As someone with a self-proclaimed allergy to self-help books, it took me a long time to admit that goal setting should become a key part of my life.
Setting goals encourages you to think critically about what you want from your personal and professional lives, and enables you to create a structure that will help you achieve those desires. The long and short of the matter is, when we set goals, we can achieve more.
Everyone will have their own preferences for the time frame of the goals they set themselves, but one great recommendation comes from Sheryl Sandberg, who suggests creating a Long Term Dream, and then a more actionable 18 month goal. In addition to these longer-term goals, I personally like to set myself several monthly goals that I've designed to roll up into my 18 month and long term goals. This way I know that I can fo- cus on the smaller elements of a larger goal, without losing sight of the finish line.
The process of setting goals can often feel overwhelming, so I've broken it down into 5 easy steps.
Evaluate Successes and Opportunities
The first step to goal setting is to evaluate your successes and opportunities.
Think about skills or habits you could build that would have a positive impact on your career or personal growth, and ask yourself, “What am I most satisfied with in my personal and professional lives?” and “What am I least satisfied with?”
Next, look at the opportunities you've identified and consider the types of goals you might want to set for yourself. Remember that your goals should encourage you to push yourself and result in new opportunities for you both personally and professionally.
When setting a professional goal, ask yourself what will produce the biggest results and impact for your career. Are there any problems within your organization or depart- ment that need to be solved? Can you help orchestrate a solution, or–even better–solve the problem yourself?
When setting personal goals, ask yourself what new skills you could learn that would improve your life. A great way to look at this, as suggested in Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, is to ask yourself what you're afraid of doing. Starting with things you're afraid or hesitant about will give you the opportunity to consider skills that you may be unfamiliar with, and is a great way to begin shaping your goals.
Once you've identified the general idea of the goals you want to achieve, it's time to SMART-en them up. SMART is a common acronym used to help ensure that goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Each of these is an essential part of setting a goal that is achievable.
In this phase, you’ll also want to consider what steps you can take to achieve your goals. If your goal is to learn a new skill, perhaps there are online courses at places like lynda.com or Skillshare that can help. If your goal is to build relationships, try searching out like-minded people on meetup.com or through other local networking channels. I recommend brainstorming a few different specific actions you can take on the path to achieving your goal. Breaking down your goal into these actions, or tactics, is a great way to keep you on track, and these individual tactics can then be turned into monthly goals which provide the satisfaction of short term achievements along the way.
Now that you’ve identified your goals and the steps you can take to achieve them, it’s important to keep yourself accountable. There are lots of great ways to do this; some that work for me are sharing my goals with friends and colleagues, and writing down my monthly goals in my bullet journal where I like to check them off as I achieve them. If you’re a visual person, you could also try making a vision board by gathering together inspirational photographs and quotes that will motivate you.
Revisit and Renew
When making goals, it's essential that they become a part of your daily routine, not a dream that gets written down and then forgotten. Look at your goals often, and keep brainstorming new tactics you could take to achieve them. It’s also important to allow yourself to be flexible. As your skills and experiences grow, you may also want to revisit your goals and adjust them to better match your new knowledge and understanding.
By following these five steps, you’ll be able to create relevant, impactful goals that will help you to achieve personal and professional success. Setting goals has enabled me to work harder and smarter, towards outcomes that excite and inspire me. I hope that this post will inspire you to set goals that do the same for you!