Thinking About Goals

by Elizabeth on January 15, 2013 · 1 comment

in goals, life

GoalsLately 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).

  1. Complete the January projects on my house to-do list.
  2. Read 5 books. (I’ve already read 4 -go me!)
  3. Buy a new vacuum cleaner and thoroughly vacuum my house.
  4. Make a to-do list everyday at work, and stick to it.
  5. 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. 🙂

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Christine January 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

I’ve left this post “unread” in my google reader all week because I really wanted to comment! I have the same problem (shocking, I know). Maybe I should change my monthly “Goal” posts to Monthly To Do List? But I like the word goal…. 🙂 I agree, it requires some further thought.


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