Focus On This Podcast

150. The #1 Way To Improve Your SMARTER Goal



A goal that is poorly structured can not only keep you from achieving your goal, but it can also stop you from getting out of the starting gates. Today, Verbs and Courtney talk you through the first R in the SMARTER Goals® framework: Risky. How can we leverage risk to maximize our results?

Also, Courtney battles with a fly. If you want to see all of it, make sure you watch the video:

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What healthy risk feels like
  • How to understand risk taking by exploring how children take risks
  • How to reformulate a goal to make it more risky

Make sure to visit our Full Focus Planner Community:

Episode Transcript

Verbs Boyer: All right, Courtney. I think historically there’s a lot of questions, maybe uncertainty, or maybe some additional clarity that could be offered when it comes to really framing up a goal with the smarter goal framework. There’s always a letter or two that seem to drop by the wayside, and then it makes the whole goal feel awkward or clunky going into it. But what do you think is the number one, this is the billboard charts of goal setting, what is the number one way that people listening could improve their SMARTER goal?

Courtney Baker: Well, first, if you’re like, “I have no idea what you mean by smarter.” Then I am here to help. SMARTER stands for specific, measurable, actionable, risky, time keyed, exciting and relevant. And that’s kind of the makeup for how you write a successful goal. And we don’t spend a whole lot of time in the planner on this. And so I think it’s a really important topic, but we go into a lot of depth on this, in the Full Focus goals course. And I would say as far as what people get hung up on, or maybe it’s just me. I mean, we hear lots of goals and rarely do I hear them hitting all of these check boxes. But I think the one I see a lot is either… It’s really the two Rs. That it’s not risky enough.
It’s like, “Oh no, this is just a project I need to get done.” It’s not actually difficult. It’s just either I just don’t want to do it or I’ve been putting it off, but it’s not actually risky or that it’s… Are you seeing this fly around… Or that their goal isn’t relevant, either with their other goals, maybe they’re just really achievement oriented, so they’re just these really big goals all at the same time or it’s just the life that we’ve all been living the last few years.
I don’t know if you’re like this Verbs, but I feel like I want to go into the year thinking, I’ve got my goals for the year, they’re not going to change, but because the environment changes, I actually, every quarter, really having to look at my goals and I’m making changes because of the relevancy of those goals.

Verbs Boyer: I think that’s good. And I think you’re right. Those two Rs are normally what we have to keep on our radar, especially the relevancy part, because we may feel at the beginning of a time period that, yeah, this is totally possible. Or maybe there could be some confusion around risky and relevant to where it’s truly not relevant and it makes it feel like it is risky. But then when you get quarter into it, you realize, “Oh, I probably need to put this on hold for now, replace it maybe with something else,” because not only was it risky to try to accomplish at that point in time, it truly wasn’t relevant for maybe that season of life or maybe something else that shifted that would hinder that from actually being executed. But either one of those things could happen. So I definitely agree. But I think we should maybe talk a little bit about how can we know whether or not a goal is risky enough. So we’ll do that coming up.
Welcome to another episode of Focus On This, the most productive podcast on the internet. So you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with Courtney Baker and our producer, Nick. Happy Monday to you both. Happy Monday to everyone listening.

Nick: Wow.

Courtney Baker: Happy Monday.

Nick: Happy Monday. I can’t believe I got included in this. This is… I don’t know what to do.

Verbs Boyer: You’re a main statement buddy. You’re always here. Why not acknowledge your presence?

Courtney Baker: So true.

Nick: Yeah. Well thank you. Happy Monday, everybody

Courtney Baker: Were you about to say, yeah, I’m going to edit that out?

Nick: Yeah. I’m just going to cut. For those on the video feed, I’m just going to go down to the basement.

Courtney Baker: Good work, good work.

Verbs Boyer: So we’re talking about how to make sure that a goal is actually being set risky enough to make it interesting, make it something that we really set out in front of us that’s not delusional, but also not too low of an accomplishment that we can do it like tomorrow and then it’s done. But how do we set it out there to where we know there’s a little bit of, “Can I really do this?” Attached to that goal that makes it feel risky. So we have two clues that we’re going to talk about. Clue number one is we doubt that we can actually do it.

