She’s a Goal-Getter: Setting Yourself Up for Success in 2021

Happy New Year! Here’s to an enthusiastic buh-bye to 2020. Let’s start 2021 off right by setting achievable and motivating goals before January is over! My primary advice is to write professional and personal goals down somewhere you won’t lose track of throughout the year and can reference as needed, like in your planner or journal. I call mine “Dream Big Goals.” Who doesn’t love dreaming big? 

Setting goals is a valuable practice that helps you measure where you started and how far you came at the end of the year. I know many of you have “an idea” of what you want to accomplish and how to make it happen but writing it down is just too time-consuming, right? A 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews showed when people wrote down their goals, they were 33 percent more successful in achieving them than those who formulated outcomes in their heads. Go the extra mile, write them for yourself, share with your boss, and maybe even your colleagues and staff. This extra step will help hold you accountable. 

So, here we are. It’s the beginning of the new year, and you may have recently received career development feedback, or perhaps you are about to. This feedback can help form your professional goals and inspire productive adjustments to your current habits. But even if you haven’t received this feedback, or your career goals go in a different direction than your current position, you can still plan for where you want to be.

What is the value of setting goals, and how do you do it?  

To help you understand the importance of setting goals for yourself, I’ve got a question for you. Would you ever go on a trip without any inkling of a destination? NO, of course not! Okay, sure, maybe we all romanticize the idea of an open-ended adventure sometimes, but even in that case, you at least pack a bag. You plan for the weather; you bring necessities. You prepare a little. If you don’t set goals, going to work each day is like going on a trip without a suitcase. You aren’t just passing through your career like the wind; you are on a career path with a destination, even if abstractly, in your mind. You want to maximize your impact at the company, and you want to focus on the work that matters most. As ambitious professionals, you want to grow in your career, take on more responsibility, get noticed, and build your network.

Why set goals? It’s the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing measurable, actionable steps, and a timeframe to make it happen. Goal setting is a significant component of personal-development, career pathing, and staff management.  Goals help us believe in ourselves and fuel our ambition. It isn’t just about creating a plan for your career and holding yourself accountable; it is also about inspiring yourself to aim for things you never thought possible. Goal setting is the principal tool for helping you reach your full potential. Every successful step toward attaining your goals builds confidence, increases productivity, and gives you a sense of personal pride.

Now, how do you set goals – what are the steps involved? 

  1. Understand the big picture – what are the company’s overarching goals for the coming year? Ask your manager clarifying questions until you fully understand its primary objectives for the upcoming year and how you and your team can best support the company in achieving them. 
  1. Access your company’s goal-setting resources and personal development tools. I’m a big believer in never wasting time on anything if there is a tool or resource available that you can use to be more efficient. Potentially your company’s HR group has a goal setting template or a dashboard with metrics and data that would be valuable for you to use. 
  1. Think about the results you want to see, then create a list of things you/your team can do to help achieve those results. Overlay that with your manager’s expectations and feedback regarding your performance for the coming year. Your goals should be coming together now; aim for 3 – 5 primary goals. I encourage you to think big; make yourself stretch a little. After all, that is how you grow your skillset and, most importantly, get noticed! I’d like to mention; it is ok to have personal goals if they also help the company. For example, ask for feedback more often or get more involved within the company by serving on committees or a task force to increase your knowledge and exposure.
  1. Now let’s turn those into SMART Goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (also Relevant), and Timely.

Specific: The more detailed the goal, the better. Instead of, “I want to lose 20 pounds,” add specifics like, “I want to lose 20 pounds so that I can wear my favorite clothes again by June”. This makes it easier to visualize and know when you’ve accomplished what you set out to achieve. 

Measurable: When it comes to effective goal setting, tracking your progress is critical. For example, “save more money” is not a measurable goal; it’s unclear what “more” means here. You need to have quantifiable metrics when setting a goal. Instead, say something like, “I’ll save 10% of my income each month through the rest of the year”. Now you have benchmarks that you can use to check your progress along the way.

Achievable: If you can’t actually attain your goal, it will only frustrate and dishearten you! Be sure it’s genuinely doable for you.

Realistic/Relevant: Again, it’s essential to make sure your goal setting matches up with reality and is relevant to your company and departmental goals. You can accomplish plenty of great things, but if it’s not relevant, then your energy may be better spent elsewhere.

Timely: Having a clear idea of your timeline during goal setting creates a sense of urgency. Perhaps your goal is that you want to learn Portuguese because it will help you build better rapport with your clients. You have a trip to Portugal coming up in six months, and you want to be prepared for that. Your goal is to be able to speak conversational Portuguese with your clients in 6 months. Once you have your professional goals established, check in with your boss and confirm you are aligned on your goals. As you move forward, I encourage you to focus on small changes and baby steps rather than big leaps in accomplishing your goals. You’ll have more successes along the way and stay motivated. And when you do, be sure to reward yourself…you deserve it!

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Kim Martin