Julia Ford on setting goals and time management
Each fall, serious ski racers set yearly goals. The first time I performed this ritual was at Holderness, with goals ranging from winning one race to qualifying for J2 nationals. Once I was on the national team, I made new goals. I remember sitting at Mt. Hood, setting one-year, 5-year, and career goals. I understood why my coaches pried. Accomplishing a goal took steps, but I hated when I was told ‘baby steps,’ ‘it’s a process,’ blah. And, yet, it was true. Learning new skills takes time and repetition. We set goals to keep us on track and our priorities in order, and give our work a purpose.
At GroundSwell, goals were our first objective. This made sense. Starting a new adventure meant I needed new goals. I thought, “goals, psh, I got this.” Wildly presumptuous and, frankly, quite wrong. Yes, I’ve made goals my entire career, but not the GroundSwell way.
GroundSwell’s three concepts changed the way I look at goal setting. They are role descriptions, SMART goals, and time allocation. A role description is comparable to a job description, the difference being our emphasis on key result areas. For example, a ski coach guides athletes toward faster skiing. Their key result areas are coaching (obviously), videoing, providing good training, athlete schedules, race entry, and other administration duties, to name a few. For each key result area, we make SMART goals; S-specific, M-measurable, A-accountable, R-realistic, T-time-based. We write them down for all parties to agree, restricting any room for confusion. We set clear, attainable, quantifiable goals. Being a ‘go-with-the-flow’ person, this simple, specific exercise was instrumental in giving me diameters, guidance, and structure. Three scary words that, surprisingly, make life easier.
The third concept is time. GroundSwell’s time allocation dives into time’s fickle ways. Addressing where my time goes helped me understand how time quickly elapses. We use an app to track time spent on each activity. Each task receives a percentage measuring how much time it consumes. Considering my priorities and key result areas, I would have to pull 10- to 11-hour days to achieve my goals.
Upon further evaluation, two takeaways arose:
I drive way too much! Hours a day - back and forth from the mountain, home, run errands, do this, do that. It is part living remote, part lifestyle. Driving is challenging to change and, in some ways, unchangeable. I have to get to the ski mountain.
Transitions between activities take forever! After 6 hours of skiing do I really want to rush to the gym, or, even harder, do work? No. I want to sit on my couch and snack!
Ultimately, information is power and where my time goes is important to accomplishing my goals.
This year, numerous people have asked for my goals. I find goals deeply personal. I share my specific goals with a chosen few who support and share my journey. My broader goals are fine: I’m here to ski, I’m here to win, I’m here to develop myself professionally. As I look into future jobs and relationships, I hope to conduct the beginnings differently. Role descriptions provide clear guidance, I’m driven by goals set in key result areas, and it benefits me to know where my time goes. If I know my time’s capacity, I know how much I have to give. Role descriptions can be done for anything. Going into a company, we expect every employee to have a role description. In class we spoke of using them as athletes, siblings, friends. What are our roles under these titles? what would success be? As we age, individual goals aren’t always done but they’re still important. They give purpose and guidance. Throw time in there and we have three highly sought gifts.