Courtney Baker: Goals that are properly risky, they should have a little bit of, you get butterflies in your stomach thinking about it. Like, “Am I really going to do this?” If I was to say right now, okay, I’m going to run a marathon next quarter that would give me a little bit of like, ugh. It shouldn’t feel impossible that it’s just totally out of the realm, like, I’m going to do a golf… I was going to say a golf competition. Is that actually a thing?

Verbs Boyer: Well technically, yes. Every round of golf would be a competition in itself.

Courtney Baker: Honestly, it proves my point, I don’t even know what that would be called. And so no, there’s no way to actually get to that level in the next three months. That would be beyond. I feel like Nick is looking at me, like, “I don’t know if that’s a good example. You probably could do it. You just would be terrible.”

Verbs Boyer: Or to use your example, like I’m going to run a marathon, but then to say, I’m going to run a marathon and come in second in the entire race when I’m still sitting on my couch.

Courtney Baker: Right, exactly. Yeah. So it shouldn’t be impossible, but it should feel a bit unlikely. If you just continue on with what you’re going to do, the life you’re doing, it’s not going to happen. So if it is beyond that, it’s got to take some effort, some intentionality. You’re probably on the right track.

Nick: So with my son, a couple years ago, we started using the Full Focus student planner, or kids’ planner, I guess. And one thing about goal setting in that context, which we kind of inched her away towards, like, you can’t just go set this big goal or whatever. It’s interesting. He’s young, he’s learning what the world is like. He’s learning what time feels like, to go what’s six months from now, but this element of, can I actually accomplish this is something that is very difficult for him. Not saying he’s alone. I think this is probably true for almost all children, probably a lot of adults, where you say, “Okay, set a goal.” And the goal will be like, I’m going to beat two levels on this video game or something.
I’m not critiquing the space of the goal, but it is an element of like, well, you’re going to do that eventually. It’s a goal, but it’s not this goal. It’s not a risky goal. And so I do think it’s a space where that feeling of like, who do I want to become, to really take from Michael Hyat? Can I envision myself that far in the future? And I look like a total boss, with whatever those things are. That’s the hardest part of this whole journey just based on watching the emotional and psychological development of children.

Courtney Baker: Yeah. Well, we all have to, in a sense, be willing to be uncomfortable. If you want to be someone that achieves goals, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable because it is uncomfortable to say, I’m going to do this thing, ideally that you’ve never done. That’s what makes it risky. I’m going to pursue this thing. It’s much more comfortable to just keep doing whatever you’re doing at whatever rate. Again, nobody would probably want the results of that, but it’s a lot more comfortable. It’s like, that feels good. And this other thing, at the beginning, especially, if you don’t have the history of setting goals and achieving them to give you that confidence of knowing like, “Hey, I’m capable of doing hard things. I’m capable of pursuing things that seem bigger than where I’m at right now.” It is much easier to opt into just like, “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing because that feels really good.”

Verbs Boyer: Just to underscore what both of y’all just said, Nick, when you mentioned, I think it’s important for us to get back to this perspective is it’s always about who do we want to become when we think about our goals and the things we do want to accomplish, but then it expands, the estimation of what you’re actually capable of to where before you might have had a limiting belief that surrounded a certain area of your life or a certain domain. But man, when we can set these goals to where we feel that level of risk that it’s going to require, then by the time we accomplish that goal, not only has our confidence boosted, but it actually expands what we are actually able or capable of doing as a person. And, that leans into who we become as a person going forward, because now there’s more things that we can approach in the same manner.

Courtney Baker: Nick, I think that’s such a helpful example when you think about a kid learning that, but ultimately we’re all on that journey. I think as adults, we forget, we like to be like, “We arrived, we’re adulting now.” But really we are all just on this journey of development that just keeps going for a lifetime, it’s just that your son’s at an earlier stage, but we are all prone to that same thing, if not pushed out on the edge.

Nick: Yeah. I only bring it up to highlight what it looks like. Like when you know that’s happening, you can see a kid do that and then to go, “Am I doing that?” to connect those two points, to go, “Am I also thinking?” And I, to be honest in the last couple weeks I’ve been going, “Yeah. I’ve been doing that myself.” So this is a perfect episode for me right now.

