Get Those Goals Down to a Final Four

If you are a college basketball fan like I am, when you hear the words “Final Four,” you smile. I hope that, after reading and applying what I am sharing here, a satisfying smile will come to your face when you hear those words – whether you care about basketball or not.

Here are four facts that point us to the Final Four process I am going to give you:

  • We can’t arrive at a place we haven’t decided to travel to.
  • As humans, we are easily diverted, even when we care about where we are headed.
  • We are more productive and successful when we are focused.
  • If we have too many priorities, we don’t really have any at all.

I’m proposing that you determine the four most important outcomes that you want to achieve for next year, and that you determine them now, commit to them, and make them your “Final Four” for the coming year.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Make your list of goals, intentions, or targets.

Perhaps you are a person who already does this, if so, great. If you aren’t, I’m not the first person to recommend this to you. Notice I used the words goals, intentions and targets. While I love the word goal, I know it freaks some people out a bit. How about making a list of the things you really want to achieve in the coming year? The things that will make you feel you had a great year, a year to remember, a year you are proud of? Call them what you want; make your list.

2. Identify the four most important ones.

Chances are you have far more than four things on your list. A long list is fine, but a long list is a wish list. Sharpen your pencil, and circle, star, or highlight the most important ones. You will know which ones; the ones that make your heart sing, the ones that make you tingle, the ones you know will make the biggest difference for you and those you care about. Keep working until you get it to four.

Have a short initial list?

That’s OK too – it might be that you haven’t done this sort of thinking much before, and so you are out of practice; or it might be that your mind has already done part of the prioritization. If it is the former, give yourself a bit more time to brainstorm and dream. If it is the latter, you are good to go.

Is there magic in four?

If you have two or three that you feel are the right ones, that is great. If you have too many, you have nothing at all. If you get far beyond four, your focus and productivity will drop.

What do I do with the rest of the list?

Keep it and read it occasionally, and don’t be surprised if some of those things happen without too much intentional effort.

3. Encapsulate them in short statements.

Now that you have your four (or fewer) items, write them in a condensed way. This isn’t meant to change the way you might write your goals or keep you from having a plan for completing your goals. It is meant as a touchstone and short statement that is memorable. Part of the power of the Final Four is that you will be able to consistently focus on them because you can remember them.

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4. Write, review, and act.

I’ve created a tool for you (download it here). Once you download this tool, print it and place your four statements on it. Then, put this page somewhere you can read it often – at least daily. Make this regular review part of your habits. And when you read them, decide what action you will take that day to move you closer to your Final Four.

Accelerate the success of your Final Four

Beyond having a complete plan of action to achieve each of your Final Four, the single biggest accelerant to your success will be to identify the compelling reasons why you want to achieve each of those things. If you can capture your why in a word or two, and add that to your Final Four page, you will move more purposefully and faster towards those outcomes.

Leadership note: As a leader, this is a powerful way for you to model focus, prioritization and achievement for your team. And you can do more than model it; you can use it with each of your team members and as a team collectively.

© 2016 All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry and The Kevin Eikenberry Group.