Do quarterly goals excite you or fill you with dread? It probably depends on who set them and how much input you had. Either way, the goal is now on your to-do list for the weeks ahead. It may even be linked to a financial reward. What can you do to increase your chances of achieving these goals?
Have a shared understanding of success
Before you begin working on your goal, ensure you and your manager (or whoever set the goal with you) have the same understanding of what you are working to achieve. Some goals can be measured easily, and this is a big help. But many are subjective, and you might have different expectations from your manager about the result.
Taking the time upfront to discuss this and reach an understanding will save you many calls, emails and hours of wasted effort along the way.
Try to visualise what success looks like. You could sketch a mock-up of what the output might look like. You might write a future email to the people impacted by the goal, explaining what has been achieved and the benefits. Do what it takes to reduce ambiguity at the beginning, as possible – and thank you later.
Double-check your plans
When planning the tasks, steps or activities required to achieve your goal, remember that you will be able to define the short-term ones more clearly. Don’t make the mistake of getting caught in “procrasti-planning”. Map out the key milestones along the way and then plan your actions to achieve the first one or two milestones.
One common mistake when planning and allocating time for work is that we forget the prerequisites and follow-up actions necessary for the work to be successful.
For example, if you plan to run three times a week, you might block that time off in your calendar. But did you plan and allocate time for the prerequisites, like making sure you have the appropriate clothing ready to wear? Similarly, did you prepare for return travel, a shower and recording your results after the run? Planning the run itself isn’t enough. If you haven’t allowed for the supporting activities, it’s more likely that you’ll skip the run or not perform your best.
The same applies to work. Most activities require some degree of prep and follow-up. Plan for these, and you will be more likely to get the work done.
Prioritise your goals in your calendar
Working towards a specific goal requires dedicated time every day or week. But it can be easy to get pulled into “fire-fighting” or last-minute requests. Goal time should be planned into your week as a priority. If you try to fit it in after meeting and your to-dos, you may never find the time. Choose 60-90 minutes blocks for as many days a week as needed to complete the work. Aim to have it during the time of day that you have the most energy.
Don’t just talk about progress; show it.
Finally, when achieving your goals at work, you need to do more than measure progress. As much as possible, you need to show others the progress. This helps to manage expectations along the way and get feedback that will improve the quality of your work. In addition, one of the biggest problems knowledge workers face is knowing when the job is done. Hours, if not days, could be wasted over-perfecting and adding to work that is already good enough to achieve the goal.
The next time you look at your goals, ask whether there is an agreed understanding of what success looks like. Consider the ancillary work needed to make it happen, and check your calendar to see if the goal is a priority for your time. Show your progress regularly and stay focused on the outcome.
The result? Goal achievement and a wonderful sense of accomplishment.