Notes of Pete Quily's Talk on Goal-setting and Following Through, Part 1

On the evening of February 17th, 2009, I attended a presentation by Pete Quily, an Adult ADD coach, to a group of people attending a Vancouver meeting of CHADD. These are part one of my notes of that session. In this section, I document the goal-setting half of the presentation, with a quote from True Professionalism by David H. Maister. In a forthcoming part two of the notes, I write about Pete's coaching demonstration and tips on following through on the goal you've set.

Warm up

Before he started, Pete asked the audience to think of the answers to three questions he wrote on the board. He would then ask us to introduce ourselves to someone in the audience and talk about all three questions.

  1. think of one example where you've set a goal and followed through on it
  • for me at the beginning of this year, I wanted to achieve an average response time to support tickets under 4-hours. That includes time not on the clock and sleeping.
  • list 1 or 2 reasons why you followed through
    • it was something I could measure (the software we use to track support tickets can generate a report on response time), measuring happened in the background (the time of new ticket creation and my response are automatically recorded) and I had a couple of plan for it (respond within 5 or 10 minutes with either the answer or to let the person on the other end we were looking into it)
  • think of 1 specific goal you want to focus on tonight
    • Karen and I needed a place to stay in Seattle on the way back from our trip to Portland. It was the only loose end on the trip, though we had time to figure it out. I, as surely did she, wanted certainty about where we would sleep in a city we're not exactly very familiar with.

    Pete had us go through the exercise because we often hear—from ourselves and others—why we don't follow up on goals. He wanted us to hear ourselves and others talk about what we did follow through on.

    As he has before to a crowd of ADHD and allied, Pete recommended everybody invest in a cheap timer. People with ADHD, he says, easily lose track of time, and a timer lets people limit the time they spend on a task so that they can get it done. He spent $20 on a timer, and I spent some $600 on mine, which came with a really nice phone, iPod, video player and Internet-enabled device. He describes ADHD people has having both the "now" and the "not now", and that if you don't have a good internal sense of time, you need an external sense.

    Thoughts, wishes, and dreams do not equal goals. He emphasized this throughout the presentation. People think of 2 to 3 times more things than they can do in the course of a day, and people with ADHD can think of 10+ times more things they can do. People only have so much energy and resources: Pete suggested that you can increase the goals you achieve by decreasing the amount of goals you set. You need enough and challenging-enough goals so that you're not bored, but not too many or too challenging so that you shut down. He recommends that people don't suppress ideas, since they'll come out anyway, likely when you can't use it. Instead, write them all down and toss them in a possibilities folder (David Allen calls this "Someday/Maybe"), to capture the idea in a place to review later. Set a time to review, pick out ideas based on the time/energy you have.

    S.M.A.R.T. Goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based

    • figure out what works for your unique brain, ADD 10x more important
    • two people could have same problem, but person A will have solution A, person B will have solution B
    • need clear goals, otherwise follow-through is difficult
    • something that stretches you but not overwhelming
    • structure around it, time, scheduling
    • an emotional reason why you're doing the goal: intellectual reasons alone usually aren't enough. Emotional reasons will give you the juice to follow through
    • also think of the reasons why you might not want this goal

    Goal setting

    Pete led the audience in brainstorming ideas in what would increase the likelihood of following through on a goal.

    • a strategy
    • making it fun
    • post-its, reminders
    • tying your feelings into it
    • flexibility
    • accountability. I offered my thoughts on this, from David H. Maister, in his book True Professionalism: The Courage to Care About Your People, Your Clients, and Your Career. He wrote about one way to keep accountable to the people you know, which I mentioned to the group. “A few years ago my wife, Kathy, resolved to quit smoking, and gave me the right to nag her if she was ever tempted to weaken. There were times when I had to be her external conscience and (lovingly, but firmly) remind her of her objective. She reached her tough goal—she quit. By giving me nagging rights, she obtained bragging rights!”
    • visualizing what comes out of the goal
    • feedback, demonstrate it to someone
    • give yourself a reward at the end of it
    • deadline, not on a regular basis, as cortisol will deplete you
    • set the goal's importance level
    • stay on the commitment wagon
    • break the year-long goal into three month goals, managable chunks
    • focus on effectiveness rather on consistency
    • there are too many "should" goals, they need to be "really want"

    You don't have to to do all the above or in a certain order, they're just tools in a kit. Tasks get confused with projects, most goals are projects (you can't do a project). Get it on paper: if it's just in your brain it's just psychic rent

    Next up are notes on Pete's coaching demonstration and tips on following through. The demonstration, as I say in the forthcoming notes, reminded me a lot of the section on advice in Good Intentions: The Nine Unconscious Mistakes of Nice People by Duke Robinson.


    Sometimes admidst the massive amount of so-so information that presents itself on my computer screen I am presented with something that is of extrordinary value. Your posting of Pete Quily's presentation is one of those valued moments. I have only recently realized that I have ADHD - an AHA moment after reading the article in MORE magazine. After having struggled for all of my adult life I finally have a critical piece of information on what I need to address to regain a sense of balance in my life. The irony is that I have been supporting people with ADHD in my private practice for years and never realized that this is my issue to! I live in Toronto - sooo wish that something like Pete's workshops were available here! I am looking forward to part two. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your notes.