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Don’t wait for New Year’s: Why you should be setting your goals now

Waiting until New Year’s Day to set goals is a rookie move.

Don’t wait for New Year’s: Why you should be setting your goals now
[Photo: Rawpixel/Unsplash]

Unless you avoid social media altogether, you know how the yearly ritual goes: As soon as Labor Day has passed, eager pumpkin spice fans start counting down until fall. And soon after, posting a daily ticker toward the holiday season. Even if you’re more Team Summer, setting benchmarks for the last three months of the year is a powerful way to achieve goals. And if you ask some experts, it is arguably a better season than the usual January 1, when the vast majority of professionals set personal and career-centric resolutions for the 12 months ahead.

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Those who reap success don’t merely set guiding principles after the New Year’s Eve ball drops, but rather, they create short-term standards in order to practice frequent critical self-review. As Wendy Osefo, professor at John Hopkins University, explains, setting goals generally keeps you on track and motivated through every journey. If you aren’t working toward improvement, you might reach a professional standstill, no matter the month. “You want to keep pushing yourself to reach your full potential. [Setting goals keeps you] motivated to achieve more, depending on what is important to you. You don’t want to get stuck on a hamster wheel at work,” she explains.

Here is a discussion of the effectiveness of October goals and why you should start jotting them down ASAP.

It helps you recalibrate—and get detailed

Most people find themselves eying a mountain of leftover work at the end of summer. This makes fall the time when most companies buckle down to finish the year strong. To accomplish this, however, Osefo suggests making tangible goals to recalibrate from the more relaxed days of summer. Because everyone in your office will be refocusing too, you may feel inspired by their energy. When January comes along, not everyone will be on the same wave length—or quite as detailed as they are now.

To hold yourself accountable, apply the same nitty-gritty approach to your professional performance as you do to your vacation planning. As Dara Kaplan, the cofounder and cohost of the Pretty Electric career podcast explains, mapping out every daily step to meet a goal is often overlooked. “People can get overwhelmed with lofty goals, and it doesn’t have to be that way. It is imperative that you break those goals down to digestible steps that you can take every day in order to achieve those larger goals,” she explains.

It makes goals more manageable—and immediate

Osefo says there’s a reason so many people scratch their heads in July, wondering how six months passed without taking a single step toward losing weight, being awarded a raise, or saving for that European escape. Often, instead of setting immediate feats, we set our sights on long-term ideas, providing the illusion that we have plenty of time to complete our aspiration. But since most humans are procrastinators, this method isn’t efficient.

October provides the same “new you” opportunity as the sand gives way to the leaves, but it also piles on the pressure. Since you only have three months to complete your checklist, you’ll feel more inclined to work. To improve your odds, Osefo breaks them down even more:

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For the goals you have set in October, break them down for the last three months of the year. Then do a monthly check-in in at the beginning of November, followed by another in the beginning of December. This should be your guide to see how the goals are progressing and what is needed to meet your goals by the New Year. If you fall behind in October or November, remember you still have more time to push. Keep reassessing and figuring out what you need to do to make it to that finish line.

You will focus more on self-reflection

Blame it on the champagne or the promise of a new number to write on paperwork, but most are notorious for setting dreamy objectives in January without reflecting too diligently on the past. Though rose-colored glasses can help you remain positive, career and branding expert Wendi Weiner notes the value of self-reflection. Critically examining where you fell short and, more importantly, understanding why it’s October and you’re off track, will guide the remainder of the year. In other words: You turn those lemons of the past into lemonade for your future endeavors. “Make a list of goals that you did not achieve, but that you can retarget. Perhaps it was getting that raise you had hoped for and expected,” she suggests. “The last three months of the year can be instrumental to you gaining more momentum or perhaps regaining your focus. This might mean updating your resume and LinkedIn profile to prepare for an end-of-the-year job search. Let any rejection be your best motivation.”

It gives you a running start toward the next year

Moguls, billionaires, and executives all have one thing that connects them: They never stop. Whether it’s a new pivot in a current business model or a completely new company, their ability to continuously evolve sets their value higher. So while you may pinpoint your targets annually, remember it’s not always about reaching a preferred destination, but rather, giving yourself the stamina to push past it and keep going. Amping up in the fall provides a three-month-long runway for the year ahead. “If you start planning in October for these goals, you will have been already taking the steps to achieve these goals by January. You will have already been on the road to progress, and less likely to give up when you do not get immediate gratification the week after New Year’s,” Kaplan says. Once you reach January, you’re not thinking about the year, but rather, about the second quarter. And by April, your eyes should be on the fall.

It gives you time to dream a bit bigger

You might not need an excuse or permission to dream, but CEO and founder of reacHIRE Addie Swartz says October goal setting allows you to break up everything you hope to accomplish, from the smallest task to the seemingly impossible pursuit. Say by the end of the year that you want to exceed your sales target, but within three years, you want your manager’s title. When you’re able to look at how each stride brings you closer to where you visualize yourself, the more likely you are to move toward what you thought was impossible a few Octobers ago, and is now your reality.

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