Ironically, I’ve been meaning to write this blog post about setting goals for a few weeks now and just haven’t gotten around to it. Truly, it’s more of a January topic; the New Year brings not only a flood of hope but a torrent of well-meaning advice for those of us who felt that the Old Year fell short of expectations. “Write everything down,” they say. “Create a vision board,” “imagine yourself 5 years in the future,” “download this app that zaps you every time you do X bad behavior.” A million techniques for a million objectives, but the truth is unless you’re motivated and in the right headspace, goals can turn into pipe dreams.
For me, goal setting isn’t an activity relegated to a certain time of year: it’s a lifelong habit. Like any habit, practice reinforces and strengthens your skills, but it takes a while to become engrained. I don’t believe that one has to subscribe to a certain regime to reach their goals, but here are some more philosophical ideas about setting goals (that you’re actually planning to achieve).
The more specific your goals are, the more defined your path towards them will be. It’s easy enough to say, for example, “I want to write more this year,” but write more than what? This is a very broad goal and difficult to define. The more specific “I want to write 2 poems a week,” is far easier to achieve, because you can picture exactly what it will look like. (In this example, I’m picturing you with a quill pen, glass of wine, and a candelabra. No judgment.)
If you’re able to track your progress towards the things you want, you’re more likely to continue the progress (even if it still feels far away!). Sometimes, working towards your goals can feel like hiking up a dune. It’s exhausting, hard to see when you’re near to the top, and your shoes are full of sand. If you look behind you, though, and see how far you’ve already come, it’s easier to trust that you’ll make it to the top if you keep pushing.
If you’re able to track your progress, you’re more likely to continue to progress. #goals Click To Tweet
Whether it’s to your boss, co-workers, partner, or friends, you’re more likely to work toward and achieve your goals if you have to answer to someone. If someone is counting on you to do something, or just simply supporting your journey, you’re more likely to work quickly and be engaged in the process. It’s also nice to bounce ideas off of other people to help validate the direction and choices you’re making.
Celebrate Success (and acknowledge missteps)
Fighting discouragement can be a challenge, so taking the time to pat yourself on the back for successes, however small, is crucial to keeping yourself engaged on your path towards your goals. To the same token, it’s important to identify when you step off that path and fall into traps. If you make mistakes, own them, but don’t let them throw you off entirely. There’s no sense in berating yourself, as long as you can learn from the mistake and move forward.Fighting discouragement is challenging, so take time to pat yourself on the back. #smallwins Click To Tweet
A year, in terms of goals, is a long time. Can you remember exactly what you were doing a year ago? How about 11 months ago? 10 months ago? The longer a goal’s time frame is, the more room there is for procrastination, distraction and reprioritization. At the same time, it’s important to set realistic timeframes for your objectives. And, well, if you don’t have a timeline at all, that’s not really a goal then, is it? More of a generalized nice idea, if you ask me.
Read next: Proactive Dashboards Put You In Control
Individual goals can drive you personally and professionally, but goals can and should be shared. It’s incredibly powerful when a group of people work together towards a common goal. This is when extraordinary things can occur. When you combine the brain power and ambition of a team and channel it, there really is no limit to what can be accomplished.
How can you keep a whole team motivated and on track? Try creating a project management dashboard. Break your goal into specific phases, and monitor performance towards the finish line in real time. Everyone will see how their contributions measure up in the grand scheme of things, and a dashboard keeps everyone accountable to one another. You can set milestones and celebrate when they’re met. You can also more easily spot and anticipate mistakes, and visualize how you got there and where to go from there. Dashboards pull data in real time, so you’ll never miss a deadline because you were waiting on week-old, confusing reports.
Best of all, you can share the dashboard with your entire team, giving them the information they need to do their jobs. After all, isn’t the ultimate goal to encourage everyone to be their best?