This week in the Index's tech column~ Going for the goal in 2002

Every New Year’s eve, the ritual is the same. We usher out the old year with “Auld Lang Syne” and we ring in the new with raised glasses and toast: “This year, I’m really going to …!”
With eager hearts full of good intentions, we vow to finally make good on the pledges of years pas – and present. But by the time spring rolls around, these promises are all but forgotten.
As any goal-setter knows, it’s the New Year’s resolutions that are hard to keep. We usually go for the big, unattainable goals during this annual promise-fest such as losing weight, quitting smoking, finding your true love, or getting out of debt. And then there is the public pressure, as people constantly query friends and relatives about their resolutions – and pester if the goals are not kept.
Forget half-hearted resolutions. The Internet has a rescue plan: They’re a Web-based personal productivity tool, all about helping people define and accomplish any goal, of any type and do whatever they set out to do.
Vice President of Marketing Anthony Helmstetter says to not despair if you have trouble getting goals to be more than just items on your wish list. There’s practical advice to help you get in gear for the new year – so that you can plan your goals and see them through to the end.
Q: How does work?
A: It really is quite a revolutionary concept. is a Web-based personal productivity tool that helps people set and manage any personal or professional goal. We do this by solving two fundamental problems everyone has. Most people know what they want to accomplish. They don’t know how to go about doing that. The second problem is people don’t stay on track over time. Our application helps solve both those problems
Q: So a person somehow gets reminded to stay on track?
A: Exactly. What we help people do is come up with a workable plan in a very simple way to help them achieve their goal and then utilize e-mail reminders in an interval that they set. They get reminded of specific tasks they need to do – when it’s coming up and when it’s past due.
Q: It’s sort of an Insta-nag.
A: You can use it to encourage you or reminder you or nag you as often or as infrequently as you want to and that varies greatly depending on the nature of the goal.
Q: Has myGoals been around on the Internet awhile?
A: We built this application over the course of the past year. We did it very quietly and debuted February 2000. We have a large amount of intellectual property and patent work going into this.
Q: Explain how the e-mail reminder service actually works.
A: The core of the e-mail reminder is the goal plan itself. We help people achieve their goal plan in a very novel way. We found through research that when you ask people what they want to accomplish, they have no problem telling you what their goal is: some place they want to travel to, the amount of money they want to make, something they want to learn. If you ask the same people how they want to accomplish their goal, they hit a brick wall. So our novel approach was to ask, “What are the obstacles standing in your way, what is preventing you from achieving your goal?”
And as if by magic, people have no problem articulating what’s standing in their way: don’t have enough time or money or their spouse doesn’t support them.
Q: It’s the blame game.
A: Yes, it is. But it’s something that we’re accustomed to doing. Then we take one obstacle at a time and the applications walks the user through this very simple process. It guides them by coming up with a task that’s designed to overcome just that one obstacle. If you repeat that with all the obstacles, you end up with this list of tasks with start and end dates, and then you have a very comprehensive plan by date that tells you how to overcome all the obstacles that stand between you and your goal. That goal plan is the core and we tie the e-mail reminders to those individual tasks, giving the user control on how often they want to get those reminders.
Q: One thing that makes accomplishing goals difficult is just getting started and doing something toward that direction. Does myGoals help with that?
A: It’s very important at the point when an individuals motivation is very high – for instance, New Years is often a time when we focus briefly on something we want to do – that’s the point to commit your plan to paper. Unfortunately, most people only think about what they want to do and nothing else. Putting a plan to paper – or to our application – is a much more powerful way to take your goal to the next step. At the point you have a plan broken down by steps and you have e-mail reminders coming in to tell you what to do next – even to the point that we have pre-made goal plans that will guide you to what the next step should be, that should keep a person going. And if you check those off, you get that sense of accomplishment.
Q: What about if I can’t decide on a goal to pursue?
A: The site is broken down to nine major life areas. Within those we have over 5,000 suggested goal plan titles. So anybody who says they don’t know what they want to do or looking for that next thing to get them excited, we’ve got a wealth of information. The site is filled with dozens of pre-make goal plans. They’re essentially templates that are populated with typical obstacles. Adopt a pre-made goal plan, modify it to your particular circumstances and within a matter of minutes you have a very comprehensive plan to help them accomplish the goal.
Q: What are the most popular goals people are setting?
A: The most popular category recently changed. Historically it has been Health and Fitness. The category of Personal Finance just edged ahead recently. It’s interesting to see that, with the recession and economic downturn, it is clearly reflected in peoples individual goals.
Q: Are you working with any of the PDA’s or organizer software to mesh this application into those?
A: Not at this point in time. It’s important to realize we’re not a replacement to your calendar system. If you use Outlook’s organizer, it’s very hard to use it to help you climb Mt. McKinley next week. They’re not set up to do that kind of hierarchical to do list.
Q: How can companies use
A: Absolutely. It’s very easy for a manager or a team leader to manage their departmental goals. We see a great deal of enthusiasm in sales organizations. Frankly, businesses are always looking for ways to set work goals and stay on track, whether it’s to double your quarterly sales, or, for that matter, launch an entire new division or reduce absenteeism. Companies are always trying lots of ways to boost productivity, increase revenues, and cut costs, and setting goals is a fundamental ingredient. We’re seeing tremendous interest coming from corporations who are interested in empowering their employees to set and manage their goals. It’s not all about the short-term bottom line either; we’re finding that companies would also like to wrap corporate training and employee satisfaction initiatives within the context of goal-setting. Naturally, these ultimately affect the bottom line as well.
A full audio interview with can be heard at:
Dana Greenlee writes about technology every Friday in the Index. She is co-host of WebTalkGuys, a radio talk show featuring technology news and interviews. The show is broadcast on CNET Radio in San Francisco/San Jose, Boston and over the XM Satellite Radio Network Channel 130 every Saturday at 10 am PST and Sunday at 7 p.m. PST. WebTalkGuys is also Webcast on the Internet on demand from:
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