Setting goals is important in every aspect of life, especially at work. It’s not just pie-in-the-sky stuff here; we’re talking achievable goals—even if at the outset they seem like a dream.
The goal itself might be for your own immediate advancement or something that will make future opportunities possible. But what makes any goal achievable is a step-by-step plan and your own commitment to that plan. Without a roadmap, you’ve got no direction and can easily get lost or distracted; and without dedication, even the most strategic planning means nothing.
The good thing is that every time you accomplish a task on your to-do list, you can count that as a success, which motivates you to continue. Small, daily tasks are completed quickly, piling success upon success, giving you momentum. Factor in accountability, which you can achieve simply by sharing your goal with coworkers or friends, and you’ve got more motivation to continue.
Once you’ve decided on your goal and a timeframe, you need to do the planning. Here are some examples.
Goal: Get a promotion (or move into a leadership role)
If your goal is to be promoted from your current position, your roadmap should include steps that make you more valuable to the company, more likely to be recommended by your supervisor, and earn stellar performance reviews. The way to achieve that recognition might include:
Be clear about your intentions. If you know you want to be promoted, tell your manager that’s the goal. Ask for clear criteria that you should meet in order to get a promotion. Then go for it. Don’t forget to highlight your achievements and success to your boss along the way.
Pitch in. Support your coworkers and help out whenever possible. Become invaluable. When there’s an opportunity to be of service to a colleague, customer, or client, take it.
Be the first to volunteer. When the boss introduces a new process, embrace it with enthusiasm and offer to try it out. Employees don’t like change; your willingness to take the plunge is leadership material. Just make sure you’re doing promotable work, not unpromotable work, like planning office birthday parties and loading the dishwasher in the community kitchen.
Improve a process. Whether to increase productivity, reduce errors or improve customer service, if you see a process that can be streamlined or made easier, design a lan to do so and share it with your boss.
Goal: Get a raise
If you work at a smaller company that’s limited in terms of where you can go, getting an increase in pay and benefits may be your best option. In this case, your roadmap would be similar to that of getting a promotion. Steps you could add would include:
Be more than dependable. When there are only a couple of employees in a business, each one is more visible than in a large organization. Your absence—even if it’s a lack of engagement rather than your physical absence—is more noticeable. Show up.
Show initiative. When you see something that needs to get done, do it. If you spot a problem, propose a solution. If you see someone doing good work, give them a shoutout. When you see the chance to help a customer or client, do so. When you can go above and beyond, do it.
Ask for it. An InHerSight survey found that more than 60 percent of women have not asked for a raise in the last year. When you’re ready for a raise. Ask for it. Here’s some help: A Quick & Dirty Guide to Asking for a Raise in Writing and When to Ask for a Raise & How to Arm Yourself for the Conversation.
Goal: Achieve work-life integration
This is a work goal whose plan will be very different from person to person, and it will be seasonal as well. There will be times to work hard and times to play hard. Times to focus on career or growing a business and times to focus on personal relationships or times to focus on getting physically healthy.
Entrepreneurs and business owners often work constantly, not because they have a boss breathing down their necks, but because that’s what it takes to get the business going.
Their step-by-step plan might look something like:
Hire an assistant
Meet with 3 clients per day (instead of 6)
Work from home each morning, otherwise no working from home
Use the time saved by not commuting each morning to go to the gym
Delegate two tasks daily
If you work for someone, your plan to achieve the goal of work-life balance might look like this:
Leave by 5:00 every day—working late should become very much the exception rather than the rule
Have lunch daily away from your desk—you need that break
Get up early to fit in a workout before heading to the office
Take every day of your paid vacation (about 50 percent of Americans don’t) and mental health days
Leave work at the office, no checking emails at home
Staying focused on your work goals
Focus on one or two goals at a time, so the process is clear and they’re undiluted. If you’re working on too many, you can get scattered, lose direction, and not achieve any of the goals you have in mind.
What’s so valuable about having a plan is that your actions are organized, strategic, and measurable. You’ll also be able to get back on track more easily when you have a plan that allows for setbacks and obstacles that are sure to crop up.
Sara Azadi, cofounder of TushBaby, says she found purpose and happiness by setting goals. The goals were, admittedly, pretty all-encompassing, and she describes them as:
1. I would leave my job
2. I would start my own consultancy
3. I would invest and start a consumer goods company I had believed in
4. I would make time for my health
She made her goals known so that she would be accountable, set a deadline, and went to work. It took many months and she encountered hiccups along the way, but Azadi achieved it all. The only thing she regrets is waiting so long to do being accountable to her own goals. “By being accountable, I’ve become more bullish, confident, and determined than ever,” she says.