At a party earlier this week, the hostess handed me a cutting board, knife, and a half-dozen tomatoes to be sliced. “What,” I asked, “is the goal?”
She laughed at me. “Sandwiches!”
I asked for a good reason, no matter how funny it might have sounded. If she’d said, “Salad!” I would have cut the tomatoes in different shapes than I did for sandwiches.
The goal matters. It affects how you do the task, and therefore it affects the quality of your results.
When I work on website content for my clients, I always start by asking about goals. Websites serve different purposes for different people. Each page on a website has its own goal, usually to invite the reader (the website visitor) to do something specific – which could be anything from signing up for a newsletter on up to calling to book high-end services.
Whatever you’re working on, whether it’s slicing tomatoes or writing website content or anything else, don’t start until you know your goal. Because if you haven’t clearly and specifically defined your goal, you risk never getting there.
Tomatoes sliced in bite-sized salad chunks would never work for a sandwich. Yes, they’d be sliced. But they’d be useless for the actual goal: sandwiches. The same task, but very different end results.
Later that evening, someone came in muttering about the back seat of a car and the dog. My friend started to answer his question, then stopped. “What’s the goal?!” she cried. Needless to say, she and I practically fell over laughing. But his answer – “Dog slobber! A towel!” – allowed her to give him an answer that was directly responsive to his need.
Whenever you start something, stop to think about the desired end result. It will change how you do the task at hand.