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Agile Life Planning: Defining Tasks to Achieve Goals

We’ve already discussed in a previous article how you can make up a list of your goals and why it is necessary. Now let us see how you can further handle that list. The first thing we have to consider is that we can’t just start working in accordance with such high-level list of goals, moving from one goal to next. If you were making your list by using and combining different methods of defining goals, then it would probably become rather eclectic; the points of such a plan could (and should) be very different from one another.

Why is it necessary to classify and distinguish goals?

We’ve already discussed in a previous article how you can make up a list of your goals and why it is necessary. Now let us see how you can further handle that list. The first thing we have to consider is that we can’t just start working in accordance with such high-level list of goals, moving from one goal to next. If you were making your list by using and combining different methods of defining goals, then it would probably become rather eclectic; the points of such a plan could (and should) be very different from one another.

First, although all goals do reflect your aspirations, the approaches to achieving them can be very diverse. In one case, you need to achieve something important but only once; in another case you want to have a different perspective on life and regular success.

Second, goals can be absolutely different in their scale or ambitions; we may have differences in understanding what one should do to achieve them. For some goals or aspirations, there can be no “road map” at all; they can only represent some general direction.

In the case of the first argument, we can divide the whole list into two categories — one-time goals and certain regular events. And of course, you will have to work with goals in each category in a different way. In view of the different scales and details of the goals, the best solution would be decomposition, i.e. splitting each larger point into a set of smaller tasks and stages.

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An algorithm for transforming the list of goals into tasks and habits

To transform a general list of goals into a really functional and easy tool, you should perform the following steps:

1. Divide the list of goals into 2 groups:

  • Those that imply some important eventual outcome; let’s call them simply “GOALS”; and
  • Those that imply achieving some permanent result or effect; let’s call them “CAPABILITIES”

2. Decompose those goals and capabilities into a series of understandable tasks and stages to achieve the former and to develop the latter: the goals are then split into tasks, and the capabilities — into habits. Build a “road map” for each item.

3. Build a common structure, a mind map for the goals, capabilities, skills, and tasks to achieve them.

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Step 1. Classification: Goals and Capabilities

So, at the first stage of working with the goal backlog, you should look through every line in the list and determine which of the two groups it refers to:

Group 1 – Goals. To obtain a one-time, final result.

  • They are milestones/aspirations to be achieved/realized once. As soon as the required result is achieved, the respective goal is fulfilled and closed. You can then strike the point out, check the box, flag it, whatever.
  • Actually, to fulfill such goals, you need to implement a certain project which has certain terminal conditions. The simplest examples of such goals are: to save a certain amount of money, visit some place, get a promotion, etc.
  • The word “goals” will refer to that group, although the second group in fact also includes them. But goals in group 2 are of a little different kind.

Group 2 – Capabilities and Skills. Their purpose is a continuous effect.

  • Look at that group through the following example. Suppose you are planning to live a healthy lifestyle; it is quite a decent goal but there is no terminal point where you can stop doing that. Here, unlike group 1, the goal is a process, a lifestyle, some regular activities.
  • To keep a particular lifestyle, you need to make it a habit. Or, to be more accurate, you need to acquire a lot of useful habits that will form that lifestyle, your skills and capabilities.
  • The group of skill goals is primarily aimed at the continuous development and “tuning” of yourself.
  • At that stage, you just mark each point in the backlog, specifying it either as “goal” or “capability.”

In the second part of the article next week we will discuss about goal decomposition.

Pavel Novikov 
Program Manager

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