5 Tips for Setting Achievable Professional Goals - HighGround


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5 Tips for Setting Achievable Professional Goals

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It’s goal-setting season and I’m sure many of us are putting off establishing them until the deadline arrives and it’s finally time to have a conversation with our managers. I personally have found this process to be arduous at times, so I am here to tell you that you are not alone.

Here is what happens to me. The week after I have set goals, I am all gung-ho, giving myself a pep talk every day about how I can achieve them and acting as my own personal cheerleader. Then two weeks go by, then three and soon four and I begin to realize I haven’t made much progress. You get the point and have most likely experienced the same thing. This lack of progress is what makes the goal-setting process demotivating and in a lot of cases, an extremely negative experience, which is why we dread the entire thing.

I recently listened to Michael Hyatt’s webinar, “The 10 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making With Goal Setting,” and found his advice to be very motivating. Here are some of the things I learned related to goal setting in the workplace and simple tips to make the process fun again.

Make Sure Your Goals Are Specific, Actionable, Measurable and Have a Deadline.
I know we have all heard this before, but there is a reason why we keep hearing it. That’s because so many of us, myself included, continue to write vague goals that don’t mean much, so we have a tough time trying to find ways to get started and measure the results.

Giving yourself a realistic deadline and defining deliverables will motivate you to meet your goals. When we don’t set a deadline we tend to move things to the bottom of the to-do list and things never end up getting done. Additionally, be open to adjusting the deadline if necessary. We all know business needs shift on a daily basis and things come up that we can’t prevent, which changes deadlines.

Extra tip: Here are some examples of specific, actionable, measurable and deadline-driven goals:

  • Take the HTML for Beginners Course at UIC by March 31, 2016.
  • Improve the June Benchmark Survey response rate by 5% by increasing employee communications to three per month.

Don’t Play It Safe. Stretch Yourself. But Don’t Have Too Many Goals.
It’s easy to want to set goals you know are attainable, but at the end of the day, if you want a promotion or to grow your skills in a new area, set goals outside of your comfort zone. I’m not implying you should set more goals so it appears you are taking on more work and deserve a promotion. I mean striving toward goals that stretch your current skillset. You can’t stay focused if you have too many goals and won’t accomplish any goals if you aren’t focused.

Extra tip: Try to stick to 3-5 goals with 2-3 key results for each goal.

Make Goals Visible.
In Michael Hyatt’s webinar, he talks about the importance of posting your goals where they are visible and in a place where you can see them often – whether it’s in a platform like HighGround or through written notes on your desk. Ideally, your company has a technology solution in place to manage the goal-setting process so you can go back to reference your goals often and track the status of them.

Extra tip: A few other ways to make these goals visible outside of technology solution: put them as the desktop screen of your laptop; add them as a screen saver; or add reminders for them to pop up in your calendar.

Take Initiative.
I realize the goal-setting process is different at all organizations, but I would still encourage you to proactively go through a goal-setting exercise if your company doesn’t.

Before you meet with your manager to review your goals, define objectives that are aligned to department goals, which (hopefully) are ultimately aligned to corporate goals. You will stand out amongst your peers if you come prepared and you’ll have a better dialogue around achieving your goals. Keep in mind that they may change based on feedback from your manager, but be open to those changes. During your next 1:1 meeting, proactively discuss the progress you have made toward your objectives and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck and find yourself making less progress toward achieving them.

Extra tip: If you don’t have a recurring calendar invite for a 1:1, set one up. It will show you’re committed to your goals and they’re a driving force in your daily work.

Think Outside the Box and Set Personal Goals Too.
I am a huge proponent of having goals outside of our professional, work-related ones and adding at least one personal development goal to your plan. It’s ok to be a little selfish and think about yourself! Maybe you want to learn how to code or need to work on your leadership skills, so put that down and let your manager know where you want to develop your skills.

Extra tip: Schedule specific time on your calendar to research professional conferences and events in your area to help you reach any personal goals you set. There are affordable and free ways to expand your skill in any area.

Have you set goals for yourself yet for 2016? How do you keep yourself on track? Share in the comments below!

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