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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Goal Granularity

One of the keys to being successful at accomplishing something is having the right goals. The right goals are ones that fit together like a puzzle to assemble the bigger mission being accomplished. Our transformation from the typical family of 4 living in a subdivision to world voyagers on a sailboat full time is an example of a big mission that is being supported by many goals.

Accomplishing the various goals along our journey has provided a fantastic test lab to study the best ways to set goals. One of the key points often missed by those offering goal advice is around Goal Granularity. Sure, you will read statements about being attainable, realistic, and feasible. You will read about goals being measurable and being put on fixed timelines but rarely will you read about the concept Goal Granularity.

Goal Granularity is the identification of exactly what size goal you should attack. Coarse grained goals are goals that have longer time spans to complete, while fine grained goals are ones that have shorter time spans to complete.

To establish the right goal granularity for you, you must identify the maximum amount of time you can wait to accomplish a goal before you give up.

If you wait too long, you will lose focus. If you set your granularity too fine, however, you will accomplish goals so frequently that the joyous feeling that accompanies goal completion vanishes and goals become nearly meaningless.

In our process of transforming our lives, we've found that mixing our goal granularities suits us best. Some goals are coarse grained, and others are fine grained.

How do you find which granularity sizes work best for you? Study your history, and experiment. Mentally pick out an audacious granularity (one too small and one too large), and then try them out in parallel. Note how it feels, and then adjust accordingly.

Think about the right granularity for you, and then either dissolve goals into finer grains if needed, or make composite goals out of smaller goals to increase their size. Focusing on this aspect, in addition to the usual others, will help you set the right goals for your bigger mission.


  1. You have inspired me to make a list! So this doensn't sound like a big deal right, but being more of a "doer" then a "planner" I found it a little painful. But... it need to be done, and with the help of my mate, we're planning months ahead instead of the ususal "So what are we going to do today?". So...thanks

  2. @Travis and Maggie: :) Thank you! It always makes us feel good when something we share about this trip results in someone else being moved to try (or re-try) something that can help them achieve their goals.

    The beauty of interlocking goals is more effective execution towards the mission. Without a doubt, one can execute daily towards a mission sans a plan/list, but without a bigger plan, efficiencies and optimizations occur only on the fly and maybe out of blind luck. For us, we want to start our trip as fast as possible, so any opportunity for efficiency and optimization is taken.

    It looks like your "doer"ness is being trained in on making a list! Keep in touch and let us know how it goes.


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