January is a clean slate. The starting point for our newly set professional and personal goals. It’s possible, however, to be overzealous in planning our intentions for the new year. When the expectations we place on ourselves for doing new things and seeking fast results become too cumbersome, we often fizzle out. This month, we want to encourage you to take a slower approach to your resolutions. Here are some strategies for building the lasting power to accomplish them.
Develop a progress mindset
Understand that achieving your goals might take some time. Approaching your professional goals is similar to taking on a new fitness plan. The best results happen when you work new habits into your already existing life routine and keep them going over a long period of time. It would be unrealistic if a person who doesn’t normally work out could suddenly find four extra hours every day to do nothing but exercise. Even if they could sustain such rigor, that kind of regimen might lead to burnout after a while. But if that person instead decided to pick three mornings a week to go to the gym or committed themselves to a 10-minute walk every day after lunch, they might be more likely to stick with it and then start to see real results. Keeping a progress mindset is similar. The results won’t be instantaneous, but intentional, well-planned changes spread out over time will put you on a path to longer-lasting success.
*A Progress Mindset Trick*
Don’t forget that all movement is progress, even when things don’t seem to be going your way. Even when you make mistakes. You might even develop a calculation to retool things that don’t go your way as symptoms of progress. For example:
“That presentation didn’t go very well. Okay! Now I know that this team needs more data for evidence. I’ll be ready next time.”
“My supervisor seemed frustrated when I didn’t have a status update on that project. Okay! Now I know that status updates are very important to my supervisor and can plan to have them ready weekly.”
Break your goals into smaller bits
Try organizing each of your goals as an outline. Attaching actionable steps to each goal not only powers them with momentum but it also converts them from a broad, overwhelming idea in your mind to something that you can actively tackle over the course of the year. Consider this example of a goal that has been broken into measured pieces.
Goal: Secure a senior project manager position.
- Update resume
- Shadow a colleague already in this role
- Connect with supervisor about openings
- Ask HR for list of needed competencies
You might drill into each step further with additional incremental tasks and even firm dates. Like this:
- Add current role- Feb 2
- Read resume examples on LinkedIn- Feb 9
- Updates/edits/condense oldest job description- Feb 16
- Ask a friend to review- Feb 23
While it takes effort to think though each goal in such detail, breaking big ideas into small morsels makes things seem more possible. And, if you attach dates, you will practically be putting them on autopilot. No decision-making fatigue or wondering “what should I do next?” (Which sometimes results in doing nothing at all.) On February 2nd, you know to add a paragraph description of your current role to your resume.
Revisit your goals throughout the year
Pick a few times throughout the year to evaluate your goals and the progress you’ve made toward them. Maybe even set a quarterly calendar reminder. Take a minute with each individual goal and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why is it important that I meet this goal?
- How would meeting this goal make my job more fulfilling?
- How does this goal bring me closer to achieving my overall career plan?
Refreshing your memory of why you are working on certain corners of your career will reinforce your own belief in yourself. And, from a pragmatic perspective, if your priorities have changed because a teammate has left, or you have been assigned to a new project- whatever the circumstances- checking in on your goals periodically will assure their relevancy.
Ask a Mentor
Talk to your mentors about the strategies they have used to make sure they stick with their goals even after the sheen of the new year has worn off. Some questions you might ask:
- How do you plan goals with accountability attached to them?
- Do you set deadlines for your goals?
- Do you have a system for evaluating progress?
- Is there anyone you talk to when needing career support or encouragement?