By September 19, 2011

Why Goal Setting Isn’t Good Enough

I’m back finally! After moving across the country.

I moved from Boise, Idaho to Wesley Chapel, Florida.  One of the main reasons I have been quiet lately has to do with the subject of this post.


About goals

I have heard many people talk about settings goals.  Setting goals is very important, but goals themselves do not ensure success.

Goals give us a way to measure and define success, but not to actually achieve it.

We do have to start with good goals, so let’s talk about what a good goal is.

A good goal is like good done criteria for a backlog.  A good goal is one that is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time constraint
  • Achievable without being overwhelming
  • Sufficiently broken down, (it is a single thing, not a collection of things.)

If you don’t define a good goal, the chances of achieving it go down drastically.  If your goal is not clear cut enough, you may not even be able to tell when it is achieved.

In my world, good goals are things like:

  • By Dec 10th I will lose 20 pounds.
  • I will read one technical book each month.
  • I will create and launch an iPhone application by Nov 15th.

Bad goals are things like:

  • I will improve my diet
  • I will start lifting weights
  • I will improve my SQL skills

Goals aren’t enough

Once you have good goals, you should be good to go right?


How many times have you set good goals that you never achieved?  Always something seems to come up, or the timing isn’t right, etc.

The problem is, life happens.  You have to deal with all kinds of issues you can’t predict, so you don’t end up having the time to achieve your goals.

You usually don’t have anything on the line, so nothing is forcing you to complete the goals.

First let’s talk about the issue of life happening and disrupting you from achieving your goals.

There is a simple solution for this problem…

Make your goals part of your life.  Rarely does life happen to me in such a way that it prevents me from doing things like showering, eating, brushing my teeth or going to work.  (I suppose now that I am down in Florida, a hurricane could happen and cause all that.)  In general though, we operate as humans best on routines.

I have found time and time again that the key to achieving goals is to build them into your daily routine.  Having a routine is critical to being successful.

Don’t believe me?  Think about the biggest losers you know in your life.  You know who I am talking about, that friend from high school that still doesn’t have a real job, sometimes sleeps on your couch, wakes up at noon, etc.

Routine or no routine?

Now think about the most successful people you know.

Routine or no routine?

Routine disruption

Part of the reason my posts stopped for the last few weeks is that I had my routine disrupted.  Back in Idaho before I moved, I had a pretty solid routine, it went something like this:

Every week day: Egg white + Spinach breakfast, Spinach + light soup lunch, Steamed Chicken + vegetable dinner, read 15-30 minutes technical book.

Monday: Lift chest and biceps, do prep work for Pluralsight, cook up chicken for the rest of the week

Tuesday: Run 5k, record for Pluralsight

Wednesday: Lift back and legs, do Android or iPhone app work

Thursday: Run 5k, prep work for Pluralsight

Friday: Lift shoulders and triceps

Saturday: Run 5k, record for Pluralsight and or do Android or iPhone work

Sunday: Write blog post for the week

That was my basic routine.  You can probably figure out my goals just by looking at my routine.

When I moved, this got disrupted, but I am getting back into a routine similar to this one again.  Once a good routine is established, life happens around your routine.

I usually stick with this basic routine and modify it based on the priorities of my goals.  At different points, blogging was a higher priority, so it took up a few more slots.  When I was really focused on getting my Android app done, that took more slots.

When you have a routine, you are making small steps on a regular basis towards your goals.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."