The TIME-entific Method: A New System for Accomplishing Your Long-Term Goals

A guide to accomplishing long-term objectives while learning about yourself along the way!

This is Part 2 of a series of about creating and accomplishing goals. Part 1 is titled: Move over SMART goals, TIME goals are the improved key to success!

Accomplish your long-term goals and learn about yourself along the way

The TIME-entific Method is a process anyone can use to achieve fulfillment and success in their professional and personal life. It leverages simple and familiar mechanisms to establish a self-sustaining system for working through any problem we may be facing.

Because accomplishing our biggest aspirations is no easy feat, leveraging the right kind of tools can be monumental in overcoming the obstacles and complexities along the path to these objectives. The TIME-entific Method is a particularly powerful tool that evolved from discoveries I made over the past 5 years leading, mentoring, and coaching some talented and passionate people.

The name “TIME-entific Method” is a not-so-clever reference to the 2 key components in the system: TIME Goals and the scientific method.

The TIME-entific Method is a process anyone can use to achieve fulfillment and success in their professional and personal life.

TIME Goals Meet the Scientific Method

At a high-level, the TIME-entific Method can be summarized as this:

  1. Treat your objective as a hypothesis (aka “Mypothesis”), not as an established fact
  2. Create one or more TIME goal(s) as an experiment to test and improve your Mypothesis
  3. Reflect, learn, and analyze the results of the TIME goal(s) and adjust the Mypothesis if needed
  4. Repeat from Step 2

If this seems overly simplistic and obvious, that’s great! The most impactful innovations often seem obvious in retrospect. While trying to achieve our goals, our tendency to hastily arrive at conclusions or jump ahead in the process is a common problem. We end up sabotaging our own success by skipping important observations and lessons.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method generally consists of 6 steps:

  1. Make an observation and/or ask a question
  2. Research what data exists and what has already been proven
  3. Construct a hypothesis
  4. Test the hypothesis through experimentation
  5. Examine the results to make a conclusion
  6. Iterate and repeat by adjusting the hypothesis and/or changing the approach toward experimentation

After at least 300 years of use, it’s safe to say we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate the importance and usefulness of the scientific method. I won’t be able to adequately describe the impact the scientific method has had on our entire civilization…so let’s just say it’s a big deal. For the purpose of this article, the most relevant aspect of the scientific method is that it’s used for both finding solutions to problems and building an objective, repeatable understanding of our world.

One of the strengths of the scientific method is it forces us to test and prove our assumptions and not simply consider them as fact. In order to form a hypothesis, we must make an observation, ask a question, and do some research. This practice has served us well for centuries, yet when it comes to approaching our own goals and objectives, we often jump to the conclusion that we know exactly what we want to accomplish.

Thus, the first critical part of the TIME-entific Method is examining our objectives more closely and treating them as a hypothesis to test rather than truths we must accept.

Step 1 — Treat Your Objective as a “Mypothesis”

Don’t assume you know exactly what it is you want to accomplish just yet

A significant revelation in the process of accomplishing long-term goals is that you can’t actually define the correct objective without some thought, experimentation, and learning. An outcome you will effectively accomplish will take some time and effort to find, and it may look quite different from what you thought your original objective was.

Instead of a hard objective, let’s create a hypothesis about ourselves and our goals that we can test and adjust over time. Let’s call this flexible, long-term goal a Mypothesis (a hypothesis about myself)

Initial Goal: Be viewed as a respected and trusted expert in my field

Mypothesis: Over the next 6 months, I want to be invited to at least 1 meeting concerning a decision outside of my team which I did not explicitly request to be included

The biggest takeaway I’ve found from investing in the growth of others is that the goals we have at the beginning of this process will probably not be the things we actually end up accomplishing. Just like trying to come up with a hypothesis without identifying the actual problem, until you do some research and testing you’re making an uninformed guess.

I’ve come up with 3 methods to help with creating a new Mypothesis before creating TIME goals:

  1. Don’t assume you know what you want
  2. Question your assumptions
  3. Ask 5 why’s

An outcome you will effectively accomplish will take some time and effort to find, and it may look quite different from what you thought your original objective was.

Tip 1: Don’t Assume You Know What You Want

A great way to turn a concrete objective into something that sounds more like a hypothesis worth testing is simply adding “I want to” into the goal. This can transform the goal of “finish the things I start” into the hypothesis of “I want to finish the things I start”.

With the goal of “finish the things I start”, it’s hard to know what you learned or where to go next if you don’t complete the binary outcome. The hypothesis of “I want to finish the things I start” allows space for the possibility that you might not actually want to finish that specific goal. Maybe you learn you don’t actually want to finish all the things you started. Instead, perhaps you should avoid starting things you aren’t likely to finish?

Initial Goal: Finish the things I start

Mypothesis: I don’t want to start any new projects until I’ve finished all my existing projects

Tip 2: Question Your Assumptions

Hidden within every objective we aim for there are embedded assumptions. If we don’t understand and evaluate those assumptions we may be setting out to achieve something we don’t actually care about or something that won’t get us the result that we’re expecting.

A great first step with any goal is to flesh out the assumptions within the objective.

