Setting Effective Annual Objectives


setting annual goals

Setting Annual Goals

The start of a New Year brings on an additional desired task, that of setting effective annual objectives also known as New Year resolutions.

According to the University of Scranton, of the 45% of Americans who set new year resolutions, only 8% keep them.

How to avoid failed New Year resolutions:

While the volume of failure seems daunting, by following certain key principles, one can well keep the New Year’s resolution and achieve annual objectives.

The principles are:

  • Take the exercise seriously – this can be done by wanting the end-result badly, respecting the outcome and giving it the importance it deserves.  Only include those objectives that really matter to you, to ensure you stay committed.
  • Be patient – recognize that this is a challenging task that can be accomplished by chipping away bit by bit.
  • Set your strategy and have confidence in it.  Break it down into long-term vision, annual work plans and quarterly actions. 
  • Let a few close friends know, so they can help you stay on course.

In his recent (excellent, must-read) post, Victor Cheng explains how the competitive advantage strategy of Amazon can be effectively applied to one’s personal careers.

Similarly we can also apply the corporate Performance Management to our own personal development, specifically to properly set annual objectives!

Setting an effective personal development plan:

Effective Annual Objectives

Effective Annual Objectives

Long-term vision à generally 3 years, cover about 3-5 categories.  Don’t forget to include personal development (sharpening the saw)

Annual objectives (can also be considered work plans) –  to be aligned with long-term objectives (New Year is a good time to make or revise these plans)

For each work plan, then write out a set of actions and corresponding expected results.  These results should be measurable and be sufficient to indicate whether you are on the right track to achieving your objectives.

In 2013 for this blog I had two actions, one was to have the blog set up (expected result was to have an online site by February) and post to the blog in a consistent, systematic manner (expected result was to achieve 50 posts in 3 months).

Every six months make an assessment and revise these actions or even objectives.  My expected result was adjusted from 3 months to 4 for 50 posts.

Use a 3-month “execution” period to monitor your progress.

For long-term goals, the period used to be five years, but three years seem to be long enough.

 You can use whatever is appropriate for your situation.  Just for comparison, this post from The Five O’Clock Club talks about a 40-year plan (no typo, it is 40) and worth a quick read!

The measurement (of results) part is quite important.  As we have seen, what cannot be measured cannot be controlled or improved!

Therefore for each action we must have at least one measurable expected result.

Here are some rules:

  • Each category must have multiple objectives.
  • Categories could be financial well-being, relationships, career/business, personal development.
  • Objectives could be refinance your mortgage or lower credit card debt to 50% of current outstanding levels (both financial) and working towards an advanced degree (development).
  • Each objective can have multiple actions.
  • Each action must have at least one expected result (measurable).
  • Lastly, ensure that your actions are S.M.A.R.T.

My personal testimonial:

The above procedure has worked well for me.  My company also uses a similar work plan based performance management plan.

Last year I read about twelve books and more importantly I got this blog going.  These two were my single biggest objectives for 2013.

For 2014 I plan to read 15 books.  Writing a book on leadership is another objective I have added to my work plan for this year.

What’s on your work plan?  Or what are your thoughts and experiences related to New Year resolutions?  Feel free to share it using the comments section below.

Image: (c) author: Raj Subramanyam