Episode 14 / 16 February 2021
Today’s episode is about looking forward in the next year – even if that seems difficult in the midst of the pandemic. But most of us are geared in such a way that we function best with something to look forward to.
And if the outside world is not providing that – you should look to create it yourself.
I believe that if we want a change in our lives, we really have to find a way to look for – and create – that change ourselves. We can’t change the pandemic. We can’t change the restrictions that may apply in the place we live. But we can start making plans for the things we can make happen. That we want to make happen.
Today I’ll therefore share the 3 reasons why you should create goals for yourself for the next year – and the 8 steps to do that.
So, this episode is really about goalsetting – laying out a direction for the year. For your year.
Reason #1 for Creating Goals for the Year: Goals Let You Work on Your Plan
Because if you don’t have your own goals – and plans to reach your goals – you’ll end up spending your time working on other people’s goals. Other people’s plans.
Goalsetting is really about setting intentions. Figuring out where you want to go – so you can plan a way to get there. If you don’t know where you’re going how will you know how to get there? And how will you know when you have arrived?
If you just follow the flow, one day after the other, one email after the other, you’ll be fine for a while probably. But one day you might look up from your desk and realise that the world changed around you. People left the team. Your supervisor is new. And now the scope of your work is being changed.
It seems like everybody else had a plan and moved on. And maybe you were so busy responding to emails, meeting deadlines and attending meetings that you didn’t get around to figuring out your own plan. Let alone taking action on it.
This was my life at one point. I was so busy doing the day-to-day stuff that I never really had the energy – or thought I had the time – to step back and deliberately make a plan for what I wanted to happen. How I wanted to develop. What I wanted to try.
Maybe I was also a bit afraid? Because I knew what I had. I was comfortable with feeling really good at my job. If I left for something else, then maybe I wouldn’t feel as confident. At least for a while. And what if I wouldn’t perform as well in the new place? In the new role?
And possibly there was also a level of procrastination involved. When you’re already very busy, it takes extra energy to pull yourself away from that. So, you just get on with your job and respond to the next email and tick off the next thing on the to-do list and thus leave the goal setting and the bold decisions for – tomorrow.
Reason #2 for Creating Goals for the Year: Goals Put You in Control
When you set goals (and make a plan), you have conscious thoughts about what you want. What you want your life and work to look like. And feel like. You’re taking responsibility. You’re being proactive instead of being reactive.
When we’re spending most of our time and resources reacting to all the things others want from us, demand from us – that can easily make us feel despondent. It can make us feel like we haven’t much control over our lives. And that is not good for us in the long run.
You probably use goals in your work – but what about goals for yourself?
Some people love and live by goals. But what I see is that many people are attracted to goals in principle – but maybe not so much in practice. I meet a lot of people who work plenty with goals in their job, but don’t really apply goals in their private life.
In fact, many of us have a resistance to goals. Because we see them as something looming over our heads. Something that we’ll be punished for not reaching. Which is not motivating at all.
And that’s actually how I often felt about goals earlier on. Goals, I was told, should be ambitious. So that you would stretch and reach further. I understand the logic behind that.
But often that didn’t actually inspire me. Instead, it made me nervous, because what if I wasn’t able to reach my goals? Then there might be repercussions workwise.
But just as much I was fearing my own response. My own feeling of inadequacy. Not being competent enough. Hardworking enough. And so on. What kind of a person was I if I wasn’t able to muscle through and reach my own goal?
So, goals didn’t really work so well for me until I realised what they could be. Should be, if you ask me.
Goals shouldn’t feel like concrete blocks that will fall on your head if you don’t reach them. But they should be like guiding lights showing you the way you should move in. Give you direction and help you see the way you want to go. What you aspire to.
Since I had this realisation myself, goals have helped me tremendously.
And you really get to set your goals in exactly the way that’s helpful for you.
And therefore, it’s important to make sure that you create goals that truly feel worthwhile. Attractive to you.
This is essential when I help my clients design their goals. We put a lot of effort into designing goals and milestones that they’re inspired by and that are worthwhile going for. Not because they feel they ought to. But because they truly want to.
Reason #3 for Creating Goals for the Year: Goals Show the Steps on the Way
When you create good goals, you make them sufficiently specific, that you can really see what it looks like when you’ve achieved them.
You can then much better see the concrete steps you need to take to get there. And start taking those steps. Maybe you won’t get all the way this year, but you’re on your way. And knowing that will motivate and energize you.
But it’s also important to make your goals time-bound. That’s why working with a frame of a year is helpful. We can imagine ourselves at the end of the next 12 months. We can almost see it.
And do set milestones along the way. Working with milestones makes it much easier and more realistic to achieve your goal than just having one big (maybe overwhelming) goal for the end of the year.
A simple example (but not necessarily an easy one!) could be that instead of saying that you want to lose 10 kg by the end of the year, you want to lose 800 g every month.
