Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about goals. It being the start of a new year, I suppose it’s naturally to think about the things you would like to do and accomplish. But the more I thought about goals, the more confused I got. What exactly is a goal? How does a goal differ from a task? Are the goals I set for myself actually goals, or are they tasks?
Looking at the last goal post I wrote (way back in August), 3 out of the 5 “goals” are actually tasks. Clean out the refrigerator, make a cleaning list – those are things I want to accomplish, not things I’m looking to achieve.
Does that make sense? I feel like it might not, because I’m still working on wrapping my brain around it. If we look at number 2 on that list, “catch up on my reading”, how can we classify it? Is it a goal? If it is, it’s certainly not a SMART goal. Or is it a task? Not if a “make a fall cleaning list” is a task. So what is it? It’s not specific enough for me to know.
And therein lies the problem. Specificity.
This summer I worked with my supervisor on setting some goals, both for myself and the library. He was the one that pointed out that most of what I was coming up with were tasks, not goals. Things like “do a library user survey” or “take a full inventory of the book collection” are great ideas and things that need to be done, but they aren’t goals. A work goal for me would be something like “increase the number of literature searches requested by 10%”. I have a series of steps and things to think about in order to achieve that goal. To achieve “do a library user survey”, I just have to do it. It’s something tangible that I can check off a to do list. It’s a task, not a goal.
So what’s the point? I’m sure you’re asking (I’m starting to wonder that myself…).
I have two points. 1) we don’t think enough about what goals actually mean and what they really are when we are setting them; and 2) I have more things that I want to do – tasks I want to complete – than goals I want to achieve.
I found this realization to be very interesting and true because I am a very task-oriented person. I make lots of lists; I like to check things off my list. I say I’m going to do something, I write it down, procrastinate on it a little, and then do it. And then I get to check it off my list. I like things I can see, things I can do. Thinking about goals is a little vague for me. I dislike open-ended or indefinite ideas. So unless the goal I’m trying to achieve is extremely specific, I’m more likely to create a list of tasks, rather than goals.
So to that point, I have created a list of January “tasks”. (Yes, 15 days late, I know).
- Complete the January projects on my house to-do list.
- Read 5 books. (I’ve already read 4 -go me!)
- Buy a new vacuum cleaner and thoroughly vacuum my house.
- Make a to-do list everyday at work, and stick to it.
- Blog 3-4 days a week.
So that’s that. What are your thoughts on my very muddled ideas about goals and tasks? Do you think you set more tasks than goals? How do you define a goal? Let’s discuss.