Strategizing on how to achieve your professional goals is a lot like balancing a budget.
Working against you are the negatives: bad habits, inefficient time management, distractions, poor organization. On the other hand are your positive assets: creativity, work ethic, networking, problem-solving. These are the traits you need to leverage in order to create a net positive outcome — and it all comes down to developing a smart strategy and sticking to it.
To achieve what you want in the upcoming year, follow these steps:
SMARTER is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, evaluated, and readjusted. Don’t fall victim to the quick abandonment of New Year’s syndrome — set objectives that are digestible in daily chunks. And as time moves on, don’t be afraid to readjust as needed.
What works against you that you could improve? Common problems include bad habits, procrastination, distractions, difficulty focusing, and poor problem-solving. Be honest with yourself and make it a priority to interrupt these bad habits.
The more specific your plan, the better your chances of success. The planning phase is so crucial that each hour spent planning can potentially save whole days of work down the road.
To start, work backward from the end goal. Where do you really want to be by the end of 2019? Break this down into individual goals — for instance, if you want to be promoted to project manager or gain more responsibility, you’ll need to accomplish A, B, and C. Now take A, B, and C and subdivide them further. What work will be involved? Will others need to accomplish goals as well? How will you track progress?
Once you’ve subdivided your goals, make sure there are start and end dates, a status bar, and a priority level assigned to each of them.
Now comes the truly important part: translating your action plan into achievable daily goals. Don’t be overly ambitious in your daily planning — if a schedule is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run, modify it. You’re in this for the long haul (remember, no New Year’s syndrome).
Look at all the goals from your action plan and divide them into small increments. Allow yourself time to handle problems and short-term crises. Make sure the pace of your daily goals corresponds with your end dates.
Once you’ve obsessed over every detail of your action plan and daily schedule, keep good track of your progress. Use a spreadsheet, or better yet, make room in your action plan for goal tracking.
It’s easy to fall off the wagon, so be a workhorse. Don’t let yourself deviate from the schedule, or you may find your goals quickly fading into abstraction. This being said, don’t be afraid to readjust your objectives as needed — just stick to them no matter what.