You’re heading into a new year filled with goals and aspirations just waiting for you. Maybe the year is already here. Either way, what can you do—specifically —to organize your goals to actually accomplish them? Let’s look at four practical steps.
Step 1: Determine what you want to achieve
The first step in organizing your goals is to get clear on exactly what you want to achieve, and what really matters to you.
Consider the following questions to get you started:
- Which attributes and capabilities do you most admire in other people?
- Which skills and attributes have you always wanted to develop?
- Which topics keep showing up as a frustration or a limitation?
- What feedback have you received from your managers and clients during the year?
- Which important assignments do you tend to procrastinate on?
- Which stakeholders and team members do you need to spend more time with?
As you set your goals, don’t just look at specific skills you want to develop for yourself, such as your ability to estimate a project’s effort. Think broadly about your strivings, and consider:
- People you need to spend more time with (for instance clients or team members)
- Attributes you’d like to acquire (such as becoming a better listener)
- Accomplishments you’d like to achieve on behalf of the project or team (winning the best team award)
- Personal productivity goals (such as how you want to work and when you do your best thinking)
Examples of relevant project management goals might include:
- Improve my ability to estimate a project’s effort accurately.
- Become a certified project manager.
- Increase my productivity and ability to focus on important activities.
- Improve the performance of my team.
Step 2: Make your goals SMART
Now it’s time to make your goals more specific. One of the biggest reasons people don’t achieve what they set out to, is that their goals aren’t SMART enough. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, recorded and time-bound.
Here are some examples of SMART goals:
- By the end of the year, the team will be able to estimate project effort correctly within a tolerance of +/- 15%. Study at least five different estimation techniques by February 20 and decide which of the techniques to introduce to the team.
- Take the PMP exam no later than June 30.
- Set aside 10 minutes each evening at 6 p.m. before leaving the office to plan the next day’s activities. Also, block out 60 minutes each Friday morning at 8 a.m. to take a high-level view of my project, and assess what needs to be attended to and how to best spend my time. The goal will be reached when I no longer procrastinate and can complete all daily activities as planned.
- Spend 30 minutes each Tuesday and Friday mentoring two of your team members to help them increase their performance. Meet with the team before February 15 to get their ideas on how to work more effectively. At that time, the team can agree on SMART measures for team performance.
Step 3: Break your goals down to Minimum, Target and Outrageous
Take your big goals to give them Minimum, Target or Outrageous commitment outcomes. For instance, if you want to study estimation techniques, you could break this goal down in the following way:
- Minimum commitment: Study one estimation technique from the PMP manual by February 20. (This is a goal you can easily achieve.)
- Target: Study two estimation techniques by January February 20. (The target is what you aim for.)
- Outrageous: Study all five estimation techniques by February 22. (This is your most ambitious goal.)
When you set these three different measurements you’re less likely to disappoint yourself and more likely to overachieve.
Step 4: Decide when to review your goals
It’s critical to decide how and when you’ll review both the progress you’re making and the goals you set. Reaching your professional project management aspirations is a dynamic process that requires continuous planning, action-taking, monitoring, and refining—just like any other project.
The questions you need to answer now are:
- How often will I take time out to review my progress and my goals? (E.g., every two weeks for 30 minutes; monthly.)
- When will I schedule this review time? (E.g., Friday afternoons at 3 p.m.)
- Where will I review my goals? (Choose a place where you don’t usually work, such as a coffee shop, meeting room or a park.)
- Who’s the best person to help me stay on track? (Friend, mentor, coach, colleague.)
- How can I best involve this person, and how often? (You could ask your friend or mentor to join you on a monthly basis to help you maintain momentum.)
Treat your career aspirations as a high-profile project. Set time aside time in your schedule now for working on your goals, reviewing them and refining them. Be as disciplined and organized attending to your own professional development as you are when you start up a new project for your client. You’re worth it.
Have you started thinking about your goals? Tell us about them!