Courtney Baker: I just want y’all to know my daily big three has just changed. I just pivoted to killing this fly. It is on my face.

Verbs Boyer: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Courtney, I will Amazon you a pair of chopsticks so you can just go Mr. Miyagi on that fly right now.

Courtney Baker: Okay. It’s going down.

Nick: How much of this am I allowed to put into the world?

Courtney Baker: I don’t care.

Nick: Okay, great.

Courtney Baker: I don’t care as long as I kill this fly. I got to go down, that paper was too stiff. I got to get this tighter, I think. Okay. This episode from here on out will be known-

Nick: As the fly episode.

Courtney Baker: As the fly episode. Okay.

Verbs Boyer: So clue number two is it requires real effort every week. It requires real effort every week. This goal should actually make you reexamine your schedule and force you to change your schedule, to actually get the thing done. I’ll share one that I had set at the top of the year. I think we talked about it at some point a few episodes back, maybe. I had this goal around writing music or making some more new music. I realized because it’s a group effort working with a friend of mine on a project that for both of us to get our schedules synced up and then actually record or even get in the same room to write, being that has not happened since I’ve had children or have been married, this is going to require a whole figuring out where the windows and the schedule one, that it could fit and then two, organizing the rest of the household so I can be away to do this for a couple of hours and be able to be focused on it.
I’m saying this to say that it’s because of the motivation behind it or the desire to see it actually come to pass. It’s been a real effort. One, to try to sync up schedules, but then two, actually go into the things so we can be focused and actually produce something that we actually are proud of at the end of the day. But it does require some real effort to actually get it done. Can the actual act of recording music or writing music be done? Yes, but the commitment to actually see it through on a weekly basis, like our commitment is every week we have to do at least one thing that brings us to finishing up. It’s a four song project, but it brings us to the completion of getting this done. So saying that just to, again, attest to the fact that this requires real effort, there should be something that pops up on your radar that you need to do every week to really get these things done.

Courtney Baker: First of all, I’m so excited about this music. When? I think that’s true. I mean, I think this is a really helpful clue because again, it’s like if you can just continue on with life as normal, it’s probably not risky. If it’s just going to happen without any intentionality, if it’s a big professional goal that you’re going after, maybe you have a sales number that you’re trying to hit that’s aggressive. That’s not something you can wait until, just continue on as normal. And then the last week, try to pull it out. That’s not going to be possible. But, like Nick’s example of completing those next two levels on that game, if you just continued on, the effort that it is taking is no different than the effort you’re already giving. And so I love this question. I think it’s really helpful.
And as I think back, even ones that feel like… I had a goal this year for my husband and I to go on a 40th birthday trip together, even though it seems like, okay, you just go on that trip. Like, no, no, no. It took saving a certain amount of money to go on that trip and to make all those plans and determine the schedule. It took real effort. And even though it was vacation sometimes annoyingly so, that you had to be like, “Oh gosh, I got to sit down and do these things.” So I think that’s a really helpful clue.

Verbs Boyer: And I think it’s also helpful maybe even thinking about the risky element of it, but I think where you really feel it is when you bring in the T, which is the time key or time bound. That element in with the risky, then it kind of puts that extra weight on it to where you really start to feel like, “All right, I can do this. There’s some certainty, but I got to focus. And I really got to make sure that I’m making effort to do something once a week.” Hopefully it’s landing in your daily big three once a week to bring you closer to that goal.

Nick: Okay. I’m popping in here to update listeners and our lovely host here about a previous episode that we did not that long ago. In fact, I think it’s two or three weeks ago, we did an episode on sleep and our nighttime routines. And we put a post up in the Full Focus planner community where we asked people to share their bedtimes. So we crunched some numbers around here in the Focus On This lab to find out what our listeners and what our members of our community were up to. And it turns out that most people are aiming to go to bed at 10:00 PM for listeners, which is honestly a little bit later than I would’ve expected considering that the population of people that I interact with make their living on high achieve and high performance ideas. Like Michael’s like, “I go to bed at 6:30 and I wake up at 1:00 AM and I’m ready to go.” That’s actually not true. I think Michael and Megan, and Ang, they’re like nine o’clock and I know Courtney’s like nine to 10.
So we’re talking 10:00 PM to go to bed. I don’t know where everyone slots in who’s listening to this and they’re shooting for seven and a half to eight hours a night. But some people are struggling to maintain that. And our assistant in the lab who brought this up, did point out that no one’s distinguishing between weekends and weekdays.

