It is time to set your professional goals for the year. While we are tempted to roll our eyes at what for some can feel like a chore, it is important. A Harvard Research study found that those who set goals are ten times more successful than those who do not. It is a worthwhile exercise!
You may be even more hesitant this year, given the uncertainty of our world. Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a writer from Fast Company, thinks setting goals is even more essential this year, and we agree with her. She suggests that it will help us maintain productivity and sanity in an unpredictable time. Saunders states, “Having goals gives you a sense of self-determination that you have the autonomy to make choices for your life and the competence to achieve them … goals can be an excellent distraction from thinking about all the things in the world that you have no control over.”
Goals, Plan, Support (GPS)
We like to use the mnemonic, GPS, to remember my goal setting process – and how appropriate – as our GPS helps us find our way! GPS stands for Goals, Plan, Support.
Most of us have practiced this. We have been preaching SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound) for many years, and it still applies. When you start drafting your goals, consider the following “Professional Growth Wheel” for some potential goal categories.
The most obvious one is Work Accomplishments. These will mirror what’s on the performance plan you are probably required to do as part of your company’s performance management process. Perhaps getting that big project over the finish line, bringing in that big account, launching that new project, etc.
The next two, Skill Development and Knowledge Growth go hand in hand, both speak to your development. Are there skills you want to develop? For example, learning a new software program, working on your public speaking, or getting your coaching certificate,
Knowledge Growth is about how you plan to stay up to date. What are the latest trends in your industry? How is your function evolving? You’ve got to stay on top of these things.
Self-Care and Balance are also critical, especially in this uncertain time. How are you going to take care of yourself to be able to achieve these other goals? Is it about sleep, exercise, mindfulness, boundaries, etc.? How are you going to keep yourself firing on all cylinders?
Network Expansion and Relationship Management, also go together. We have been talking about networking for the last couple of months so you should be well equipped here.
Network Expansion and identifying who you want to add to your network. As we have said before, be intentional and think about why you want to connect with each individual on your list.
Relationship Development is just going deeper with relationships. Maintaining and strengthening those relationships that you have both internally as well as part of your broader external network.
As mentioned, you must write your plans down in order to keep them on your radar. The same Harvard study also found that those who write down their goals are three times as likely to achieve them. To simplify, use our Excel spreadsheet (automatic download) and create a column for each month. In addition to capturing your goals, identify the specific actions you intend to take to achieve those goals. Then use the spreadsheet to track your monthly progress.
Many of us have written goals in the past and then proceeded to put them in a drawer and forget about them. One easy way of preventing this is to use technology. Simple. Set a calendar reminder for the first of every month to remind you it is time to track your progress and ensure you are clear on what actions you are going to take in the new month.
This is also the time to review your goals and make sure they are still relevant. Maybe you get a new job in the middle of the year, or maybe who you want to network and build relationships with changes. Or maybe you are assigned a new project requiring a new skill. Whatever it is, know that things will change, and you will need to adjust.
This may be a new one for you. A study by the University of Michigan showed that 76 percent of participants who wrote down their goals and actions, and provided weekly progress to a friend, successfully achieved their goals. So don’t keep those goals to yourself! Share them with your spouse, boss, friend or get involved with an accountability group. Use your monthly electronic reminder to also be a reminder to reach out to those you have identified to keep you accountable.
In the upcoming months, we will dive deep into each section of the Professional Growth Wheel. We have already covered Networking in previous articles. As you work on the Network Expansion and the Relationship Development sections of your wheel, you may want to revisit those articles. Let us help you stay on track.
Wishing you a successful and prosperous 2021!