Example Goal: Get a promotion this year

Question Your Assumptions:

  1. What does being promoted actually mean?
  2. What do you expect to change in your life once you’re promoted?
  3. What have you seen happen leading up to or after a promotion for someone else?
  4. What part of being promoted is the most important to you? Would you still want it if it didn’t result in a higher salary? What if it wasn’t announced to anyone? Is it just a way to get more opportunities or have more responsibility?

Starting Goal: Get promoted this year

Example Mypothesis: I want to earn a 5% salary increase within the next 6 months

Example Mypothesis: I want to either lead a team at work or identify the 1 most important area to improve in to become a team leader by the end of this year

Example Goal: Learn to speak Spanish

Question Your Assumptions:

  1. Is there something you want to do that requires you to know Spanish (ie travel, work, etc.) or do you have other, less tactical reasons for learning the language?
  2. Is there a person or group of people you want to communicate better with?
  3. Why Spanish and not another language?
  4. Why learn to speak a language over acquiring another skill or ability?
  5. Do you know how well you need to be able to speak the language in order to complete this goal?

Starting Goal: Learn to speak Spanish

Example Refined Goal: I want to enroll in 1 class in the local community college that is applicable to my job for the coming fall semester

Example Refined Goal: I want to visit my grandma at least 3 times over the next 2 months, each time with another question (in Spanish) to encourage her to teach me about her life

Tip 3: Ask 5 Why’s

One way to dig into your deeper motivations is to leverage the strategy of many 6-year-olds: continue asking “why”. In practice, you might only be able to ask “why” a few times before needing slightly different questions however, the intent should still be the same — dig deeper into the motivation.

Example Goal: Buy a home

Why? — “It seems like the most responsible thing to do, and I’m tired of throwing away rent money”.

Why? — “I’ve heard it’s a smart investment long term because I can get my rent money back when I sell the home later. Plus, it’s supposed to help with taxes”.

If I was able to find a way to get those same financial benefits while still renting would I still want to buy a home? — “Well, I do like my apartment and I’m not in a hurry to move. I have always wanted to get a dog too, and have just told myself that I won’t even think about it until I have a house with a yard.”

Why? — (Continue the questioning…)

Starting Goal: Buy a home

After asking 5 why’s, I split the goal into 2 separate Mypotheses:

Mypothesis A: I want to start saving money by the end of this year, either by owning a home or through another means with an equivalent savings rate

TIME Goal A-1: If my rent payment directly became a mortgage payment, how expensive of a house could I afford? Find out by Wednesday

TIME Goal A-2: By the end of this week, find 3 financial benefits of owning a home and estimate how much those could add up to over a year

Mypothesis B: I want to get a pet by the end of this year

TIME Goal B-1: Before the end of this week, find out if my apartment building allows dogs and what their pet policy is

TIME Goal B-2: By the end of this week, find 2 alternatives to leaving a dog home alone all day while I’m at work

Step 2 — Create TIME Goals To Test and Improve Your Mypothesis

NOTE: For more information on TIME goals, check out my other medium story about TIME goals

Creating TIME goals lets you to get closer to your objectives and learn what’s actually important to you

Now that you have a Mypothesis, let’s start making some honest to goodness progress!

Following the TIME methodology, work toward finding the smallest possible increment you can make toward the outcome in your Mypothesis. Remember that you don’t have to know for certain that the TIME goal is perfectly aligned — it can simply be an experiment to see if you’re on the right track — just ensure it’s TIME compliant (Time-bound, Incremental, Measurable, Experimental) and is building from what you’ve learned so far.

Here are some examples of creating TIME goals aligned to a Mypothesis:

Mypothesis: Over the next 6 months, I want to be invited to at least 1 meeting concerning a decision outside of my team which I did not explicitly request to be included

TIME Goal 1: By the end of this week, identify at least 1 time we reached out to an expert outside of the team for input on a decision

Mypothesis: I don’t want to start any new projects until I’ve finished all my existing projects

TIME Goal 1: By tomorrow, compile a list of all the unfinished project I currently have in progress

Mypothesis: I want to earn a 5% salary increase within the next 6 months

TIME Goal 1: By the end of the week, compile a list of at least 2 new responsibilities and 2 areas I’ve improved in over the past year which could justify a raise right now

Remember that you don’t have to know for certain that the TIME goal is perfectly aligned — it can simply be an experiment to see if you’re on the right track — just ensure it’s TIME compliant (Time-bound, Incremental, Measurable, Experimental) and is building from what you’ve learned so far.

3. Reflect, Learn, Adjust, Repeat

Use the result of your TIME goals as evidence that you’re going in the direction or need to adjust

So you’ve either completed the TIME goals or the time period for your TIME goals have passed, now it’s time to reflect and figure out what’s next.

Reflect

Did you complete the TIME goal? Was it easy or difficult? Did you exceed the measurable outcome you spelled out? Did you put it off until the last moment? Asking yourself questions like these will give you a sense of whether you’re on the right track or not.

If you nailed the goal, there’s likely an opportunity to finish what you started, act upon the information you collected, ramp up the size of the goal, or some other logical progression from the previous goal.