Courtney Baker: They do or don’t?

Nick: They’re not.

Courtney Baker: Yeah, I really don’t either. I kind of keep the same schedule. It tells you how my weekend life is with a 19 month old.

Nick: Party, party.

Verbs Boyer: That is interesting, because it seems like a wise move to maintain the same schedule. Because apparently let’s say you go to bed later on the weekends, then you won’t catch back up to your regular sleep pattern till… It takes you a few days to actually get back to a normal sleep pattern after that. So you’re kind of just ebbing and flowing if you switch it up.

Courtney Baker: What I want to know is Nick, has there have been any change in your sleep schedule? Because we talked about you’re a late nighter, night owl, but you’re also having to get up-

Nick: Well, it’s summertime, so my schedule’s a little different, I don’t have to be up as early necessarily because there’s not a child who’s going to school at seven o’clock. So I actually am sleeping a little bit later. I would actually say I’m getting more sleep right now, which is great, even though I’m doing one to two hours a day of summer school with my child which is another whole change in my routine and work life that I’ve had to adjust to. But I am somebody, and my wife too, when the weekend comes, we’re up at night because we’re night owls. So we’re like-

Courtney Baker: Can I give you a hack that if you wanted to try to go to sleep earlier?

Nick: I don’t know if we do, but I’m interested.

Courtney Baker: Okay. Here’s the hack. Have you ever done restorative yoga? And when I say restorative yoga, what I really mean is supported sleep almost honestly. So you have Peloton. I have Peloton. You already have access to these. Now you probably have to use some pillows until you got the stuff to use the props, but it’s a 30 minute workout. But what I really mean is it is going to get you to the point that you’re not just like… Sometimes I actually fall asleep doing it, but most of the time it’s like, I am going immediately to bed because that’s all I want to do. It just gets you to that state where you’re like… I actually thought the other day, I was like, this should just be part of my evening ritual because it feels like how you feel when you’re getting a massage, you’re like at that real zen, just so relaxed place.

Nick: There is somebody listening to this right now that is so excited that you brought this up. They’re like, “That’s my jam. No one ever talks about it.” And if you’re that person let us know in the Full Focus community.

Courtney Baker: It’s probably just me.

Nick: No, no, no. I’ve heard of it.

Courtney Baker: It’s amazing. It’s like stretching plus to the point you stretch, but it’s all supported so that you literally could fall asleep. And so it’s bonus. Your body gets so relaxed that it actually starts restoring itself.

Nick: Verbs, you have any thoughts on this situation? Not that you have to.

Verbs Boyer: I mean, one of the things I’ve been trying is cutting the grass in 95 degree heat with 100% humidity. And after I’m done, like my body is like, where’s the pillow, I’m out. There’s no app for that by the way. But I’m just saying, try it.

Courtney Baker: That would be like the best app. Oh my gosh. Guys, I think I killed it. I think I killed it. I think I killed it.

Verbs Boyer: Confirm, confirm, confirm. I

Courtney Baker: I made contact, contact is made.

Verbs Boyer: Hey, flies are resilient. They’ll lay dead, play dead for a minute and then pop right back up.

Courtney Baker: He’s still flying around.

Verbs Boyer: I’m telling you.
So today’s tip to level up your focus. Pick one goal that you can make riskier, maybe by setting a closer deadline or upping the results that you want to see, but write down your new and improved goal right there in your planner.
Thank you once again for joining us on Focus On This.

Courtney Baker: This is the most productive podcast on the internet, except when you have a fly flying around in your office. So share it with your friends. And I would love your feedback on how to get rid of said fly in office. You can let me know in the Full Focus planner community on Facebook. We’ll be back next Monday with another great episode. Until then, stay focused. I demand it and require it.