Defining Success as a Time Management Strategy

Blog Post created by lisa.crilley Advocate on Dec 4, 2015

Recently I had the opportunity to chair a “big event”. As the coordinator for education for two women-in-business networking groups, I thought it would be a great idea to combine both groups to develop and implement a full day educational event. This jointly sponsored event would hit the need of both organizations – plus I would have double the resources available to help me plan and implement. Success was assured!


Or … so I thought!!! For seven months, my committee of twelve dedicated, motivated, proactive women met to plan this event. Easily over 400 women-hours were spent making this event first-class.


Did I mention that NO ONE had experience planning an event similar to this? The average for each of these group meetings was 20 – 30 people, one speaker, one sponsor… and they typically lost $100 in the process. The goal for this 7 hour event was 150 people with 13 speakers and 15 sponsors and $3000 profit per group!


There were challenges galore! Schedule conflicts, equipment shortages, technical issues, a surprise last-minute vendor, catering glitches … this list could go on for a while! So let me, finally, get to the point!


With every glitch, every challenge, and every last minute obstacle, it would be easy (so incredibly easy) to feel like this event was not a success. However, early in the process the committee defined what a successful event would look like.

  • Goal: 150 attendees. Success would be 100. We ended at 139 registrants.
  • Goal: $3000 profit for each group. Success would be breaking even. We ended splitting $3000 between both organizations.
  • Goal: Every person raves about the success of the event. Success would be 4 out of 5 ranking on the evaluation forms. We ended with a 4.8 average ranking.
  • Goal: Every speaker and sponsor felt their contribution was highly valued. Success would be 90% of the speakers and sponsors felt their contribution was highly valued. We ended with 100%.


The advantage of being able to clearly define success is both practical and emotional. First, the emotional side . . . for many on this committee (myself included) perfection was the goal. Falling short of perfection was reality, and having a second standard of success helps even out the emotions.


On the practical end, you know when and where to go above and beyond. (I like to think of this as the 80/20 rule. 20% of your effort will get you 80% of the results, and 80% of the effort will give you 20% of the results.) By knowing how we defined success, I knew when to use 20% of the effort and when to use 80% of the effort. 


For example, making sure the speakers and sponsors felt their contribution was valued had a very high “value of success” attached to it. One of the ways we were going to show our appreciation was to give the speakers flowers after their presentation. As we were setting up the night before, some of these flowers were wilting. So, on my way to the venue at 5:30 am, I picked up some replacement flowers from the local grocery store. The definition of success for decorations wasn’t exceptionally high so if these had been decorations, it would not have been critical. However, our definition of success for how our speakers feel was very high. Therefore, it was worth the extra “80%” effort to pick up new flowers!


I encourage you before starting any project to define success. What is your ideal outcome – and what is the outcome you would be happy with? Defining success doesn’t open the door to “low expectations” or “shoddy work ethic”. Instead, it allows you to allocate your resources wisely.