If you didn’t complete the goal, don’t just try to repeat the same goal again, it’s likely time to make an adjustment.

Learn

If you didn’t complete the goal, why was it? I’d be willing to guess that it’s not the right TIME goal or the Mypothesis may even be invalid. The answer “I just didn’t have enough time” is an excuse I’ve used countless times myself, and have heard others use even more. “I was too busy” actually translates to “I was too busy with things that I care more about”. This is a sign that what you think is important to you and what actually is important to you might not be aligned.

Of course, we do have emergencies that can pop-up and eat all of our available time. However, these emergencies happen far less often than we tell ourselves. In general, we will make time for the things that are most important to us, and when we don’t, it’s a signal to ourselves that the goal is not registering as something important.

From my time helping others create Mypotheses and TIME Goals, when someone is on a path toward something they care about, they will get in a rhythm of making consistent progress, learning from it, and coming up with new TIME goals. This is what I mean when I say people build up “momentum”. If the momentum suddenly stops, or they aren’t able to get it going in the first place, it’s usually time for some hard questions and self-examination related to their Mypothesis.

“I was too busy” actually translates to “I was too busy with things that I care more about”. This is a sign that what you think is important to you and what actually is important to you might not be aligned.

Adjust & Repeat

1. I DID accomplish my TIME goal, now what?

If you complete a TIME goal toward a Mypothesis, you’re starting to build evidence that your hypothesis about yourself might be accurate while making progress toward your goal at the same time. This is a positive feedback loop that usually means it’s not too difficult to come up with a new set of TIME goals. Some example questions:

If you ran 1 mile this week, could you run 2 miles next week?

If you researched some information, are you able to make a decision and start acting on it?

If you scheduled a meeting, do you have a written plan or expected outcome prepared for the meeting?

If you answered a question, is there now a follow-up question or proposal that needs to be investigated?

2. I DID NOT accomplish my TIME goal, now what?

So you didn’t accomplish the previous TIME goal? Great! This means you get to learn something about yourself!

Because this is usually the most challenging and time-consuming situation, I’ll leave this to be covered in another article should folks be interested in learning more. Please reach out or leave a comment if you’d like to hear more experiences I’ve had and strategies I’ve developed for adjusting after not completing TIME goals.

Final Tip: Talk it Through With Someone Else

Figuring out incremental TIME goals is significantly easier, effective, and efficient when you have another human being to talk to about it. At work, a manager, mentor, career coach, or any trusted co-worker can act as a thinking partner. Outside of work, a friend, partner, or family member can be a good sounding board as well. They don’t need to be an expert or know much of anything about the subject matter, they just need to be someone you trust and can be open with. Regardless of who, an outside perspective can be invaluable in learning about your own behavior and coming up with other TIME goals to experiment with.

Additional Mypothesis & TIME Goal Examples

Example 1: Exercise More

Mypothesis: I want to exercise on a weekly basis for the entire year

TIME Goal 1: On Tuesday and Thursday of this week, wake up 15 minutes earlier and run a lap around my block.

Reasoning for TIME goal: Before I look into getting a gym membership, let’s test to see if I’m capable of making time to exercise at all

Example 2: Spend more quality time with my partner

Mypothesis: I want to spend quality time with my partner every day

TIME Goal 1: By Sunday, come up with a proposal of something to do together all 5 weeknights next week, 2 of which require leaving the house.

Reasoning for TIME goal: I know we struggle to agree on things to do, so if I make a proposal we can at least agree to commit to the nights and see if there are any conflicts

Example 3: Get Better at Public Speaking

Mypothesis: I want to do at least 3 presentations to my co-workers over the next 6 months

TIME Goal 1: Identify at least 3 people I know who have done good public presentation in the past and schedule time to chat with all of them

Reasoning for TIME goal: I want to get referrals on places to learn or things to do before I start looking for materials or classes myself

Conclusion: The TIME-entific Method is a Powerful Tool For Accomplishment and Self-Improvement

Just as the scientific method gives us a mechanism for solving problems and understanding our world, the TIME-entific Method gives us a process for solving our own problems and understanding our own behavior.

The scientific method ensures that no hypothesis or experiment is truly a failure. An experiment result that aligns with the hypothesis leads to further experimentation or iterating toward a stronger hypothesis. An experiment result that does not align with the hypothesis leads to adjusting the hypothesis and more experimentation. Regardless of whether the outcome was what had been predicted, the result is valuable information that moves us forward. This critical principle is at the core of what makes the TIME-entific Method so effective.

The TIME-entific Method gives us a system where success is not contingent on accomplishing the goal, it’s contingent on examining our own behavior. After each iteration, we either have documented progress toward something we care about or we learn something important about ourselves that will empower us to be better at everything we do. In a lot of cases, NOT accomplishing the TIME goal can be more impactful than accomplishing the TIME goal ever could have been!

All our time and effort matters; the TIME-entific Method gives us a way to remind ourselves of that. Happy experimenting!

This is Part 2 of a series of about creating and accomplishing goals. To learn more about TIME goals, check out Part 1: Move over SMART goals, TIME goals are the improved key to success!

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