I think we’ve all been there. We have great intentions and big plans that we write down in our special notebook that we use for important things and then . . . something happens.
We get caught up in life. We forget where we put the book. And after a few months, we find the book. In it is a detailed list of all the things we wanted to accomplish. But unfortunately, we haven’t been working toward any of them. Then, the cycle of having good intentions without great execution starts all over again.
I get it. I was stuck in this cycle for way longer than I would care to admit. But I’ve now learned that goal setting is bigger than some scribbled notebook pages. When done properly, it is a powerful journey of continuous improvement and assessment. If you fail to set and monitor your goals, you run the risk of building a foundation for a career you don’t want. Even worse, you risk not fully leveraging your most precious resource–time. So here are a few tips to show you how to set your goals and then work them to success.
1. Embrace Self-Awareness
To achieve success, you first have to define it. What do you hope to accomplish? What is most important to you? What will you prioritize? What can you let slide? Take a minute to reflect on your personal and professional aspirations before diving into goal setting. Thoughtfully consider your options and then make a conscious decision to pursue a specific avenue. Only after serious introspection can you truly deconstruct what it takes to make your dreams come to fruition.
2. Think Big Picture
To propel your career forward, you need to identify big life goals that you can strive for over time. True goals are essentially dreams. Your workplace goals should align with your professional dreams. Stick to big-ticket concepts only: desired industry, highest position you want to achieve, and a description of the impact you would like to make. Remember, if you get bogged down in the day-to-day grind, you may miss out on the big picture. So, ask yourself: where do I want to land and what do I hope to contribute?
3. Outline Actionable Steps
After you’ve set your goals, you can’t simply pat yourself on the back and wait for your dream to come true. No. Goals must be worked to be effective. It’s time to zoom in and break down your goals into actionable steps that you can implement. Sure, it’s nice to say you want to run your own company, for instance, but what deliberate, small strides are you going to take to do that? Take the broader concept of your goals and distill it into more specific objectives and even more granular tasks. Each day, outline what tasks you need to accomplish to help you achieve your objectives and eventually your goals. Your list of tasks should be realistic enough that you can take care of small, urgent matters that are destined to come up, and specific in their relation to your bigger goals so you continuously move forward professionally and personally.
An example of this in action:
Goal: One day, I’m going to become an Intellectual Property Partner at ABC Big City Law Firm.
Objective: This year I’m going to increase my knowledge of trade secrets and publicity rights to be on part with my expertise in patents and trademarks so I can be a more well-rounded IP attorney.
Task: Attend publicity rights Continuing Legal Education.
4. Monitor Your Progress
Setting goals is one thing, but how do you track progress? Goal setting doesn’t work if you only make a list. You have to check in with yourself often. Just like you check in with your boss on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, you need to do the same thing for yourself and your career. This means you have to review your objectives and your goals frequently. I recommend reviewing your objectives daily (to make your task list), and your goals monthly (to make sure you stay connected to your more important big-picture aims).
Over the period of a week, you will see a little movement and feel quite efficient. But over a month, and then a quarter, you will see the true accomplishment of your objectives and, eventually, your goals.
This article originally appeared on The Well, Jopwell’s digital magazine, and is reprinted with permission. Jopwell is the career advancement platform for black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and professionals.