What is on your goals worksheet?

Do you know who Emmitt Smith is?

If not, go wild on the googling. What you’ll learn is that Emmitt Smith is one of the most celebrated pro-football players in history. But what you might not learn is the incredible way in which Emmitt Smith went about achieving all of his football goals, including becoming the all-time leading rusher in the game. In case you don’t know, that basically means he ran with the football the most of any player in the history of the NFL.

Until you write them down, they are just dreams.

When Emmitt Smith was in high school, his coach taught him and his teammates to write their goals on a piece of paper and put it in their lockers so they could see it every day and know what they were working towards each day on the field. The coach told them that until you write them down, they are just dreams. Once you write down your dreams, they become goals. Every year, Emmitt Smith wrote down his goals and worked towards them relentlessly. And he achieved greatness in his sport, and in many other ways in his life. Before Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset gave scientific backing to the idea that your mental outlook on your goals and challenges has a strong influence on your ability to achieve your goals and overcome your challenges. If you envision your goals and believe that you can achieve them, you are more likely to succeed. Our mindsets can make all the difference.

What do goals look like?

Goals can take a lot of different forms - they can be a number (I want to be able to do 100 push-ups at a time), an output (I want to write a book), a skill (I want to be able to play piano), an award (I want to have a superbowl ring), or any other incarnation of your dreams. You have to do what is right for you. But I would strongly suggest that if you are making some goals around technology, don’t make them tech-focused. Instead, set goals around the impacts and outcomes that can come from using technology. Here is a personal example:

When I started learning Excel, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I didn’t know what my goals should have been. I had two colleagues who were really really really good at it - they moved so fast I could hardly understand what they were doing and talking about. They worked like magicians with the keyboard, the numbers, the colors. They seemed unstoppable. I wanted to be just like them. In a way, my goals were living, breathing people in front of me each day. But I had no idea how I could become unstoppable, too. They would throw terms around that I could have written down in goals, but honestly I wasn’t even going to understand what I was writing down: PivotTables, Vlookups, Absolute References, Sumproduct, Automated Processes, Linked Spreadsheets - my colleagues were talking about and doing these things all the time like it was nothing, and I didn’t even understand what the words meant! So I couldn’t make my goals around those technical things. I had to make them more about the impact that would come out of picking those things up along the way. Here is what my goals for Excel looked like in 2011:

  1. Be more willing to ask questions until I really understand what I am doing.
  2. Increase my speed of using Excel to get requests done for my colleagues faster.
  3. Don’t waste time doing manual processes when they can be automated.

I put these goals up at my desk and looked at them every day. It reminded me that I wanted to be an expert who could quickly provide quality support to my colleagues. If I started to do something repetitive that wasted time in Excel, that was taking away from my goals, and so I had to switch gears and learn how to do it better and faster, or how to automate it. I have had somewhat similar goals every year since then, which is how I eventually got to starting my business. Now everything I do in Excel I look through the lens of my business mission: To help people learn, use, and love the technology that supports their work.

Now I want to hear from you! What does your technology goals worksheet look like? How can achieving these goals have an impact on your work and your life?