With the coming of the New Year a significant number of us will be creating our annual goals, so following is a refresher on how to develop, evaluate, and implement our goals. I hope that the following helps with this process.
THE KEY TO DEVELOPING OUR GOALS
We all have some ultimate goal or reason that we are playing poker. In reality, every goal that we have should, in one way or another, be directing us to this goal. So it is incredibly important that we clearly understand what that ultimate goal is. Using this as our guide, we can then develop all of our lesser goals.
As discussed early last year, one of the elements that will lead to our success in any undertaking is to “Begin with the End in Mind”. We need to use this concept to develop all of our poker related goals, from our ultimate goal, to the major goals that lead up to that ultimate goal, to our minor goals that feed into our major goals, to our sub goals that feed into our minor goals, etc etc.
Once we have created our goals, then we need to evaluate them to ensure that they are fall within the framework of beneficial goals…
HOW TO EVALUATE OUR GOALS
We need to work to ensure that our goals follow a set of criteria that help us rather than hinder us. Goals that help us will do so by using clarity, forethought, and inherent challenge in order to maximize our personal growth. Goals will hinder us if certain negative factors exist that lead to goal and potentially performance frustration; examples of these negative factors would be ambiguity, unattainability, goals that are too easy to achieve, or goals that misdirect us (do not lead towards a larger goal).
In previous blogs I provided the criteria that I typically use when evaluating goals as well as a brief example of goal evaluation using these criteria. I use these (3) criteria extensively for the evaluation of goals that I set as well as goals set by my clients (in the case of poker) or subordinates (in the case of my day job):
1. How well is the goal defined?
2. How much will our goal challenge us and how realistic is the goal?
3. How does meeting this goal get us closer to our larger goals/ultimate goal in this endeavor?
Something to remember when evaluating our goals is that variance will typically preclude short term monetary or results based goals from being realistic!
CATEGORIZING AND PRIORITIZING OUR GOALS
Once we have evaluated a goal or set of goals it can be helpful to categorize them. This step will help us with developing our Action Plan (in the next step) and also with reviewing all of our goals as a whole.
As a poker player we need proficiency in three basic areas: our technical game, our mental/psychological game, and our money management. Using an analogy borrowed from trading, we can view our overall success as a three legged stool. If one of the legs is too short then the stool topples over. Ideally we will maintain our balance by focusing on all three areas as we move forward in our poker career.
By categorizing our goals as “Technical Game”, “Mental Game”, and “Money Management” we will have a clear understanding of which leg of the stool we are working on.
Ideally, we will be able to always be working on all of our goals, but in reality there are so many hours in a day and we will usually have to put certain goals on hold. Goal prioritization is a simple process and really comes down to which goal we think will be most helpful in helping us attain our ultimate goal. So if we happen to be going through a serious stretch in which various forms of Tilt are impacting our game then we are better off choosing the goal to "read The Poker Mindset" before the goal of "reading related threads from the 2p2 Anthology to better understand floating".
After we have developed a goal and determined it to be valid through the evaluation process, we will want to come up with the Action Plan that will allow us to accomplish this goal.
Action Plan example #1 - An easy example would be a goal of “Play 120,000 hands in 2010”. This obviously averages out to 10,000 hands per month, but we need to take into consideration any months that we may be taking off or playing less due to personal commitments. For instance, let’s say that we will be taking off June and July for the WSOP and we usually visit relatives in BFE for Christmas. If this is the case, then we need to factor that in and structure our monthly targets accordingly. So while our previous Action Plan may have been “Play 10k hands/month” our new plan will be something like this:
1. Play 13k hands January through May
2. Play 12k hands August through November
3. Play 7 k hands in December
Action Plan example #2 - A slightly more complex example would be determining the Action Plan for moving up in limits. If we are currently bankrolled for 30BI at 200NL and want to be rolled for 30BI at 400NL by year's end then we need to determine how many hands that we would need to play at a given winrate in order to hit our goal. If for example we see ourselves as a slight winner at 200NL (say 2BB/100) then we will need to play approximately 150,000 hands.
One last point, we want to be sure to compare our Action Plans to confirm that they do in fact make sense with those in place for other goals. For example, if the goals associated with AP#1 and AP#2 above are both active then we have an issue as we are not putting in enough hands to move up from 200NL to 400NL.
Once we have developed and evaluated our goals, we need to record them. The easiest way to do this is to type them into a spreadsheet format. A standard header for our spreadsheet may look like this:
The beauty of entering our goals in a spreadsheet format is that we can add specific fields to better help us with tracking of the goals if we want to do so later on down the line. A free spreadsheet app, such as the one found at google docs works well for this.
The importance of writing our goals out is that it provides us opportunity for the following:
1. We can evaluate all of our goals together to ensure that they are not repetitive or contradictory.
2. We can evaluate all of our goals together to see if there are just too many. In the event that we do have too many, we can put certain goals “on hold” and wait until the next cycle (year, half-year, month, week) to activate them.
3. We are able to easily evaluate how many of our goals are emphasizing any particular area of proficiency (technical game, mental game, money management). If we are not developing one area of proficiency enough then we can shift our prioritization of goals around to make sure that we are taking a more balance approach.
4. We are able to more easily evaluate our progress and re-evaluate our goals as the information is consolidated into one location.
EVALUATE PROGRESS AND RE-EVALUATE GOALS
So as we move forward in the process, we want to periodically evaluate our progress and re-evaluate our goals.
The reason for evaluating our progress is to determine if our current Action Plan is moving us towards the goal in question. In the event that it is not, we want to remain process oriented as much as possible and determine how our Action Plan is not working and adjust accordingly. If at all possible we should not abandon goals based upon the fact that our Action Plan is not working, this should be a last resort.
How often we evaluate our progress is really up to our own judgment. We want to pick a timeframe that is not too lengthy to where we miss the opportunity to adjust, but not so frequent that we become bogged down. Typically a week is a good starting point as most of us generate, at the lowest level, goals on a monthly basis. I
Also, we need to be aware that for some period of time we will not be able to specifically evaluate progress of our major or ultimate goals. These larger goals will simply be used as points that we are working towards; think of them as beacons on the horizon and the “progress” will be evaluated through how well we are accomplishing the minor goals that feed into these greater goals (the sum of the parts making up the whole).
At the same time that we are evaluating the progress of our goals, we should take the time to re-evaluate them against the criteria previously discussed. While it is rare for a goal to at one time to have been in line with our criteria only to fall out once it is put into practice, it can happen. Unlike the situation in which our Action Plan is not working, if a goal falls out of line with our criteria we need to modify it (if it is not clearly defined, unattainable, or challenging) or abandon it altogether (if it is not longer moving us towards our larger goals/ultimate goal).
Hopefully everyone gets a little something from the material provided here. If you still have any questions or would like some assistance with developing, evaluating, or implementing your goals please feel free to post here, PM me, or look me up on Skype/AIM.