Has it been a while since you were promoted or worked in a role you loved? Maybe you’re happy with your career right now, but you want to spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you’d like to start a side business, or learn a new language, or take photography classes, guitar lessons, or just try anything new and stick to it.
We all have goals, even if we don’t realize precisely what they might be. So the question is, how do we figure out all of the steps to actually make our dreams a reality?
Don’t worry – that’s what you have me for.
What to Do: Setting Specific Goals
Define what you’re Trying to Achieve
A mission statement is the summary of your values and what you want to achieve. Goals are the steps you will take to achieve your mission.
Easy, right? Well if it’s so easy, why are all of our New Year’s resolutions nowhere to be found by the time March rolls around?
The main problem with most mission statements and personal goals is that they are too vague to be effective. Big goals take a long time to achieve. Without having your steps clearly outlined, it is it nearly impossible to measure your success along the way and stay motivated.
As an example, let’s take a look at my blog’s mission statement and values. Before this exercise, I would have said:
Values/Mission Statement: To inspire others to take agency in their careers and personal lives, and provide them with tools to do so.
Goals I need to achieve my mission: Continue to provide meaningful content and grow my blog audience.
Those sound pretty good, don’t they? They’re admirable goals and they’re relevant to my blog’s success. But look again – these values and goals are so broad that they’re ineffective.
Read those goals again and ask yourself, on a day-in-day-out basis, how am I supposed to determine whether or not I’ve “inspired” anyone? There are no specific quotas or target numbers to track whether I’m growing. So three months later, when I have no measurable or visible progress, how exactly am I going to stay motivated to keep working? …I’m not.
The solution? I can improve my statements by making the longterm mission much more precise and set out smaller, actionable steps to get there. Here’s my second draft:
New Longterm Goal #1: To double my audience by the end of 2019 (thus sharing my experiences with a broader group of people and creating opportunity for a diverse dialogue).
1. Publish 1 article + 3 Instagram posts per week
2. Spend 1 hour per day engaging on social media accounts
3. Convert # of original blog viewers per week (I haven’t calculated the necessary number yet)
New Longterm Goal #2: Launch a Book Club that creates audience dialogue about books (instead of reviews based on my opinion)
1. Learn how to use Instagram Live video screen-sharing
2. Set-up a monthly voting platform for Book Club picks
3. Share on social!
There you have it! At any point in time, I can sit down and assess whether I’ve fulfilled these goals.
Apply this Exercise to Anything
Not everyone has a side-hustle or is self-employed. You might think that means you can’t be in charge of your own “mission” at work. But the above exercise can apply to any kind of goal.
For example, my friend Sam is an interior designer who has worked for the same company for several years (yes, she gave me permission to post about her). She is ready for more responsibility in the role and wants to start taking charge of her career – but she doesn’t really know where to begin.
I walked Sam through the mission-setting exercise and told her that we needed to find a concrete goal she can work towards. Here’s the first draft that she came up with:
Sam’s Old Mission Statement: Take charge of my career and show my boss that I am a valuable addition to the team (so that I can get more responsibility on client projects).
I love Sam, but this mission statement is a platitude-filled mess. It says a lot without really saying anything, which is setting Sam up for failure.
Here’s how we changed it:
Sam’s New Mission Statement: Get a 10% raise by the end of 2019.
Sam’s New Short-Term Goals:
1. Inform her boss that Sam would like to begin handling small client projects on her own (i.e. a bedroom makeover instead of a full house renovation)
2. Complete 2-3 client projects by September 2019
3. Show boss that Sam is going “above and beyond” by…
(a) Learning how to use WordPress, and
(b) Updating the company’s outdated website (Sam’s boss doesn’t know her way around computers)
4. Late fall 2019:
(a) Sam will prepare talking points summarizing all of the above value-adds that she has contributed over the past several months
(b) Set meeting with boss….
6. ASK FOR A RAISE!
Instead of implying multiple vague goals in her mission statement, Sam chose one specific goal (getting a raise) that could only be achieved if she executed several others.
Sam’s company doesn’t hand out annual raises, so she probably won’t get a raise unless she shows her boss that she’s a valuable addition to the team and that she can handle client files. We built these sub-goals into the short-term steps with concrete actions attached.
When am I Supposed to Do This?
Do the first round of goal-setting ASAP. Then once every three months, sit down and invest some time in making sure you’re on track to complete your sub-goals, or adjusting your goals and setting new ones.
How to Make this More Fun than a Business Meeting
Now that you’re all set with what to do for your goal-setting session, here are my recommendations for how to do it.
Block off a Morning in your Weekend Calendar
It can be hard to spend time assessing yourself. Even if we want to make changes to our lives, it’s not long before a more immediate concern pops up: nursing your hangover, last minute brunch with the gals, or even just chores (I’m far from immune – this happened to me last weekend).
To make sure that I won’t be distracted by interruptions, I schedule in a several hours of time on Saturday morning (usually 10am-2pm). I know the FOMO is real, but people aren’t going to notice your absence at that time of day. When I’m finished, I still have the rest of the weekend to go to the gym, go out that night and do whatever chores I’ve been putting off.
I know this sounds annoying, but I make sure to sit at my desk AND turn off the TV when I do this exercise.
Sitting on the couch or having the TV on in the background will just be a distraction. If you focus, you’ll be done much more quickly – and then you can get back to The Mindy Project.
You’re more likely to do something if you actually want to do it. We all want to improve on ourselves, but few of us really want to spend on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon writing notes when we could be getting coffee with a friend.
So consider this your permission to invest a little cash into making this a fun experience. Some of my personal tips:
1. Buy yourself a really cute notebook to work into (Indigo/Chapters have cute journals with fancy covers for cheap)
2. Set up a workspace that makes you feel good: use posters of things that inspire you (I use prints of motivational quotes and exotic locations)
3. Allow yourself a treat to make this feel like a special occasion. I usually get myself my favourite latte (spiced Chai with coconut milk) before starting. Try treating yourself to a favourite snack or a fancier-than-normal bottle of wine that night if you get your task done!
Remember, although this kind of exercise requires mental work and focus, it doesn’t need to feel miserable. In fact, you’re more likely to be productive if you allow yourself to feel inspired and happy while doing this.
Working on yourself doesn’t need to feel like work!
Are you ready to level-up and start setting goals you can stick to? I’d be thrilled to provide some advice on any goal-framing questions you may have – let me know in the comments below!