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I have been using the GTD methodology and I have the control side of it well in hand. However, for the perspective side, contained in the 'horizons of focus' technique, I'm having trouble establishing goals that really strongly connect with me so I am interested in how to question the goals that I am coming up with and get to deeper motivations. For example, I'm interested in software development, but perhaps not for itself but rather its ability to create 'in the world' networks through online networks so therefore it would be better for me to perhaps focus my efforts in something that achieves the latter rather than becoming a software developer.

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The Now Goals concept by Michael Linenberger

The Concept of "Now Goals" by Michael Linenberger is composed of 2 key parts:

  • "vision goals" = defining your goals in a way that you can connect with them emotionally and are inspired to achieve them, practically that means writing a short "goal statement" for each goal (details see below)
  • "goal spinning" = regularly (once per day or even more often), reserve some minutes to read those goal statements to yourself and so keep them active and present in your mind


Linenberger, Michael (2010). Master your workday now! : proven strategies to control chaos, create outcomes & connect your work to who you really are. New Academy Publishers, San Ramon, Calif

Michael Linenbergers Book Master Your Workday Now contains several chapters about setting goals that really fit with your vision and how to make sure that you work on them regularly.
the book on Amazon: the Author's Homepage:

Name of the concept

The Author calls his Concept Now Goals to underline the difference between his concept and the "classical" goals.

What does it need to achieve a goal?

Linenberger emphasizes, that

  • it is not sheer willpower which is necessary to achieve a goal (as many people think who often fail and the think they don't have enough willpower to push their goals through),
  • but you often need a vision to achieve your goals.

He adds that "vision" often seems to be reserved for high level goals like Company strategy, CEOs and higher management, but that "vision" can and should be used on any level to connect the people to their goals.

1. Defining the goal statement: Now Goal = Vision goal + target goal(s)

Linenberger distinguishes 2 types of goals: vision goals and target goals. Many people get their goals "dictated" by the boss or company, so by others. In consequence, as the goals are not "their own", it is often difficult to connect to them and the one who has to work on them is not really commited to his goals and can not stand firmly behind them. The "vision" element is often/mostly forgotten, when management formulates a goal.

Vision goals

As vision is the key for the concept to work, each Now Goal statement needs a so called "vision goal". Linenberger defines vision as an outcome that transcendends the status quo and inspires action. It contains information about both

  • WHAT to achieve and
  • WHY to achieve it.

So, to formulate a text for a working vision goal, it needs

  • appropriate length
    long enough to contain the essential details, but short enough to read it daily
  • descriptive
    describe clearly the wished situation, explain, how things will be when the goal is completed
  • emotive
    describe it in a colorful and passionate way
  • positive
    use positive words - do not describe the actual, negative situation, that shall be changed, to avoid focusing on the negative present, but how great it will be when it has changed
  • present tense
    describe it in present tense, as if it was already completed
Examples of a vision goal:

source: Linenbergers book, p. 149 ff

  • for losing weight:

    "I am achieving a healthy optimal weight that looks good and feels vibrant. To do that, I easily reach a comfortable weight of 160 pounds"

  • increasing pay

    I just received a fantastic raise of 2.5 percent. That means I can now buy that convertible I have been longing for - I can see myself now, driving down the coast, the son un my face, the wind in my hair. What a sweet experience this is! I am also going out to dinner every weekend - I love great food.

  • increased corporate sales

    While increasing our number of satisfied customers, we are lifting sales by 1.5 percent and maintaining or profit margins.

or more emotional and detailed:

We are transferring our company to be a healthier, stronger, and profitable company in a way that increases shareholder value, all the while expanding the number of customers that can enjoy our products.
To do this, we anticipate a 15 percent sales increase, maintenance of profit margins, and stable or better measures of quality and customer satisfaction. Analysts applaud the strategies, shareholders are delighted and the board recognizes management for their superior work.

Target goals

Linenberger distinguishes between the above mentioned vision goals and target goals. The latter are closer to the definition of "SMART goals", which is often teached in time management courses and which many people use or have in mind.

In Linenbergers "Now Goals" concept, target goals are not necessary for the definition of a goal statement, but can be helpful. Several target goals can be added to one vision goal.

Target goals ...

  • are usually tactically oriented
  • have measurable/numercial outcome
  • they provide focus for action
  • often describe, how to reach or how to clarify the goal
  • therefore often describe steps of achievement
  • and thus can be used as main elements for a project plan

2. Goal spinning - review your goals regularly

It is not only important to define your goals in a way, that you can connect to them, but also to regularly review them to keep them and the vision (as the driving force for completion) active in your mind.

Linenberger proposes to take yourself time some minutes each morning to read the goal statements to yourself.

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If You Don't Know Why Deep Down Inside ...

Usually these higher level goals and the roles in our lives we fulfill are driven by emotional factors. In other words its just something you know in your heart. You want to be a better cook, a better friend a better parent, a more skilled professional, athlete or musician. There is no question then as to why we take lessons, attend practice or read self help books on certain topics.

However, there are also times when we inherit things, or things just fall into our laps that we feel we have to do or are stuck doing and maybe we don't know why.

And so we must ask, and keep asking "Why?" Sometimes its as simple as that.

Asking "Why?" Aligns Purpose with Task

To add rigor though there is the Five Whys. A disciplined technique to get at root causes or root reasons why certain things are the way they are. This helps especially in collaborative coporate settings where we often do things out of a collective habit. It helps to step back and find out why a particular task or meeting is necessary. Perhaps it has outlived the original purpose why it was created. Asking and answering why presents venue and an opportunity to realign purpose with tasks.

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Think who may be your perspective clients - people that you can provide value to. Think about the way you can maximize the total amount of value that you can provide to clients. Act accordingly. Be ready to totally change your activities if it will increase the total amount of value.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People contains a section (or chapter, or multiple sections, I forget) about the process of defining one's high-level goals and vision. There are some exercises therein, one specifically about imagining yourself at your own funeral, thinking about what you want to be said of you and your life, and using that to focus in on your highest-level purpose of "why am I on the planet?".

Personally I see GTD as more low-level, more nuts-and-bolts, more "how"; and Seven Habits as higher-level, more visionary, more "what" and "why".

I also have found that the "areas of responsibility" (one level above projects) is a good level to begin this type of visionary thinking. List all the main areas of your life (some of mine are "career", "finances", "family", "friends", etc), and see if you can identify overlaps (e.g. "learning to cook will be a hobby and improve my finances") or gaps (e.g. "I don't have any projects to improve my social life"). Use these to help plan new projects and actions that will lead you in a direction more aligned with your goals.

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