Then write down what your weight would be at the first of each month for the next 12 months. 800 grams a month, that’s 200 grams a week, roughly. Now it becomes much easier to think about what you can do every week to lose 200 grams. The goal is now very concrete and tangible.
There’s a famous saying that:
“We overestimate what we can do in a day,
but we underestimate what we can do in a year.”
If you decided to spend, say, 10 minutes per day, every day of this year, what could you achieve? Maybe you could:
- Polish your resume and look for vacancies
- Reach out to someone in your network every day – or every week
- Practice a language you’re learning (10 minutes every day would add up to 60 hours – or the equivalent of 2 weeks of full-time language training!)
- Do push-ups – and get in shape
- Study a new skill. It could be something to help you in your job. But consider also something for your private pleasure. I started drawing classes last year after telling myself for a lifetime that I can’t draw. I’ve been surprised by how much it’s boosted my energy that I started doing something I’ve told myself I couldn’t do!
And by the way, remember that if you decide to spend 10 minutes every day on something new, there will be 10 minutes you can’t spend on something else. What will that be? Will that be 10 minutes less on email? Or 10 minutes less on the news?
Don’t imagine that you will sleep less. I can almost guarantee that you need your sleep.
8 Steps to Creating Your 3 Most Important Goals for the Next Year
- Set aside 30 minutes where you can sit in peace and quiet. Maybe you want to treat yourself to some nice music and a good cup of coffee – or something else that might be a little treat for you. Or maybe you prefer to go for a walk? Walking is great for thinking.
- If you’re walking you can use the Memo app on your phone to keep track of your ideas. Or an old-fashioned piece of paper and a pen in your pocket will of course do nicely too.
- Think about the three most important areas of your life right now. If you did the Wheel of Life exercise, I shared with you in episode 6, now would be a good time to revisit your notes from that. Otherwise, you might want to press pause and go and listen to that episode which you’ll find at www.barbarakandersen.com/6. Then come back and continue this episode afterward.
- Pick up to three areas in your life where you feel the biggest need – or longing – for action or development and think about: what could be a concrete thing you could take action on this year?
Make sure that this is something you can influence yourself. Wanting your supervisor to listen more to your ideas is not something you can affect. Only your supervisor can determine her interest in your work. But you can set a goal of wanting to exert certain behaviours or communication techniques, that might help improve your relationship or communication with your supervisor.
The point is, only set goals for things you can take control over and influence yourself.
- Consider not only setting goals for your career and professional life. Choose at least one goal for your private life. We are whole human beings going to work, so imagining that we can completely separate work from private life is not realistic. Making sure that things work well in your personal life will have a positive impact on your performance at work. And the same applies the other way round. When you’re happy and satisfied with your career and work life, that will have a positive effect on your family and personal life as well. Both sides of your life need care and attention.
- Be as concrete as you possibly can in describing your goal. When you have achieved your goal, how will it look, how will you feel, what are you doing differently from today?
- Set milestones for your goal. For example, what will your actions – or the goal itself – look like every month from now on, on the way to the end goal?
- Make sure you remember your goals. Make a written or at least a visual statement of them. Maybe you can express it in one word that you can have as a poster on your fridge or by your desk? Or use your goals as password on your computer, for example.
We can easily forget our goals when we get sucked into our email inboxes in the morning so make sure you remind yourself. And in a positive way that will inspire you.
So, those are some tips for you to get started.
If you want to know how you can apply the same thinking to get a grip on your weekly planning, I have a tip on this in my free guide “Take Ownership of Your Career, Get Recognized for Your Contributions – and Find Your Balance Again”. You can download the guide here.
But I want also to say: don’t make it too complicated and don’t overthink it! Personally, I can sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to create the perfect goals – and then I get stuck on choosing the right ones!
Don’t worry. You can adjust your three goals for the year later on, if you realise that your priorities have changed. Or that your circumstances have changed. Your goals are there to help you steer your way. Have a course, a direction to go in. So that you can see you’re moving in the overall direction of your priorities.
Find Somebody to Talk To
As usual, remember that you don’t have to do it all on your own. In fact, it can be quite motivating – and fun actually! – to think about your goals together with somebody you trust. Maybe this could be a good topic for a sincere conversation with your spouse or partner? Or with a good friend who understands you and your work? Who knows, maybe you could inspire them to do the same thing with you and you can help each other?
Follow the 8 steps and create your 3 most important goals for the year. Things that you can influence yourself. And think about what’s the first small, sustainable step you can take to make the change you want.
In the next episode, I’ll talk about something most of us dread – whether we’re in the supervisor role or being supervised.
The yearly performance appraisal process!
It’s time to turn the performance appraisal into something you know you’ll benefit from. And maybe even look forward to?
I’ll share my tips on that next time.