How in the world did we get to the end of November already? Weren’t we just pumped up for summer to start last week? And now — quicker than a heartbeat — a new year lurks just around the corner.
With the new year comes new goals. Both professional and personal. And if you haven’t already, now is the time to get yours in place.
(Review Take Stock and Plan for Your Future to get started.)
Now is the time to think through what you want your professional life to look like a year from now and set out a roadmap to make that a reality.
Set yourself up for success
Where do you start?
So many goals, so little time. And the way you set your goals is the biggest factor in your ability to achieve them.
The biggest mistakes people often make with setting goals include:
- Setting too many goals
- Setting ambiguous goals
- Setting unachievable goals
- Setting incongruent goals
- Not setting metrics to measure progress
- Not breaking goals down into time bound milestones.
Pick your poison: how to choose the right goals
It can be hard to turn the ideas in your head into executable action items.
When I first start to lay out my goals I ask myself the following questions:
- What do I want to learn?
- What do I want to create?
- Who do I want to affect?
- Where do I need to improve?
I’m looking at the who, what, and where of my professional growth.
It’s very important during this stage to just let your brain fly, and to keep it varied and inclusive. We will filter in the next step.
This leaves me with a big and random list.
Next I put them in context of my role and organizational goals.
Ask yourself, how do each of these things affect how I execute my position or how I help push the goals of my organization forward?
Any of the things on this list that don’t support your organizational goals get separated out into a different list.
Learning and improving just for the heck of it is still valuable, but you want to focus first on what directly supports your business.
Prioritize. Eliminate. Focus.
This is the hardest, but most important part. Prioritize.
You can’t do everything. Really, you can’t. I know you want to, I want to too…but you cannot do all the things.
Repeat after me: “I <enter your name> cannot do ALL the things.”
So you need to prioritize and eliminate.
Pick your top three to five. Three to five — that’s all. Then eliminate the rest.
I know this is difficult, but if you don’t do this you most likely either won’t accomplish any of them, or will only partially make your way through a few. So instead of thinking of it as elimination of goals, see this process as choosing between being successful at three to five goals, or being successful at none.
The choice seems pretty clear.
Assuming all will affect your business equally, choose the ones that excite you the most. These are where you’ll easily be able to devote the most time.
Choose congruent goals
Once you’ve narrowed down to your three to five, you want to make sure they are congruent. If your goals contradict each other or work against one another than you need to revise so they work in harmony.
So for example, one of my goals is to improve the value of PR metrics we track for our clients and reporting process. A second goal is organic growth from our clients. Obviously these two work together. The first goal is going to support the success of the second one and should be part of the plan.
Likewise, if I had set the organic growth goal first, it would be wise for me to look at all the things that needed to be in place to be successful at reaching that goal—the PR metrics goal would have immediately come from that investigation and I’d know I needed make it one of my three to five.
The objective here is to give yourself all the tools to be successful in all of your goals, and that often means making sure they work together effectively. Because remember, you can’t do all the things, so you need to make sure the things you do do are efficient and maximize your success.
Breakdown goals to time-bound and measurable milestones
Once you have your annual goals set you need to break, break, break them down.
If you only have the big goal in front of you, you won’t have an organized and attainable way to achieve it. You must break that goal down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly milestones.
What I like to do is break my goals down by what I need to achieve each quarter and then what I need to do each week to achieve that quarterly goal. You might find a different system that works best for you and your goals, but the important thing is to cut them up into easily digestible pieces.
The other important element of this is they must be time-bound. So if you assign yourself tasks each week, this tasks need to be accomplished. If you have a large milestone for each month, you must meet it.
Thing about it like a budget for your business. If you miss your financial goal one month, you’ll need to make it up the next to come out where you need to be at the end of each quarter. But if you keep missing it, month after month after month you’ll never catch up. You should treat your goals the same way.
Create a excel spreadsheet that you lay things out by week, then mark off what you’ve accomplished at the end of each week:
- Green: Complete
- Yellow: In-progress, but not complete (at least 50 percent done)
- Red: Less than 50 percent complete
This visual representation will help keep you accountable.
Try our free Goal Tracker Spreadsheet
To make the advice here easier to implement, Pamela and I made a free Goal Tracker Spreadsheet for you.
When you click on the link above, it will create your own copy of the spreadsheet.
In the document title, replace the words “Copy of” with the year. Then get started using this simple sheet to map out your big goals and your quarterly goals. Use the color-coded dropdowns for a quick visual review of the status of each goal.
How to ensure you’ll use the goal tracker
Bookmark it and place a link right in your browser bar. Every time you surf the web, you’ll see a link to your goal tracker.
Set a reminder on your calendar to revisit the tracker once a month. Every month around the same time, spend just a few minutes reviewing your goals. See if you’re still on track. If you’re not, take action so you can continue to work toward the goals in the left column.
Make sure you work your goals into your daily tasks as you would meetings or any other work you do on a daily basis.
They need to be part of what you do, not an “on top of.”
And then … get to work!