- Is the goal realistic?
- What are the specific steps required to reach it?
- Is the expected result clear?
- Have we adequately accounted for foreseeable obstacles?
- Does it support an objective?
But there's an important question that's easily overlooked:
Asking this question helps evaluate how the required effort might conflict with other goals.
But why not just prioritize? Certainly, there's no downside to prioritization for scheduling purposes. But isn't prioritization often just a tacit admission that too much is being planned?
Try another practice instead: ruthlessly prune. This can mean committing to fewer or just less ambitious goals. It can feel difficult because ambitious people want to do more. Paradoxically, planning to do less almost always results in getting more done because it sharpens focus and eliminates unnecessary distractions.
If needed, add removed items to an "icebox" list. If there's extra time after everything's been completed, "thaw" them.
The post "Succeeding By Knowing When to Quit" featured a story about a goal achieved at the expense of an objective. Asking the "forgotten" question would've led to an improved outcome as a result of the goal being scaled back. (See the post for what was, in context, an even better solution.)
Whatever you choose to do, you're giving up the opportunity to do something else. Choose wisely.
What questions do you use to help define effective goals?