Success

Google's wildly popular goal-setting tool is absolutely free–and it's so easy, your kids could use it

A woman takes pictures of a sign after the opening of Google's pop-up store in New York
Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

On the surface, the act of setting goals seems so simple. Lose 10 pounds? That'd be nice. Read at least one book every month? Warren Buffett would approve. Leave the office by 6 p.m. every day? That means more time for family. No checking emails during weekends? Keep 'em coming…

But many of us complicate the way we set our goals — we end up obsessing over a variety of layers, like focusing too heavily on the results, expecting to reach them overnight or worrying about it will interfere with our work life.

One goal at a time

Believe it or not, setting and achieving your goals can be simple. And here's the best part: Google has created an effective method, called "One Simple Thing," that can help guide you along the way.

"One Simple Thing" is Google's popular goal-setting practice that its managers use to ensure that their employees stay committed to their personal well-being.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." -Leonardo da Vinci

What's beautiful about this is that it's so easy, anyone can use it — your friends, family, co-workers or even your kids. But you might benefit most by presenting it to your boss to see if they'd be open to implementing the practice at your company.

Oh, and it's completely free.

The way it works is, as indicated in the name, pretty simple: Set a goal that improves your well-being and work-life balance. Write it down on the downloadable worksheet (it can be customized to fit any style or environment you'd like — the point is to stay hyperfocused on one goal at a time and see it through to fruition.)

At Google, it's the manager's job to check in regularly and make sure individuals adhere to their goals. It's also encouraged that employees share their goals with other team members (and those outside of work) as a way to ensure that they're being held accountable.

Years of research to create 'One Simple Thing'

The story starts with Prasad Setty, Google's current VP of People Operations, who was hired in 2007 to help build the company's People Analytics team. If data and analytics were what Google relied on to improve its business operations, Google wondered if it could do the same to improve employee performance and engagement.

But Setty soon found the exact opposite to be true.

According to Google's re:Work blog, "Despite the ability of analytics to objectively predict outcomes with high accuracy, people were reluctant to rely solely on formulas when it came to making important decisions — especially decisions that involved people, such as a promotion."

As a result, Google decided to focus on training managers to help their team members make better decisions — from work-related objectives to personal well-being goals like saving for retirement and eating healthier meals.

Although the company has indeed produced massive amounts of data on subjects like effective management and employee happiness, Setty knew that overcomplicating workplace practices would be ineffective. "Organizations can get bogged down in all that data," he said in an interview with Harvard Business Review.

All of that ultimately led to the birth of "One Simple Thing," a practice that has since been a favorite among Googlers.

Your future self will thank you

That elements of "One Simple Thing" makes a lot of sense, and there's plenty of supporting data (outside of Google's research) to prove its effectiveness.

Studies have shown time and time again that writing down your goals can be a powerful form of motivation. Sharing them is even better. A study from The American Society of Training and Development found that those who shared their goals with someone else had a 65 percent chance of success.

Google "how to achieve your goals" and you'll get 712 million results. And yet, this is the method Google uses for its own employees. Pretty telling, isn't it?

Tom Popomaronis is a commerce expert and proud Baltimore native. Currently, he is the Senior Director of Product Innovation at the Hawkins Group. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and The Washington Post. In 2014, he was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @tpopomaronis .

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