Whether setting personal or professional goals for the New Year, it’s important to include a mix of stretch goals and more easily achievable goals. Be sure to include a few that will be “hit it out of the park” goals (of course, you will need to put effort against these goals to achieve them, but these goals are very achievable given some effort). The stretch goals should make you a little uncomfortable—if they don’t, you probably didn’t stretch yourself enough. There are many reasons people (or departments) fail to meet their goals, including failing to create achievable goals, creating goals with external dependencies, and a lack of commitment to the goals.
When setting professional goals for yourself, consider continuing education (whether formal advanced degrees or certifications, conferences & seminars, or skills training). You may also want to consider specific achievements such as a promotion, a higher review score, winning over a specific client or client group, or taking on more “x” work.
One way to avoid creating unachievable goals is to set goals at milestone level versus end state. This prevents, or at least minimizes, the goal becoming overwhelming. In addition, it allows for mini-celebrations along the way, which increases your motivation. For example, it’s attainable to lose 4 pounds in a month. You can easily track your progress against this goal and if you miss the goal, you can make it up in the next month or two. Whereas, the uber-goal of losing 30 pounds in a year leads to procrastination for the first six or nine months and then trying to run at a goal that’s become much more difficult to attain (if you don’t abandon the goal altogether). Relating this same principle a professional example:
- High-Level Goal: Earn Graphic and Digital Design Certificate from Parsons
- Milestone Goal: Complete three courses toward Graphic and Digital Design Certificate from Parsons
Other times, goals aren’t completely within our own control, which makes them difficult to achieve. Getting engaged is a good example for this one—it takes two people for this one to occur and if one party is not yet ready or interested in taking the next step, the goal is not achievable for the other (at least with that person!). Relating this same principle a professional example:
- Goal outside personal control: Move from print designer to web designer
- There may not be budget for a web designer or enough work to create a(nother) full-time web designer role in your current company
- Goal inside your control: Support at least two web design projects in 2013–whether for the company or as a freelancer
And lastly the lack of commitment to a goal or set of goals can lead to its demise. Publicly sharing your goals and progress—whether through your Facebook page for personal goals or on your cubicle or office wall for professional goals—increases your commitment and performance against those goals.
If you are a department leader setting goals for your department or team, the same general guidelines apply. For more thorough department- or team-level goal setting strategy and advice at the, check out “Planning for the New Year.”
Jackie Schaffer, vice president and general manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative.