going to the gym for a long time, since junior high school really, with this abstract objective of becoming a stronger version of myself.

Through conversations with Bryce it became much more clear to me that what was more important was understanding what would indicate to me what being strong meant to me. It turned out to involve heavy back squats – but that’s a story for another day.

I could never put a number on what it meant to be a stronger version of myself – what I could do was look at where I was at that moment, and a place where I could say with certainty that I’d moved in the right direction.

I knew if I could lift X weight, Y number of times, that I was moving in the right direction. These small, measurable outputs were indicators of a larger change taking place.

This is important – small, measurable steps will always be more effective than large, abstract goals.

Javascript is different than lifting weights, Simon.

Well, it is and it isn’t, right? Any Big Goal that feels hard to put a number to is abstract in the same way. As a leader or as an autodidact or as anyone who wants to get better, being able to break your big, abstract goals into measurable, actionable results is key to your success and your team’s success. Here are some examples of Big Goals:

  • Learn JavaScript
  • Become a better team lead
  • Get a dream job

None of these goals are going to take well to quantification. What you can do, more productively, is ask yourself: what would indicate to me that I’m moving in the right direction?

Another great question to ask during this process is, “What would someone who already is a great team lead / JavaScript developer / dream job-holder be doing right now?”

Through this kind of questioning we can break our Big Goals down into more measurable next-steps, smaller results that indicate that we’re moving in the right direction:

  • Submit 10 pull requests to an open source JavaScript project before July
  • Create a survey for folks on my team so I can measure my progress month over month
  • Cold email 20 people with the job title I want and offer to buy them coffee

Results are the bricks. Your goals are the house.

Going from here to there, whether “there” is a personal goal (“Be Stronger”) or a business goal (“Get More Customers”), requires steps, steps that you can look at and check off a list and say to yourself, that’s done. What’s next? 

2015: The Good Stuff

2015: The Good Stuff

This is the third chunk of my 2015 wrap up series. Here are my broad goals for 2016, and here are the things that I think I could have done better in 2015. 

My vision statement for 2015 was “Send value into the universe, selflessly.” Looking back today, in January 2016, I think that I stayed true to that vision statement. Both at work and at home, I spent a lot of time and brain power finding ways to create value, create connections between people, and unlock the treasures that were trapped inside their own little silos.

Like my list of things that could have gone better, I’m going to try to focus on things that I directly created or did, rather than simply thought about. These are the things that count, I think.

Continue reading “2015: The Good Stuff”

Looking Forward: 2016 and Beyond

Looking Forward: 2016 and Beyond

I figure I’ll put together a 2015 recap soon – there are a lot of calendars and old Posts and such to dig through before I really have a great grasp on what the year really was about.

What I’m doing here is putting together a quick bullet-point list of things I’d like to put on my big-picture to-do list for 2016, or at least the first half of 2016. I figure I’ll hash these out in greater detail as they become more focused, but for now I think an outline of how I’d like 2016 to go is appropriate.

Big Picture:

  • Have perpetual, recurring, family activities. Swim classes, regular rituals, etc.
  • Eat more, better food.
  • Make fitness a practice and not a means to an end.
  • Focus on fewer things, more deeply.

More measurable:

  • Produce side revenue of ~50% of my take-home salary.
  • Release an interview every Thursday.
  • Do at least 2 more 30 Day Challenges (maybe with d3? more R? Python?)
  • Publish twice weekly on s12k, focusing on remote work and remote leadership, with an average word count of > 500 words

November Reading Roundup

Another month, another missed Reading Goal – here’s the rundown:

– I finished Drive, thanks entirely to the rare foresight I executed in buying the audiobook. November was a pretty crazy month for travel (we drove almost 1000 miles in November), so being able to listen to Drive in the car really saved me. I’m still counting it toward my reading goal!

– I only finished about a third of Antifragile, but I have discussed it with more people than any other book I’ve read in 2014. I’m excited to finish it – it’s the kind of book that I think about a lot, even when I haven’t picked it up in a while.

– These are both great recommendations, and my hat’s off to Jeremey and Ian – thank you both for such outstanding reads.

– Another factor in missing my reading goals is that I received the first four collected volumes of Hellblazer for my birthday, and like any lifelong comic wonk, I couldn’t simply let them sit there. I finished the first two, representing 604 pages of non-reading-goals reading.

– In all, in November I read 456 (.42 Infinite Jests) reading goal pages and 604 (.55 Infinite Jests) outside pages. That’s almost an Infinite Jest, so even though I missed my specific goals, I’m happy with the overall page count.

November Reading Goals

After touching base with Jeremey and Ian, I’ve decided to follow their recommendations (respectively) and read the following in November:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (272 Pages) and
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (544 Pages!)

I’ve decided to put Just Enough Research on the back burner, since these two books alone represent 0.74 Infinite Jests (versus October’s mere .574 Infinite Jests) and November involves a lot of travel for our hero.