A Guide to Using SWOT Analysis to Achieve your Goals

21 08 2008

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Image by Josef Stuefer on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Josef Stuefer on Flickr via Creative Commons

“Our inner strengths, experiences, and truths cannot be lost, destroyed, or taken away. Every person has an inborn worth and can contribute to the human community. We all can treat one another with dignity and respect, provide opportunities to grow toward our fullest lives and help one another discover and develop our unique gifts. We each deserve this and we all can extend it to others.”

You may or may not have heard of S.W.O.T. analysis. If you haven’t heard of it then I hope this post will explain what it is, how to do it and when you should use it. For those of you who do know what it is, I hope it provides a useful refresher and encourages you to use it and add it to your arsenal of techniques for personal effectiveness. For those of you who do use it regularly, well done, make yourself a cup of tea and go and watch family guy.

S.W.O.T. analysis is a technique which gets you to look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of any given situation. I think that you can use it in any scenario, but especially in ones that leave you wondering which way to go on a decision, deciding whether to spend more time (your most precious resource) on something or in goal setting. SWOT is simple and easy to remember.

You can apply SWOT analysis to any number of situations. Sometimes it will be a quick exercise to aid decisions, other times it can be a more in depth look in to a major life decision.

How to use the SWOT Analysis Technique

I think that in order to be effective you should know your own S.W.O.T.  You already know this subconsciously, but spending time focusing on thinking about it and committing it to paper gives deeper thoughts and understanding to your life (and you’re Lifestyle Project).

Starting by taking a piece of A4 paper (I find paper is best for this type of thing as it is free flowing and non-liner. You can always type it up later or put it in to some fancy mind mapping software if you want to.) Spilt the paper in to quadrants and title each one with Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats respectively. Now enter under each heading those items that come to mind in that area for your life. List your strengths; maybe you have good interpersonal skills and are great at presenting for example. Weaknesses; maybe you lack authority or are unskilled in a certain area. What personal opportunities does your life present you with? perhaps you have a friend going on a trek on the Inca Trail and they want you to come with them? That’s a great opportunity that you have which others may not. What about Threats? Maybe you have an overstretched mortgage or a massive credit card debt.

Using your SWOT

Here’s where the SWOT analysis technique comes into its own. It is what you do with your SWOT that is the differentiator between the normal person and the motivated, effective person who wants to improve. Most people will be able to do a SWOT analysis in most situations at a high level. Make yours deeper. Make it is as open, honest and deep as possible you are doing it for yourself and your own development. As will is done subjectively by you it is important to be as honest with yourself as possible to get the most benefit out of the situation. It is often beneficial to discuss your situation with other people that can offer you constructive views.

Acting on your SWOT

So now you’ve done your SWOT, you need to look at each area in turn. This is where you think about the results of the SWOT and what actions you need to give yourself for personal development.

Here’s a checklist to help with this bit:

Strengths

  • Are they positive?
  • Are you using these to their full potential?
  • As they are strengths, can and are they being used to overcome your weaknesses?
  • How can you use this strength to its full potential

Weaknesses

  • Why is this weakness for you?
  • What are/could/should you be doing to overcome this?
  • What can you do to minimise the impact of this weakness?

Opportunities

  • Are you making the most of these?
  • If not making the most of these, why not?
  • How can you maximise the benefit of these?

Threats

  • What can you do to minimise the impact of these?
  • Can you eliminate them?
  • What strengths or opportunities can you use to overcome these?
  • Is a weakness creating these?

It is how you act on your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that will help you to achieve your goals.

I would recommend you do a personal SWOT and spend the time to review, and improve on it. Write down key actions you can do to improve your personal SWOT and stick a date in the diary to review it and your progress against the actions you set out for yourself. Review the actions in 1, 3 and 6 months time.

Other (external links):

Think about your Life Goals | Zen Habits

Benjamin Franklin’s Goals

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One response

3 09 2008
Skills for Productivity « Lifestyle Project

[…] Know your own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) SWOT is a simple way of illustrating that unless you know (or at least admit) your SWOT in achievements how can you carry out tasks effectively? Know what you are good at and focus on that, delegate other stuff you are not good at. You can change or influence your SWOT but it takes work and planning. Maybe these could be linked to your goals. See my post on SWOT analysis here. […]

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