Do You Have Goals, or Milestones?

We’re taught that Goals should be SMART. I’ve taught that for decades. You know: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable or Time-bound. Then all is happy and bright.

Well, not really.

Having a goal is only the beginning of the productivity process. That goal is now the target at which your efforts aim.

I used to work with the Boy Scouts of America as a volunteer and trainer. We are known for campouts and good deeds.

One of the great activities at camp is archery. Every boy loves to think of himself as Robin Hood and the dream of shooting a bow and arrow is highly appealing.

A good archery range is laid out with an organized firing line, protected side and back access, and a backstop . Targets are pinned to bales of hay.

Now, the dream of the archer is to hit the bull’s eye. Whoosh! But, they’re beginners. Maybe with practice and determination, he might find himself in the Olympics. Not most of them.

But, the real reason for the targets at camp? To make sure all the arrows go “that way”.

That’s the reason for a goal — to make sure all your efforts go “that way”.

For your life, any short or medium range goal becomes a Milestone along the way, not the end of the journey.

The real key to productivity isn’t the goal. It’s the Plan.

Using the goal, think about what steps you’ll need to take to accomplish that goal. Think about the activities you’ll need to do to complete each step. Think about how long each step will take.

Now, write it all down. If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget it. Your mind will be overwhelmed by the here and now, and your goals and plans will get lost and buried. You’ll wake up one day wondering where it all went wrong.

Write it down, then get busy acting on that first step, then yhe next and the next until you reach that milestone.

If this plan is good enough, if the goal is worthwhile and desirable enough to reach again and again, you have a candidate for a system.

A system is nothing more than a collection of activities and outcomes that gets executed over and over again.

If it’s worthy enough, it doesn’t make sense to have to re-create a plan. It also isn’t very efficient nor effective.


Writing it down and refining it to a series of definable steps also gives you the opportunity to delegate or outsource some or all of them. Taking yourself out of the system frees you up to do something more pleasurable or profitable, or creative.

It’s OK to have Goals. Let’s just think about them as Milestones.


By John Larson

John is an experienced small business owner, management consultant, project manager, and family man. John has been married since 1967 to the same beautiful bride. He has two sons and eight grandchildren. He makes his home in Carlton, Oregon, USA.

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