Don't Goal. Habit.
What truly moves the Waka forward.
Goals. Goals. Goals.
Everyone loves goals.
My favourite framework - the Elephants - is full of goals. Set yourself 10 year, 3 year, 1 year, 3-month goals across the main areas in your life and check in on progress weekly with your best friends. I’ve been using it religiously for 2.5 years.
Within the first 6 months of starting an Elephants group, you realise that you set yourself way too many goals. You try to achieve them all, you fail and you feel bad. Most people try to set them again, fail, and feel bad. The cycle continues.
I’ve been there :)
Learn from Your Goals.
The real beauty of goal setting whether you hit or fail on your goals is that you get to learn about yourself.
It is an opportunity to reflect
Focus - what is truly important to you
Systemise - how can you make it core to your life
What did you prioritise? Why?
Maybe the goal you set wasn’t as important as you thought?
“If you want to understand your priorities, look into your calendar.”
When Life Happens, we revert to Survival-Mode.
When we feel motivated, we think that we can set ourselves billions of goals and we can reach them all.
Realistically - life happens.
You go into survival mode.
You fall back on what you would “usually do” = your Habits.
BUT you can make that “Survival Mode” whatever you want it to be.
You get stressed >> You go on auto-pilot
You get stressed >> you’ve got a running habit >> that’s your stress release.
You get stressed >> you have calendar invites >> you just follow your calendar.
You get stressed >> you call your family every week >> they will call you.
You get stressed >> used to update your friends weekly >> they will prompt you.
You get to build your Auto-Pilot. ✈️
“You do not rise to the level of your goals.
You fall to the level of your systems.”
Goals that Work for You.
This happens to the best of us.
For the six months of my Elephants group, I tried to hit all my 40+ goals. I had to refer back to them daily, as I couldn’t remember them all. I kept failing and as there were just too many.
For the second six months, I learned that I can’t have that many goals so I pulled them right back to 10-20 goals. It’s frustrating as you’re making trade-offs, sequencing and “being realistic” and assessing “what’s important to you”. It is a worthwhile exercise, but if you’re in an Elephants group that probably means that you’re like me and set yourself super ambitious goals anyway.
So what happens?
The same thing - you have fewer goals, but you still can’t hit all of them.
After a year, I sat back and redesigned the process for myself.
How can I adjust my goals so they work for me?
Firstly, I’ve got a shocking memory, so I need to reduce my goals drastically. I wanted to be able to recite my goals with ease whenever I tried to refocus or anyone asked me.
Secondly, I’m a big fan of splitting things into their elements and consistently chipping away at something as I love the sense of progress.
I recut all of my goals into (1) 3x main themes and (2) habits which fed into the main themes or were stand-along constants in my life.
(1) Your Life Themes / Objectives
The main themes were a game-changer for me as they now encompassed the three truly important things in my life AND were easy to remember, constantly refocusing me.
Spend quality time with Gabby.
Build a great team culture.
Evangelise Startmate internally and externally.
The main themes are similar to an organisation’s top 3 objectives and each one has 3-5 “key results” or habits which help me focus on how I can work towards the objective.
#1 » go for coffee on Thursdays morning with Gabby - spend quality time
#2 » write monthly GBU updates for Startmate - foster transparency and sharing
#3 » share daily on LinkedIn/Twitter - habit of sharing the mission
(2) You are Your Habits.
The second change was to take all dozens of other goals which don’t fit into the core three themes and choose the most important to ingrain them in my daily life.
I reshuffled the goals into habits and made them part of my morning, evening or weekend routine. Ideally, stacked or hooked to my already existing habits.
Sports - the goal of completing a Marathon / Ironman, instead became a habit to run 5km before work. Still achieving what it was meant to, which is to keep me healthy.
Reading - instead of a goal to read X number of books / year, I made a small change to read every day before bed. The focus on rhythm and consistency probably makes me read more than a steep goal would have.
Family - any goals to stay in contact with my family through annual trips or presents, were replaced by a simple Sunday night ritual to give everyone a call. In hindsight, even that simple act made me stay in touch with my family more than anything else could have.
Instead of killing myself with lots of once-off goals. I reshuffled the goals into habits that are much smaller, consistent, and long-term. They ultimately made me achieve the same result if not more.
“Habits are about simplification.
You are laying the foundation of your life.”
To Reach Goals focus on the Foundation.
Goals help us point in the right direction.
Habits get us there.
In companies, the same principle applies.
OKRs help us point in the right direction.
The way we work - Operating Principles, Culture and Systems - get us there.
Habits. Systems. Culture. Operating Principles.
That’s what moves the Waka forward 🛶
Side Note: Why is this on my mind?
- Puddle Pod Cohort 3 is now setting individual habits and keeping each other accountable.
- We'll be formalising our Operating Principles at the Startmate offsite tomorrow - hit reply if you’d like me to share the exercise we do.
Operating Principles Exercise
Turns out everyone wants to know the Operating Principles exercise we do 🥰
I can highly recommend this exercise for an offsite.
Ask everyone within the company to answer a survey with the below:
Give an example of a moment that I thought “Startmate” was at its best was.
Ideally, everyone gives 3+ examples and there is no limit in how many you give.
Note: Set the deadline as 1-3 days before the offsite / meeting.
Try to group the submitted examples into as many buckets / Operating Principles as you’d like to have. I would recommend having 4-5. Ours fortunately neatly fit into 5.
Miro is a great tool to put them together visually as virtual post-it notes.
c. Prep for the Day
Create a shared Google Doc with the below copied X times, based on how many categories you have in b).
Catchy Name - Ideally 3 words. The SOPs need to be easily memorised and talked about.
One Liner - Expand on the Catchy Name
Summary of the Operating Principle - Why do we need this SOP? What does this SOP mean for Startmate and its employees? What's the good news? What's the bad news? Give behavioural examples of the SOP in practice.
Prompt: Why would someone hate working here?
Prompt: What is it like?
Questions - What should someone ask themselves before taking a job here? Someone must be able to answer in the negative!
Emoji - Allocate an emoji to represent this SOP!
2. On the Day - Offsite or Meeting
Put your team into groups of 2-4
Assign numbers that are matched to your Groups on Miro
Share Google Doc
Give each team 30mins in breakout rooms to go through the Examples on Miro and fill out the questions in the google doc
Let each team present back what they came up with
The Operating Principles won’t be perfect after just 30mins, but they’ll be a pretty good start. Review them, clean them up with the team and write them up. Let everyone contribute again.
Bonus: implement the Operating Principles as part of your language with the Catchy Names + Emojis.
🙏 Kudos to Sophie Taylor and Phoebe Pincus (CoS at Blackbird / Startmate) for coming up with the process.
A Startmate Example
The Breakfast Club
To work at your best, be yourself.