January 12, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
There are a lot of acronyms floating around in the nonprofit universe in which I work.
Some of them come from the corporate world, in which I also once worked. In January, that two-faced month which looks both backwards and forwards, goal-setting acronyms can easily creep into people’s personal lives. In my last post, I used one myself: BHAG.
BHAG stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” It comes from Built to Last, a 1994 business book by James Collins and Jerry Porras. A BHAG is a visionary goal that is emotionally compelling and challenging enough to stimulate people to work toward it. Nothing is too hard, problematic or risky if the BHAG is genuinely worthwhile.
My BHAG is to be a Time Lord.
OK, so I haven’t watched Dr. Who regularly since Colin Baker had curls, but who doesn’t want to be able to move backwards and forwards in time in a contraption that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? Who doesn’t want a life that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside?
Let’s face it. Every creative with a day job wants this. Still, it is hardly the sort of thing one resolves to do.
So perhaps I should focus on that other goal-setting acronym, the SMART one.
SMART goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed to be met by a certain date. In truth, for individuals as well as organizations, the two ideas work best together. If you don’t dream big or tackle difficult problems with daring – real or assumed – it doesn’t really matter how many SMART goals you achieve, because they aren’t going anywhere, and neither are you. Sociologist William Bruce Cameron said it best: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
This is the problem I have with a lot of time management tools aimed at increasing productivity. There’s too much emphasis on on squeezing as much as possible into each day, using every waking moment as efficiently as possible.
It’s rather exhausting.
And yet I still find time management and productivity tools very seductive.
With David Allen’s Getting Things Done, the explicit promise is “stress-free” productivity.
Collect all your tasks in one place, then process, organize, plan, and do them. I worked the GTD system for years, and it has much to recommend it; but as many other people have noted, it is easy to get so obsessive about collection and categorizing and breaking things down into actionable steps that the system itself becomes overwhelming.
It also works best for executives who have people they can delegate tasks to. I don’t have people. Note that the only woman on this workflow chart is the Executive Assistant. She’s part of the collection process.
Steven Covey’s First Things First, co-authored with A. Roger and Rebecca R. Merrill, proved to have more lasting value for me.
Though I still found myself uncomfortable with the roles Rebecca Merrill was called on to embody on behalf of all women. Still, it was through First Things First that I identified the core values of my life and learned to evaluate whether or not I was spending my time in ways that reflected those values. Covey’s 2×2 matrix of task classification was one I instantly recognized as true to my own experience:
Figuring out how to do more of what is important but not urgent is the real BHAG here.
The trick is to find out what sort of SMART goals would make that possible.
For that I used a lovely free time-tracking tool called Toggl. It’s elegant and actually fun to use. Though it’s particularly geared toward people and teams who are working on billable projects for different clients, I defined my “clients” as those core values I see as essential to living a wholehearted and balanced life: work, home, creativity, self, others. For a month I’ve logged how I spend my waking hours with these “clients.”
And now I have a SMART goal for 2015 as well.
To spend an average of 20 hours a week on creative work – significantly more than I’m managing now, but not, it appears, impossible.
My BHAG approves.
What about you?
Do you have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal for your creative life? Do you know what SMART goals you need to move toward your vision?