You've set your career goals for 2021, so now what? While we can often enter into a new year with the best intentions, as January and our summer holiday starts to fade and we look down the barrel of another 11 months -with work and personal commitments piling up- it doesn't take long for the resolutions we so diligently set to become derailed. Staying motivated and on task isn’t always easy, especially when other things start taking up your focus or you experience a setback which leaves you feeling deflated.
To combat this feeling of dissatisfaction and ensure we leave 2021 as determined as when we started it , we at Design & Build share some advice on maintaining motivation and tracking and monitoring progress to achieve your goals for the year:
1. Break The Goal Down (Develop An Action Plan)
As the famous automobile manufacturer and entrepreneur Henry Ford once said “nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs”. A concept which the majority of us would be familiar with; a problem or task seems less daunting or intimidating once you’ve broken it down into smaller or achievable tasks. The same method of thinking applies to your goals. If you take on a project and try to tackle it in one go, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. Instead professional development and career coach’s recommend steadily chipping away at a goal by breaking it down into realistic steps which you complete one at a time.
The trick however, is to ensure the subdivision of an overall goal doesn’t become an end to itself. You want to break things down, but only as little as necessary and you need to ensure that each step gets you closer to the overall goal. A great way to do this is through developing a career action plan; where you map out each individual step that can help you achieve your goal, against a time-frame. For example, if your overall goal is hitting a target of 100 new sale opportunities for the month- one of the key steps to achieve this could be to make at least 10 cold calls each day. It’s also important to remember that your career action plan should be flexible. Don't be afraid to make changes to it as you go, especially if your goals shift along the way.
2. Get Organised
Nothing can hinder productivity like a cluttered mind or a feeling of displacement. If you have set goals you need to achieve or if you feel you haven’t been achieving the key milestones on your career plan, a shot of organisation may be just what you need. Research has indicated that an over-stimulated, cluttered mind can be hindering to productivity. We can become so excited by a concept and have a million different ideas running through our heads, but are not properly able to filter through each idea, which will impact our overall effectiveness. To help with this, small business advisor Marla Tabaka recommends sitting down and physically transferring the ideas in your head to paper. Once these ideas are written out in front of you, it becomes easier to assess what ideas are viable and what aren’t worth pursuing.
Doing a ‘brain dump’ and writing everything down in a list format can also help you to prioritise your ideas and effectively decide what steps should be taken next when feeling like you’ve ‘lost steam’ while taking on a particular project/goal. Alternately, Marla suggests talking your goals out with a colleague or mentor – you can outline your desired outcome, what you’ve done so far and your options moving forward. It’s surprising how things can fall back into place simply by revisiting your goals with a second party.
3. Pre-Determine How To Deal With Setbacks And Hurdles.
While it’s important to think positively, it’s inevitable that on the way to achieving a goal or when working through key steps you’ll experience setbacks or challenges. Perhaps a deadline you were working towards has to be pushed back or a supplier you were counting on can’t supply the particular stock you need. When these challenges happen it’s important to have a contingency plan ready, so that these setbacks don’t completely derail your progress or stop you from achieving your overarching goal.
Obviously, we’re limited with how much of the future we can accurately predict, but there are ways to minimise potential risks or hurdles during your initial planning phase. An example of this is creating a SWOT analysis, which outlines the potential threats, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses surrounding a particular idea/product or strategy. A SWOT allows you to brainstorm ahead of time, the particular hurdles you may face and what you’ll have to overcome. Having a plan ‘b’ or contingency plan in your back pocket, is also great for motivation as if something doesn’t go to plan when you’re working through a project, you can feel more confident about your ability to overcome the setback and move on.
4. Review And Reset
While some goals can be short-term, others can take a while to achieve and with these goals it’s important to regularly check in and review your progress, as it can feel like you’re going around in circles. In our last post on setting goals, we discussed the importance on ensuring each goal was SMART; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based, which really comes to play when you’re reviewing your progress. Being able to measure a goal is a key component of determining progress, as establishing any improvement in your ranking system, growth, volumes sold (whatever the form of measurement is) from when you first set your goal, indicates that you’re on track. Another key element of reviewing your goals is the time-frame you’ve set. A SMART goal will outline a specific time-frame your goal has to be achieved by, which can help to determine if you’re ahead of/behind schedule. Being able to track your progress and see tangible results is a great motivation tool as it demonstrates how achievable your goal is becoming and gives a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Reviews are also important as if you find that you are behind schedule or you’re nowhere near the measurement target you set, you can try and resolve these issues ahead of time, rather than undermining your entire goal-setting process. Perhaps the initial goal you set wasn’t achievable and you have to alter it? Perhaps your situation has changed since the time of setting the initial goal; maybe you’ve moved departments or been put onto another project? It’s important at each review session to ask yourself things like, is the goal still necessary? Is it still achievable and is it what you really want to do? Working these things out ahead of time again, can avoid your entire project derailing and developing a sense of failure. To ensure you’re keeping on track, it’s recommended that reviews are scheduled in regularly; fortnightly, monthly or quarterly, depending on the individual goal’s time frame.
5. Celebrate The Wins
In a study on how everyday life inside organisations can influence a person’s performance, researchers analysed nearly 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees across seven companies. They found that the employees who marked or wrote down their small wins they experienced during the day or week, the more it enhanced their motivation. Simply put, recording and celebrating success or progress (no matter how small) helps to boost positivity, self-confidence and ultimately can be put towards greater successes. This is why, it’s recommended for those during their goal setting or when working through their action plans.
For people trying to stay motivated while working towards a goal or achievement, being able to take the time to acknowledge and reward themselves for their accomplishments is integral for developing a deep satisfaction in their work. This is backed up by neuroscience which indicates that each small achievement or milestone we’ve reached can trigger a hit of dopamine within our brain’s reward pathway (the part of our brain responsible for pleasure, learning and motivation). This dopamine hit allows us to feel a greater level of concentration and embeds the activity that caused the original dopamine hit, so we can easily recall and learn from the experience. Which is why celebrating the smaller wins can propel you forward and achieve your overarching objective.
Maintaining motivation isn’t always easy, especially when you experience a set-back and feel like you’re not making progress. However, by following some of the tips above - like breaking up overwhelming tasks into smaller, more digestible steps and regularly reviewing and celebrating your progress – you can maintain momentum and become that much closer to achieving your goals.