Note: This is a reconstruction of the post I lost the other day when I lost my mind about Windows Updates.
Do the procrastinators in the world need any more justifications for their inactions? A new study from professors at Wharton will give procrastinators a way to take the moral high-ground when questioned about why they are lying on the couch all day watching television instead of doing something �productive.�
From the excellent Knowledge@Wharton email newsletter (now with a feed):
Goal-setting and Cheating: Why They Often Go Together in the Work Place
�From childhood on, individuals are told that setting goals for themselves will make them more successful in whatever they set out to do — whether it’s win tennis games, ace their exams or become CEO of their company. But goal-setting also has a dark side to it, according to a recent research paper by a Wharton faculty member and two colleagues. In addition to motivating constructive behavior, goal setting — especially if it involves rewards such as bonuses or perks — can also motivate unethical behavior when people fall short of the goals they set or that are set for them.�
I�ve often found �getting around to goal-setting� to be at least as problematic. The breakthrough I had on that subject, however, came from some comments from goals guru Brian Tracy. Tracy says that if at the beginning of each year, you take the time to formulate ten legitimate goals (specific, measurable, attainable, etc.), write them down on a piece of paper, and then fold up the piece of paper, put it away and never look at it again for the whole year, you will still find that in the average year you will achieve at least six or seven of your written goals. How liberating is that?
Don�t even get me started on the �working toward the goal� piece of the puzzle. Here, fortunately, David Allen�s �Getting Things Done� approach of identifying the �next physical action� is a huge help.
The aspect of goal-setting that gets too little attention and causes the greatest problem for many people I know is what happens when you attain a major goal, especially if you do so much more quickly than you ever imagined. I�ve seen this throw people way out of equilibrium. I have some examples, but my friends might not appreciate their stories being used to illustrate this point.
So, I look to myself as an example. For many years, I never got the hang of �goals.� I just did not compute. I blame that on the Cold War and the nuclear war drills we had in elementary school.
Finally, as my writing career started to unfold, I read an article by a famous expert I really admired that mentioned that he had published over 150 articles in his long career. I told my wife that I had found a real �goal� that I wanted to try. My goal would be to try to publish 100 articles in my career. Since I had gotten off to a late start in writing, I didn�t expect to reach the goal, but I thought that it was a good one to try for. Not quite two years later, I had blown past the 100 article goal. I soon left 150 behind and, when I last counted, I had gone by 300.
The point is not to say, look at me, look how I made my goal, but instead to focus on what happens when you achieve what feels like a very significant goal in a ridiculously short time. I really didn�t know what to think. I didn�t think that it meant that I should stop, but I didn�t know what it meant.
I felt like I stumbled around for a while trying to figure out what would come next. Blogs provided the answer. Think of Lou Reed�s song, �Rock and Roll,� and substitute �blog� and �blogging� where appropriate.
I decided that I had found a comfortable niche that I both enjoyed and in which I excelled � writing about technology in ways that lawyers especially found helpful and understandable. I knew from the way my friends ribbed me that I had mastered the �Ten Tips,� Six Steps,� style of articles. (But, it wasn�t as easy as you thought when you tried it, was it?) I wanted to keep doing that, but I wanted to do some other things with my writing, too.
My idea was to use this blog as a way to write in new ways, on new topics, and let my writing find a new audience. It�s a continuing experiment, a rewarding experiment and a great new goal for me � one that�s hard for me to cheat on. I�ve used a portion of the summer to push a little harder on that aspect of this blog, but will soon return to an approach that will either bring my posts on legal technology and technology law back to the forefront or put them into separate feeds or separate blogs.
Or, I might have another surprise in store, because now I have a new goal in mind.
Here are a few great books I�ve found to be quite helpful on goals over the last few years:
Brian Tracy�s Goals: How to Get Everything You Want-Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible – a classic work form one of the gurus.
Wade Cook’s Don’t Set Goals (the Old Way) – the �contrarian� approach really works for me.
David Allen�s Getting Things Done � the new classic that helps you accomplish exactly what the title says.