12/19/2013 02:56 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

Why Goals Work in Business and in Pleasure

It's a well-established principle: work comes before play. Those of us who live by this mantra know that an earned pleasure feels better than a guilty or undeserved pleasure.

In our personal and professional lives, we need to set goals and sometimes use motivating pleasures to help us achieve them. As companies gear up for end-of-year reviews, and individuals plan their New Year's resolutions, now is a good time to set goals. Goals motivate us, giving us the stamina to do hard work and accomplish great things.

When I was a kid, my mom insisted on restricting my TV viewing until after chores and schoolwork were complete. Even then, I was rationed to one hour of TV watching on school nights. In college, I would study for an exam until I knew the subject completely; after I aced the practice tests I created for myself, I would treat myself to a game of pinball. In my work now, I set a goal of never having more than 100 emails in my inbox, and force myself to get through a set amount before I take a break. I also write a lot, and only after I finish an essay, report or filing, do I let myself keep in touch with my brothers and friends by playing a round of Words With Friends.

Annual goals are also important. Every January 1, my wife and I set measurable goals for ourselves in several areas. Some are physical, some health-related, others are financial. A few are for us as a couple -- like going on a set number of dates. Now that we have kids, some of our goals are for them. Some are annual, and we set them every year till we succeed. For 12 years, I resolved to write a book, and then, in 2010, I did! My wife and I are pretty competitive, so we score ourselves on our separate goal achievements at the end of each year -- and who does better, matters.

Goals don't just motivate individuals; they drive successful companies. Every employee should have a stake in helping an organization meet all of its goals. At the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), every single one of our 150 employees, including members of our administrative staff, is eligible for incentive compensation of at least 10 percent of his or her base salary, determined by corporate -- and person-specific -- goals.

In order to be realistic, a company's goals have to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-framed. At CEA, each employee also works with a supervisor to create individualized SMART goals. Most of these goals tie directly or indirectly to our overall corporate goals. We base employee bonuses and other rewards on how well employees have met the company's goals, and their own individual goals.

As individuals, when considering resolutions for the coming year, we should think in terms of what is achievable. Setting realistic goals means they're more likely to be accomplished. Obviously, life is messy and has surprises. Despite our best intentions, some of our goals will often be aspirational, but not necessarily realistic. Still, it's good to keep setting goals. Even our aspirational goals set the tone for the rest of our life by keeping us striving for the things that are most important to us.

Goals work. That's why we set New Year's resolutions -- because they motivate us and keep us working to reach our dreams. With 2013 drawing to a close, it's time to take a look at our lives and see where we've succeeded, and where we have room to achieve even more next year.

Now please excuse me while I catch up on Words With Friends.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.