As we kick off 2022, many leaders to get back on track with their professional goals. They’re evaluating their career priorities and yearning for a renewed sense of purpose.
When you set goals, you create a vision of what your life or your business could look like. You take control of the direction you’re headed. Goals provide focus, motivation and drive.
From my experience, goal setting is the easy part. That’s because there are many goal-setting models — SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals being the most notable.
It’s the goal-reaching that’s hard because there’s a lot can get in the way. Maybe you’re overly ambitious, which then leads you to just give up. Or perhaps your personal life interrupts your work life, or you face an unexpected external force. Or maybe you’re just too busy.
So, how do you stay on track? Here are six ideas to get you started.
No. 1: Mind your mindset
First, it’s important to reflect back on the year just ended. Too often we’re hard on ourselves when we fall short of our goals. We fail to give ourselves credit for what we have accomplished – the progress we’ve made. Here are three ways to reframe your thinking:
- Celebrate small wins. What step or steps toward your goal did you make?
- Reflect on the journey. What did you learn about yourself?
- Consider unexpected benefits. What is a related benefit from the progress you made or actions you took?
No. 2: Think big
Now that you’ve given yourself grace on where you may have fallen short, think about goals that will excite and motivate you.
To create that vision, I love an exercise that Rich Litvin uses:
Fast-forward to a year from today. You’re catching up with a friend and toasting your success. You say to your friend:
“You won’t believe it… ___________________________”
Hold on to that vision as one of your big goals.
No. 3: Start small
Ideal goals strike the right balance between excitement and realism, meaning a goal should excite you enough to stay motivated while being realistic enough to be attainable.
So, that’s why it’s helpful to start small. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think big. Just start small.
According to the progress principle, taking incremental steps toward a goal provides a sense of accomplishment and contributes to positive emotions (e.g., endorphins), which in turn increases motivation and forward movement. In other words, momentum begets momentum.
Starting small gets the flywheel moving.
No. 4: Befriend your calendar
Next, you need well-designed habits that keep you going through ups and downs. So, the fourth difference maker is your calendar.
You’ve probably read about time blocking. If you’re not doing it, now is the time. There’s a correlation between productivity and staying on track with your goals.
I’ve written before about using your calendar to get overwhelm under control. The same tactics will support your efforts to reach your goals.
- Start with designing your week. Block time on your calendar each Friday to reflect on the week that’s past and plan for the week ahead.
- Then, create a daily close-out routine. Carve out five minutes to bring your workday to a close. Dan Pink, author of “WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” takes two to three minutes to write down what he accomplished for the day — his “dones.” Then he spends two to three minutes planning his next day.
- Next, schedule regular goal check-ups. Just like going to the doctor and dentist for regular check-ups, Adam Grant, author of “Think Again,” recommends doing the same for your career, business and life. These scheduled reflection times allow you to pause, reflect and activate a rethinking cycle.
No. 5: Find an accountability partner
One of the most effective ways to stay on track is with an accountability partner—a colleague, a friend, a peer advisory group or a coach.
According to a study by the American Society of Training and Development, now known as ATD, you have a 65% chance of reaching your goals with an accountability partner. That chance of success increases to 95% if you establish an ongoing appointment with your accountability partner. (There’s the power of your calendar again.)
Your accountability partner should be someone you trust, respect and whom you don’t want to disappoint. Ideally, you want to find someone whose feedback will be honest and thorough.
During your regular check-ins, report on what’s working, what’s not and what’s next. Look to your accountability partner for ideas, encouragement and support.
No. 6: Don’t stay stuck
When you’re working toward an important goal, it’s easy to get caught up in your own thinking. My No. 1 way of getting unstuck is connecting with others — catch-up conversations, coffees, walk-talks, networking events and mastermind groups. The energy and ideas I gain from these connections are usually all I need to get the flywheel moving again.
Even when time is at a premium, carving out 30 minutes or an hour a week for networking and conversations pays dividends. (Yep, back to #3 again—time blocking is key to making things happen.)
Now that you’re armed with a few ideas, my hope is that you’ll think about your 2022 goals with more intentionality. To put these ideas into action, download my “How to Be a GoalGetter” worksheet and get started right now.
Elisabeth Hayes is an executive coach who works with ambitious mid-career professionals and senior executives to reach their goals. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter. Download “How to Be a Goal Getter” and contact her to schedule a complimentary quick-start goal-setting session.