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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My Goals Review

10 08 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Photo by Monster on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo by Monster on Flickr via Creative Commons

Life is rather like a tin of sardines – we’re all of us looking for the key. Alan Bennett

In the interests of open disclosure (and practicing what I preach), I thought I’d do a monthly review of my personal goals and where I am up to with them. I usually about once a week do a personal review of my goals and thoughts in a nice leather bound journal that I have. I thought it would be good to post my progress on the blog, as as (slowly but surely) more people visit get some reaction.

I think that doing personal reviews, much like GTDs weekly review, is great for making progress towards your goals. Even though you know what progress you are making generally, when you sit and write it down and make yourself accoutable you really bring to the front of your mind the actual progress you are making. For example, doing this now really reminded me that I am making no progress against goal no. 2!



Goal No.1 – Generate Income without a 9-5

I’ve got lots of ideas bubbling over a the moment. I have put a lot of work in to this blog to learn about social networking, blog writing and internet oppurtunities in general. The idea is not really to monetize this blog, but build on what I learn and track my progress here.

I re-reassured myself that moving from a 9-5 to an income stream that I control myself if the way to go, and I continue to work actively towards that goal.

Projects that I can update on: I am putting together a Lifestyle Project eBook. It’s in the researching phase at the moment but I hope that it will improve my writing ability and add some real value to this site.



Goal No. 2 – Be in a Band

I’m sad to report that I have made no progress towards this goal, other than sending a guitar playing friend a message via Facebook saying that we should meet up for a Jam session. I think that I have been making good progress on the other goals and this has just had to take a back seat. I plan to bring this goal more in to focus in the coming months as I really want to have something together to play at my Dad’s 60th birthday party next year.



Goal No. 3 – Maintain Fitness

I chose the word ‘Maintain’ as this is something that I have struggled with in the past. I am pleased to report tha I have made excellent progress towards this goal. My weight loss has been excellent and my strength and endurance increase every time I train. I am very pleased and I am managing to fit the training sessions around my other commitments. This is staying as a goal as I need to maintain it. I have also signed up to a Triathlon at the end of next month (Sprint), but realise that I need to put in place further targets beyond that to keep the maintenance of my training going.

I plan to do this review on here about once per month and would love some comments below! I do have a post coming up about goal setting, but for the moment here is a link so some information about turning Goals in to Habits from Leo over at ZenHabits.

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10 Reasons why I’m Sticking with Sandy

8 05 2008

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I’ve tried quite a few apps RTM, Gcal, every todo list, every calendar sync etc but I find myself getting bored or trying the next one. However, I’m sticking with Sandy. I was trying the think of the reasons for this.

1. Sandy just works
2. It’s cool to have a PA
3. Sandy has accessible developers who welcome your ideas (I feel part of the evolution of Sandy)
4. I live (too much) in email – so Sandy is always there for me to contact easily
5. Did I mention it’s cool to have a PA
6. Sandy (as an application) is simple – let me qualify this comment – OK sometime is gets frustrating if you get the commands a bit wrong but that is part of the fun.
7. I can see Sandy growing and becoming used by more than just those clued up on wed 2.0
8. Sandy is constantly getting new features.
9. Sandy is different and unique. I think I’ve tried lots of todo list applications because there are so many alternatives. There is not really an alternative.
10. Sandy is fun

NO I am not on commission. I just think credit where credit is due. Sandy is free and I am very grateful. Sandy is by no means the perfect application and that is why I suggest new ideas all the time. But that is part of the fun!





Book Review: The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

30 04 2008

I finished reading the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss last night. I enjoyed reading the book and it has left me with plenty to do and think about. I finished the book in only a few days which is rare for me and shows (for me anyway) a) how easy to read it and b) how interesting and valuable I found the content.

Broadly speaking, the first half of the book (although not prescriptively) focuses on productivity. On reading the book you see that Ferriss is very consistent in his message with the key notes, talks and clips there are on YouTube. He looks at the 80/20 principle (Pareto Efficiency – 20% of input produces 80% of output) and Parkinson’s Law (the theory that tasks will expand to fill the time allowed). Ferriss’s style and explanations make the subject matter clear, it is easy to apply and is concise though not basic. Much of the items discussed in this part of the book (and you will have heard some of the principles) make you think “Yes, you are right – why aren’t I doing that now!” There are similarities in some of his points with Covey’s 7 Habits – such as beginning with the end in mind.

The rest of the book broadly deals with creating more time for yourself. Ferris is known for making people aware of the concept of ‘Personal Outsourcing’. [You will see from my other posts that this is an area I am currently experimenting with and I found out about this fascinating area of lifestyle management through Ferriss’s blog and other sources quoting his approach.]

There is a useful but moderately mind-blowing section on ‘income automation’. It all sounds so easy and yet so hard at the same time. I think this is the section I will re-read to get a grip of (not because I didn’t understand it, but because I want to use it). Ferriss also reveals the business model he has used for this; fascinating for a past Business Student such as myself, but by no means a boring text book explanation. Whether I will be able to do this myself remains to be seen, but I am certainly not going to knock the approach until I’ve tried it.
The ‘mini-retirement’ ideas are truly inspiring. However, the steps to release yourself from your current job, though well argued and valid, are made to seem easier than I believe they would be for many people. Without giving too much away here, I could work at home more as I am able to create that flexibility in my job but I have an operation and service level role that would very quickly expose me if I was doing it secretly from the other side of the world. However, Ferris does argue his points well, and his direct but not dismissive approach outlines the common pitfalls, excuses etc. A constant message throughout the book is that we are all accountable to rules that ultimately we are able to control ourselves.
There are a number of life lessons and observations that again are well conveyed. I particularly like the brief note on ‘Decluttering’ which again, far from being prescriptive, is well justified and suitably concise.
The narrative style of Ferriss is direct but rather than Ferriss saying “Do this or you are stupid” his concepts make you think “Why am I being stupid and not doing this”. The book is well written using plenty of case studies, examples and quotes to get the clear message across.

In conclusion, Ferris has an interesting perspective on areas of our lives that have a major impact on our lifestyles. Whilst you may not apply all of concepts to the letter, you can easily select those elements that will bring you the most benefit in your personal lifestyle. Remember that you are the master of your own destiny and this book offers you suggestions and tools to help – ultimately their application is up to you.
As a final note I’d like to address the title “The 4-Hour Work Week”. Ferris did market research to work out the title for his book that would sell the most copies. A 4-Hour work week is a very attractive goal, but perhaps an more extreme example or goal for most people.

Highly Recommended.