Though your company likely requires you to make KPIs for yourself and your team, it’s also a smart idea to make personal goals for your career each year. As career whiz and head of content for Humu Liz Fosslien put it, goals are incredible motivators. “An effective goal will push you to get things done — but keep yourself honest. Research also shows that the more decisions we get to make for ourselves, the better we feel and the harder we work,” she continues. “When you commit to making something happen, you boost the chances that it will actually become a reality.”
But should you scribble down your hopes-wishes-and-dreams in a notebook? Set calendar reminders to check-in with yourself? Make your goals personal, professional, realistic, unrealistic — or a mix of all? As we look ahead to a new lap around the sun — and the start of a new decade! — here are some effective strategies on setting goals you can meet.
And by mini, Fosslein truly means small like ‘Answer Caitlin’s email’ or ‘Follow up on the progress of estimate for the home renovation.’ She explains that even ordinary, incremental progress makes us happier and feel more engaged on our job. It also fuels our productivity, as we check off various low-hanging fruit and progress. As you think about setting goals in 2020, take a long hard edit at your process. Do you list out every action you take daily? Do you focus on small wins — or ignore them? Consider streamlining your working habits to supercharge your motivation and keep you focused on the seemingly-insignificant accomplishments that pave the way for bigger milestones. “Remind yourself how your mini-goals connect to a larger purpose; understanding the broader impact of our work makes us more productive — and helps us get through particularly dreary days,” she adds.
Narrow down to five goals — and then three
So much can happen in a year — or even six months. That’s why many people get caught up in the details and don’t make moves. They feel as if they have endless time, but in reality, it’s better to do a handful of things great by zeroing-in on what you really, truly want to achieve. Founder and CEO of The Lonely Entrepreneur Michael Dermer suggest having a brainstorming session where you think broadly about the 12 months to come. Let yourself think boldly and freely. Then, cut your list to ten. Then to five. Then to three. The learning here is figuring out how to eliminate and prioritize. “The process of narrowing it down will require debate and discussion. Maybe with colleagues. Maybe with friends. Maybe with your significant other. The debate is important as it will really force you to make choice about what you will focus on,” Dermer shares. “Once you get your three make sure you set a specific goal you want to achieve. Goals without measures are not very good goals.”
Reflect on who you envy
It’s one of the seven deadly sins but this feeling can actually be a gamechanger in goal setting. How so? When you are honest with yourself about the people you’re jealous of, it sheds insight about what you really want. And perhaps more to the point: what you seek because you are keeping up with the folks next door. “Before setting a goal, make it a point to try to listen to jealousy, and what it might be telling you about how to find more fulfillment: Who brings out the green-eyed monster in you?, Fosslein asks. “Write down exactly what it is they have that you covet, and then make it your goal to get to a similar spot.”
And if you can swallow your pride (or your fear), consider reaching out to the executive you aspire to become. Fosslien says they can make an incredible mentor for your trajectory.
Create goals — and then take space
You’ve made your ballpark of goals and you’re ready to dive in as soon as December 31 becomes January 1. But before you actually decide these are the milestones you’ll meet throughout the next four seasons, Dermer suggest stepping away from them for a week. How come? Just as distance makes romantic hearts fonder, your brain will reset in seven days and you’ll have a fresh perspective. “Creating some space helps you clear your mind and when you go back to your goals, really see if you have picked the right ones,” he explains. “If you can go back to them, and they really resonate as the ones you are going to focus on, you will be well on your way to achieving them. If they do not resonate, no problem. Go back to the drawing board so you get it right.”
Think in positives — not negatives
The biggest setback for most people, no matter their skill level or expertise? Not being willing to put themselves in the limelight or in uncomfortable settings in case they are rejected. “Often we limit our ambitions because we fear we’re not good enough, or worry that if we step into a more visible role we’ll be discovered as frauds,” Fosslien explains. “When you’re having an anxious moment or feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to get mired in negativity.”
The way to solve this with goal setting is to reframe your aspirations. Instead of being terrified of setting a 10 percent increase in your salary as a goal, or moving to the top-tier leadership level, flip the thought around. “Stop for a moment and try envisioning the best possible outcome if you decided to go for it. Instead of thinking ‘What if this doesn’t work?’ ask yourself, ‘What if it does?’,” Fosslein suggests.