How to focus on less and show you are achieving more

Do you get asked to drop what you’re doing and start today’s latest priority initiative? Or perhaps you’ve got too many goals and you’ve a feeling that you’re working towards none of them as well as you’d like. Or perhaps worse still, you’re working hard but your achievements are most invisible.

These are all common and might be holding your progression back. What I would like to share with you is a few ways to focus on less and not only achieve more but also show everyone else you’re achieving more.

What needs improvement and what is good enough

At the heart of the issue is getting clarity on what your goals are. This means for the company and for your team. If you’re setting goals well that also means you don’t have many, you have a few or one at a time.

You want to be able to point to a document or your goal management software and say:

  • These are the most important goals in the coming 90 days.
  • We are committed to achieving these goals.
  • We are OK with maintaining the rest but we are tracking KPIs for what is not being worked on – just in case.

What got you to the point of having clarity on which goals mattered most to you and your team were conversations. Not just about what your objectives were, how you would measure success and what the target outcomes were going to be.

The second part of your conversations were geared towards working out what needed to be done to achieve these ‘committed goals’ – the day-to-day work.

The third and final part is agreeing to share priorities weekly, along with any problems, good news and learnings.

The ability to push back

Once you have achieved goal, role and execution plan clarity, you have the power to point at your committed goals when conflicting requests come your way. The answer to ‘is that more important to the goals we all decided mattered most and have committed to achieving?’ The answer if frequently, no.

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Don’t worry that these great ideas and requests are going to be lost. There’s a place for them, it’s called a backlog or ideas board. In your weekly meetings and quarterly goal planning sessions you can discuss them and evaluate them along with everything else.

Having the ability to say no frees you up to focus on where you and your colleagues can add the most value now. Having goals with outcomes means that you can be trusted and empowered to go about achieving them is the best way possible. You’ve dialled down the stress levels a few notches and you’re in control.

The best ways of setting goals

Every company and team has its current way of setting and sharing goals. Some just have KPIs and set targets in spreadsheets. Some evolve KPIs one step further and create SMART goals. Arguably the best way of setting goals is the OKR or the Objective and Key Results framework that is used by all of the big tech companies like Google and Spotify.

Regardless of which method or framework you use there are a few best-practices to follow that will help you achieve more. These are:

  1. Less is more – don’t dilute focus and try to work on one great goal at a time.
  2. Be ambitious – don’t lowball targets, set the bar high as it will improve innovation and collaboration.
  3. Be transparent – share your goals with everyone so they can see what your priorities are and potentially how to help – silos are dead, or at least should be.
  4. Measure what matters – goals that are trying to improve metrics that matter are not nearly as good as those that are so make meaningful measurement a priority.

Appraisal time

When it comes to your appraisal you want to be more than the goals your goals achieved. What should matter is how you arrived at your goals. How you worked in your team.

How you were willing to play a lead and/or supporting role, how you were able to share your ideas, and where necessary disagree constructively. And of course, how you were able to positively manage conflicting calls on your time and maintain focus on what really mattered the most.

Guest writers and carefully selected for Career Enlightenment. Thanks for reading!