We’ve all felt the uncomfortable sensation of stagnation. Whether you’ve hit a wall in your career progress, become tired of the place you live, or feel like your job no longer excites you, boredom and frustration are incentives to make a change.
The first step in any serious transition is setting a goal. But achieving that goal is where the real work comes in. Bringing your vision to life is a challenging process that requires dedication and planning — and professional aspirations can be particularly difficult to manifest.
Working toward a career goal is a serious undertaking. You must strike a balance between managing your typical responsibilities and dedicating time and energy toward your new objective without losing momentum on either front. After all, you can’t move forward in your career if you fall behind in your current role.
So once you set a goal to reinvigorate your professional life, how can you ensure you cross the finish line? Let’s explore how to achieve goals at work without compromising your performance (or your sanity).
What are goals?
A goal is a vision for the future. It’s an objective you want to achieve and actively work toward.
It all starts with pinpointing a desired outcome you feel particularly passionate about. What about your professional life do you most want to improve, and how can you work to make that vision a reality?
Types of goals
Goals are a lot like snowflakes — no two are exactly the same. However, many do have overarching similarities.
The intent behind a goal and the time it’ll take to complete define the type of objective. Here are some examples of types of goals:
Short- or long-term goals — these goals have a distinct timeframe, whether that’s a couple of weeks, months, or years. This timeframe reflects the size and complexity of the endeavor. If you hold a high-level leadership role at your company and hope for a promotion, your next career move is likely a long-term goal. But if you want to take on a few new clients this month, you can accomplish this in the short term.
Personal goals — personal goals encompass those focused on health, self-perception, mental wellness, and outlook, like quitting smoking or finishing spring cleaning.
Relationship goals — these goals focus on improving relationships with strategies such as better communication, increased empathy, and more quality time. For example, partners may learn to actively listen to boost their communication practices.
Financial goals — economic goals are those aimed at saving, spending, or managing money, such as paying off credit card debt or buying a home.
Professional goals — workplace goals cover everything that has to do with your job, including career shifts, promotions, and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Why is it important to set professional goals?
Your career is an enormous part of your life, and you deserve to feel happy, supported, and productive at work. Setting professional goals is important because the process encourages you to renew your sense of purpose, improve your knowledge and skills, and remain interested in your work.
Even short-term goals, like knocking a project out of the park, keep your head in the game and promote motivation. We often do our best work when we have something clear and exciting to work toward.
How to accomplish a goal in the workplace
Forge a career that rewards you by learning to create and deliver on professional goals. Here’s how:
1. Set your goal
Setting a goal requires introspection and intention. Consider what you could improve in your career or in the work your team is doing, and create an objective around what matters to you most.
Any time, including when you’re feeling positive about your work, is an excellent time to set a goal — even if it’s something as simple as taking a course to boost your project management skills. You can also set and plan for goals you’re not ready to tackle and revisit them in the future.
2. Be SMART
A strong goal is a SMART goal. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Make sure your objective ticks off all of these boxes.
3. Write the goal out
This step is anything but superfluous. Writing out a goal is more complicated than it sounds — and it should be.
The process of articulating your objective pushes you to be specific and intentional. You may have a vision of what a happier working life looks like, but when you try to write it down, you wind up with a lengthy paragraph. The next step in the process is boiling the concept down into a finite idea like “work in an industry that aligns with my goals by this time next year.” A short, succinct, and specific goal is a lot easier to execute than stream-of-consciousness rambling.
Once you land on a final draft, display the goal where you’ll see it every day and remind yourself what you’re working toward.
4. Define an action plan
Once you have your goal, you can start working on it. What’s your plan of action for reaching that final destination?
Grab a pen and paper and write out every step you need to complete to hit your objective. For instance, if your goal is to transition out of your job within a year, these steps would include revamping your resume, sending out applications, attending networking events, connecting with companies on LinkedIn, and polishing your skills. If you have a hard time frame, note how long you expect each task to take.
Of course, you might not be familiar with what it takes to achieve your goal. If you’re not sure of the details, turn to research — talk to a colleague who navigated a similar path, or check out a blog from a professional in your field.
5. Measure your progress
Set up a system for gauging and monitoring your progress. This could be as simple as creating a task list or marking due dates on your calendar, or as intensive as running an Agile project via sprints logged in burn-up charts.
Metrics let you know if you’re falling behind or tracking well toward your goal. Empowered with this knowledge, you can make adjustments to stay on top of the work and learn from past failures. For example, if you plan to send out 10 job applications this month and only wind up with eight, you can analyze why this happened and learn from it. Perhaps you were overtasked or there was a shortage of relevant opportunities. Whatever the case may be, once you understand what went wrong, you can shift your tactics and attack the goal from a new angle.
6. Reflect and reward
Take time to reflect on your progress and appreciate it. Did you overcome a particularly challenging hurdle this week? Keep on top of your schedule? Hit every item on your to-do list?
Be sure to celebrate little victories on the way to your objective. Sometimes advancing toward a goal can feel slow and insignificant, so stay positive in your moments of reflection and remind yourself that any progress toward your goals is good progress.
Best practices for turning professional goals into successes
Sticking to professional goals is challenging — and there are a wealth of external factors that play into your success. When things go wrong, it’s easy to become frustrated and unmotivated. Apply these goal-setting tips to overcome challenges and follow through on your objectives even when the going gets tough:
Seek support — there will be tough times on the route to any goal. Allow your support system to motivate you, and internalize their praise. If your partner offers to make dinner while you send out a job application, accept the gesture.
Keep visualizing — don’t undervalue the power of looking ahead. To stay motivated, picture yourself achieving your goal, and continue to do so even when it feels silly. If forward-thinking becomes challenging, create a vision board so you can literally see your objective.
Stay accountable — when you hit a rough patch, remain accountable for your progress. This isn’t to say that you should force yourself to work when you’re tired or burned out. But if rest isn’t the problem, ask a friend or colleague for some help with motivation.
Achieving goals with Notion
Setting effective goals is intensive work. Equip yourself for success with the right tools.