How to Set Career Goals for a More Successful & Productive Year

Dear Coach Wolfgang, what are your tips for having a annual performance work reviewmore successful, productive and satisfying 2014 at work?

This is the time of the year when many of our clients want an objective take on their annual review from work. In fact, I recently contributed to a local newspaper article on this topic: Austin Statesman. In many cases, my client’s goals are at the heart of a poor annual review. Here’s my list of ways to work with your goals in order to get a favorable year-end review and find greater job satisfaction at the same time.

Create your own goals for 2014

Your manager may help you create your 2014 goals, however, those are not the same as your personal career goals. Write your own goals and focus on what will make you more successful, what will make you happy, and what areas of improvement your manager identified in 2013.

Set SMART goals

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Force yourself to document your goals using these criteria and you’ll significantly increase your chances of achieving them. This exercise should drive the tactics you choose.

Set realistic goals and tactics

Your goals should be something entirely within your control. “Increase revenue by 50%.” is not a reasonable goal. Instead, make smaller goals that you can control that, in turn, may produce bigger results. For example, “Call in to 50 accounts by February 28″ is something you can control and realistically achieve.

Set calendar reminders to review your goals

Schedule calendar appointments every two months or every quarter – schedule them for the entire year. Put reminders so they prompt you to stop your regular work and revisit your goals. For each goal, ask yourself:

  • how close am I to achieving this goal?
  • where am I coming up short?
  • what new tactics do I need to make better progress toward these goals?
  • Does my manager know about my progress toward these goals?

Track your progress

Track the progress you are making toward your goals. Make sure to document results and achievements when they happen. It’s much easier to remember your great achievements in real-time than to try and remember them at year’s end.

Find a mentor or accountability partner

Accomplishing your work goals is not easy. In some ways, it’s like trying to lose weight or start a new exercise routine. So find a friend to do the same goal-setting exercise and then meet with that person to review each other’s progress. Alternatively, you can find an individual who will hold you accountable for meeting your goals. (Someone besides your boss!) Knowing you have to answer to someone can be good motivation.

Collaborate instead of isolate

Many people think that working on career goals is something they are supposed to do alone. That’s not the case. If someone asked you to build a 2-story, 2,000 sqft house would you do it all by yourself? You would find experts in architecture, wiring, foundations and so on and solicit their help. In the same way, find people in your network or consider a career coach that can help you figure out how to accomplish your goals, even help create your goals.

Address obstacles blocking your job satisfaction

What do you dread about work? What frustrates you or makes you unproductive or unmotivated? What is keeping you from achieving your goals? Identify the root causes, think of solutions, and present them to your boss. Don’t delay.

My last tip is to regularly review this list and make sure you are on track. One of my clients printed it out and claims he will hang it on his cubicle wall – that’s not a bad idea! Either way, take your goals seriously and don’t treat them like your manager’s goals. They are yours and once you take ownership and focus on achieving them, you’ll be rewarded with a better annual review.

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