The New Year is always associated with reflection, renewal, and a commitment to change your lifestyle and achieve new goals. By January 20th, most of those goals have succumbed to the daily routine of work, family, and friends. Goal planning is apt to fail if the goal isn’t supported with tactical steps to reach the goal. I might want to lose 20 pounds or learn how to play guitar but unless I have real actions to support the goal, I might as well as buy a pair of jeans with a bigger waistline and unsubscribe from Guitar World magazine.

To project managers, aligning goals with action plans isn’t anything new; every year we set goals and objectives, initiate projects, and develop detailed tasks. Despite the utility of project schedules, I’m not likely to build a weight loss plan or develop a rehearsal schedule in Microsoft Project. For the personal goals, I like using a task-list approach that I can check off as I make progress to the end goal.

Asana is a free and easy way to incorporate a little project management into your personal and professional goal setting. Asana is an amazingly fast, web-based to-do list that lets you create and prioritize tasks and collaborate with coworkers. I previously wrote about Asana in the TechRepublic post, Free project collaboration tools that rock, so I’ll only highlight how you can use the tool to accomplish your personal and professional goals.

Figure A lists a sample set of goals for Improving Health, Learning Guitar, and Expanding the Professional Network. Under each goal heading are specific tasks that need to be completed to accomplish the goal. It isn’t advisable to enter tasks that aren’t particularly actionable such as “Exercise More” or “Eat Better”. By identifying specific tasks, such as “Sign up for Tae Kwon Do” or “Pack Lunch 4 days per week,” you’ll build a better action plan to achieve the goal.
Figure A

Sample goals and actions (Click the image to enlarge.)

Within the first few minutes of working with Asana, you’ll find that entering tasks against each goal is as simple as entering them in a word processing program or spreadsheet. I created goals as heading by entering a colon (:) after each task. The sub-tasks appear under each task heading. Each task can have even more detail with due dates, notes, comments, and assigned team members (Figure B).
Figure B

Task detail (Click the image to enlarge.)

Asana has a useful priority feature that allows you to specify if you are going to work on the task Today, Upcoming, or Later. Each day, you can pick from the specific tasks and assign the proper priority. Asana automatically filters the tasks so the tasks you want to work on today show up first on your task list. Each goal or task can be assigned a due date. Asana will send you an email reminder identifying any late tasks or specific tasks due today. I find the reminders useful because it’s easy to reprioritize a task that was due, say, last week to today’s task list.

Goal setting in Asana isn’t limited to the individual; in fact, many organizations and clubs would benefit from using the project collaboration tool. For instance, organizations could create goals, assign tasks to each project team member, and monitor progress towards the goals. Instead of managing tasks and goals in email, Asana organizes all the communication into one tool that everyone can access.

The biggest benefit of using Asana for goal planning and achievement is how easy it is to integrate your personal and professional to-do lists into one checklist. If you’ve ever cleaned out your desk and found goals from five years ago, you might want to consider switching to Asana. The same task list can be accessed from a web browser or Asana’s free iPhone or Android application.

John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” With Asana, you can plan and achieve goals while life happens.