Lumen Sivitz

Innovator with broad experience in recruiting

Moving Goalposts

September 17, 2020

Maintaining perspective with goals can be tough. What initally seems impressive begins to lose luster as the weeks drag on.

I often respond by upping the goal to bring the excitement back, but that slippery slope leaves you short of the summit and can be demotivating.

A simple framework for anyone struggling with moving goalposts:

Set Goal -> Chunk It -> Estimate Timeframes -> Sum Chunks -> Hard Copy Documentation

Step 1: Set a big goal

Something like, “Build X” or “Learn Y”. Make it as big as you want!

Step 2: Chunk it

Make the big bits smaller chunks and easier to estimate in scope.

For “Build X” we may have,

  • Design A
  • Talk to B
  • Build C

Chunk your chunks until your tasks are easy to time-box.

Step 3: Determine timeframes for your chunks

Estimate timeframes for the knowns, guesstimate timeframes for the unknowns. Double any guesstimations.

Step 4: Add up your chunked timeframes

Now that each chunk is time-boxed, add them together and ask yourself, “If this took me twice as long, would I still be happy I did it?”

If the answer is yes, double whatever you figured for your timeframes.

Step 5: Make a physical artifact

Planning is hard, documenting is easy (and helpful).

  1. Write your goal at the top of a piece of paper
  2. List out each chunk and estimated timeframe (with a checkbox next to it)
  3. At the bottom, write your estimated completition date for the whole project (based on the sum of your chunk timeframes)

When you finish a chunk, check it off the list.

When you discover a new, unexpected chunk en route to your finshed effort, add it to the list, note how long it took, and check it off too. Extend your completition date to account for this unexpected work.

Dealing with Discouragement

Look at your artifact when you’re lacking motivation or feeling discouraged.

Does it still feel accurate? If not, where is it off?

If it’s not off, but you’re feeling off, read between the lines of the artifact. Do you see your own enthusiasm? Do you still have time to meet your goal?

Focus on the original goalposts!


When you’re done, reflect on your artifact and time estimates.

Did you beat it? Did you estimate poorly but still finish?

Wow - you finished! Great work :) Frame that artifact.