The first question on my quick and dirty annual review was about my goals and where I am at in each of them. My goals had several problems. The first one was the number of goals per quarter.
For each quarter I had about 8 goals. Yes, 8 freaking goals.
I should have known better.
You cannot focus on 8 goals because…
Each goal requires you to learn new skills
For my case, that meant learning at least 8 new skills. No one could master 8 new skills at the same time.
Here is a list of the new skills my goals asked me to learn:
- Teach and write reflections on my teachings. I was learning how to teach and how students learn. As a physicist, learning how to teach is new even though I have been teaching for a few years.
- Research and write content for 2 new Physics courses. This goal was linked to the first one. However, creating content is not about teaching. It is only one aspect. Content creation requires research for relevant information.
- Eat healthily and not self-soothe with food or drink. I did not know about self-soothing at the beginning of the year.
- Spend within a budget and not use my credit card.
- Do assignments for a blogging course and write blog posts. This involved learning how to write for a new genre.
- Write scientific articles and formatting manuscripts for the relevant publishers. This goal requires both making the time to write scientific research and formatting the manuscripts for the relevant publishers.
- Manage my time and paper. I was overwhelmed with all the work. I don’t have the skills to manage overwhelm.
- Manage stress. I was so unsuccessful here. What exactly did I mean by less stress?
Some of these skills may seem easy to you but the reason why they were my goals in the first place is that they are challenging for me.
Learning at least 8 new skills across 8 categories is simply mental overload.
You may think that four of my goals involved writing and that you could apply your writing skills from one genre to another. While I believe you could apply the same writing process from one genre to another, the actual writing of text and the use of language is different from one genre to another. So writing for reflecting on teaching, for actual Physics course content, for blogging and for scientific articles are actually 4 different genres. Boy oh boy, I did set myself up from the beginning.
Each goal requires you to learn multiple skills
Take for instance the skill of ‘managing stress’. This is not just one skill. This is multiple skills.
Managing stress involves reflecting on how you are working and doing things, pausing to breathe, exercising, and meditating, among many other skills.
Each new individual skill requires your attention and focus, energy, and time. As you learn each one, you will need to put your limited resources behind them.
Resources put towards 3 new skills will be divided. They are further divided if you have 8 new skills to learn.
One goal may require you to learn 8 new skills. What do you do then?
Focus on that one goal and learning one or two skills. When you master those, then go on to mastering the other new skills.
Goal achievement is a coordinated effort of outcomes of multiple skills. So, choose a limited number of goals.
This brings us to an age-old question of how many goals should you pursue.
How many goals should you pursue?
The number of goals depends on the number of new skills that you need to learn to achieve the goal.
If each of your goals has 4 new skills to learn then I suggest that you limit your number of goals for the year to 4. Then you can learn and master 1-2 skills per month.
If one goal has close to 10 new skills to learn then consider limiting your number of goals to 2.
The number of goals suggestions are based on a few assumptions, that, (i) you have a full-time job, (ii) you have to care for someone else (spouse, children, parents, friend etc), and (iii) you are willing to learn. The first two assumptions imply your time and energy is really limited. The last assumption that you are willing to learn comes before actually learning new skills.
So choose the number of goals wisely, otherwise, you will set yourself up for failure.