Management Consulting goal-setting

Define core areas to work upon during 2021, then break it down to daily actions

Matheus Ulhoa
7 min readJan 1, 2021

Key takeaways

  • We face challenges and problems never solved before in the modern and high-tech world.
  • The knowledge you have brought you up to your current level.
  • You need to acquire knowledge constantly to get into new levels and solve new problems.
  • Issue-trees can help you break down such intangible challenges in life into actionable problems you can work upon right now.
Photo by Bence Boros at

Facing the unknown

In a modern and high-tech world of ever-growing challenges, we daily face problems never faced before.

Differently from our father’s and grandfather’s generations, the knowledge acquired at the college is no longer sufficient to face tomorrow’s world. That happens because the world changes now at a faster pace than before.

And that’s a call for lifelong learning!

The knowledge you have brought you here

The knowledge you have as of today has brought you as far as you are right now.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein (Likely)

It’s a fact to achieve new levels — whether in finances, personal development, relationships, or body shape — you will need more knowledge and new actions.

Only with more knowledge, you will see different paths to take. Only with different paths you act differently. Only with different actions you will change to a new level and belong to it.

The SMART principle dares you

Following the SMART principle for goal-setting, when you consider the R (Relevant), you should understand it as “meaningful” or “big enough to challenge us to achieve more”.

But if the challenge is big up to a point I don’t know how to solve it, how can I solve it?

Put in your mind that goals are a call for knowledge acquisition and different actions.

If you only set goals that demand your current capabilities, you’re not properly evolving. You’re underperforming. You’re being less than you could. This means also that you are perpetuating a vicious cycle of stagnation.

You need to break the inertia by putting some external force into your comfort zone system. Get more knowledge!

What if I want to challenge myself but I challenged so much that I don’t know where to start. What to do?

Companies do this all the time, especially the growth techs. And the good news is that there’s a structured method to tackle problems that big.

This method also surpassed the test of time.

Challenging problem-solving

The mental model for problem-solving is old and it’s been solving problems for centuries. Companies might change the commercial name, the acronym letters, but the process always has the structure: planning, execution, and iterations to refine.

During the planning stage, which totally matches our goal-setting for 2021, one of my favorite tools is the issue-tree.

The framework for bold goals

Issue-trees are frequently used in the management consulting world to structure strategic problem-solving. These are the problems that are, at first, the most intangible, with no clear steps forward.

Definitely, a foundation knowledge for us to face unknown challenges — with no previous answers. The general idea behind it is based on the Cartesian Method from René Descartes.

You face a big problem. You obviously don’t know how to solve it. Then you start to break it down into smaller pieces that compound the whole and that you can act upon each of them.

There’s a method to break those problems, and it is the so-called MECE approach — Mutually Exclusive & Collectively Exhaustive. Translating:

  • ME implies the parts don’t overlap each other, they’re considered once. *
  • CE means we aren’t missing an important piece of the problem. The sum of the small parts covers the whole.

Applying to reality

First, consider up to 4 key areas you want to work upon. These will be your key drivers for 2021. From a management perspective, we can’t handle more than that.

In my case, I want to work in the areas of finances, health, personal development, and relationships.

2021 Goals divided into finances, health, personal development, and relationships. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

Financial Goals

For my finances, I want “only” to increase my net worth in a given amount. What I can do about it:

  • I can increase my net revenue.
  • I can reduce my living costs.

In my case, I already live a few degrees lower than my wage. I have proper safety and security — basic needs in Maslow’s hierarchy — and comfort. I don’t see any purpose in squeezing my living costs more. Why?

The maximum upside in theory is 30k as per the figure below — values are an example.

Financial goal: increase my net worth by reducing expenses. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

When analyzing the other term of the equation, i.e. the Net Revenue, I certainly can do more. And my upsides are unlimited. There are professionals out there making 1, 2, 5k/hour of work. There are billionaires making more.

It’s possible to do the same. Whether my chances of becoming the next Elon Musk might be, indeed, very low, there are significant changes for me to make more money.

Financial goal: increase my net worth by increasing net revenue. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

When I dig dip into my current possibilities for increasing my net revenue, I have two paths:

  • Get promoted in my current work (increase my hourly-wage).
  • Increase the net revenue from my side hustles.

The green dots represent the goals in which I can work upon.

Breaking down the side hustle in the current projects, it’s possible to realistically achieve +55k of net revenue — again, these are examples, you should do your own math.

Ideally, those goals should be broken down even further up to the operational level — e.g. get X clients, make Y posts/week, etc.

Health Goals

For my health, I want to simply get into my best shape ever, at 30. This means getting stronger and with visible abs — judge me but this represents excellence for me.

There are guys with 50 and looking better than me. They have family, kids, work in senior positions with more responsibilities in all aspects. I can’t accept that while I have fewer hurdles. I need and I can do more to my best version.

I plan to do a 4-month cutting, 4-month bulking, and 4-month cutting again. This might change, and that’s fine. Plans are not meant to be perfect. If they are, it means you planned too much and didn’t execute as much as you could.

Notice the driver was quite intangible: get healthier. The strategic goal adds clarity — get in my best shape ever — but still needs specific and measurable indicators.

At the operational level, I will do 5–6 strength workouts/week, 2–3 running workouts/week. I will also control my food intake starting from 2300 kcal/day and start decreasing it in 300–500 kcal/day when I stagnate.

Health goal: get into my best shape, ever, at 30. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

Personal Development Goals

Personal development for me is a long-term goal of increasing the equity of my Self S.A. That’s the way I accumulate and combine knowledge to increase my capabilities of creating value through work. This will ultimately reflect on my hourly-wage.

Personal Development goals: Read more books and learn more about Data Analysis. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

Notice the MECE principle here: if I intend to read 2 books/month, I will necessarily read 24 books/year and I should select them according to the areas I want to focus on.

The number of books I read should account for the pace I think it’s reasonable to read books. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

Relationship Goals

In the relationship goals, I’m totally fictitious right now but I think you already got the idea.

If I want to improve my relationship with my family, I can call my grandmother once a week. I can have lunch at the table every day. I can cook for them once a week.

Relationship goals: Read more books and learn more about Data Analysis. Image from Matheus Ulhoa.

What I most like about issue-trees is that they enable me to have more clarity. I move from macro to micro, from intangible goals to actionable goals. I see the cause-effect relationship.

What about you? What’s your method to goal-setting?

I’d love to hear about that!