How to be great at goal-setting

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Halfway through the year - it’s a great time to be thinking about your goals. What have you achieved so far this year? And what still remains to be done?

Goal-setting sounds simple, but it is hard to do well.

In this series of posts, I will be looking at:

  • how to work out where you need to set a goal;

  • which goal-setting “formula” might be most effective for you;

  • and when goal-setting is counter-productive…

By the end, you will be a genius at setting and achieving the right goals for you to fulfil your career dreams!

So this week: how to identify where you need to set a goal.

Why do you need to set goals at all?

The concept of goal-setting has been around for thousands for years. Aristotle said,

(And obviously this is true for Woman too...)

The guru of goal-setting is Edwin A. Locke, who based his 1968 ground-breaking article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives"on Aristotle's theories.

This article stated that specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals at all.

This has since been developed into a huge body of research into the value and methodology of goal-setting.

There are some caveats (to be discussed in a later post); but the overwhelming conclusion is that goal-setting is a Good Thing:

> where you set yourself goals is where you are likely to make progress and get better results.

So on that basis, the next question is: what to set your goals on?

This is the bit that people can miss.

They focus so strongly on the methodology (SMART vs BHAG - see next week’s post) that they don’t spend enough time thinking about what they actually want to achieve.

I have defined 7 different methods that you can use to help you identify where you need to set yourself goals.

Some of these are top down (visualisation); some are bottom-up (brainstorming).

And you can do one, a mixture, or all of them.

See which approach works best for you…

1. SWOT analysis

This is the classic four space grid of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

You can apply this to anything: your career, your business, your relationships. Consider your content under each of these headings.

For the purposes of your career, for example:

  • your Strengths could include your networking skills and your technical knowledge;

  • your Weaknesses could include presentation skills;

  • Opportunities could include a colleague or boss leaving, which means an opportunity for progression or promotion;

  • and Threats could include changes in your industry that mean your skills risk becoming obsolete.

When you’ve filled in all these categories, you can use this information to help you define where you can most helpfully focus your effort to get better results.

2. Brainstorm

We all have those lurking thoughts of things that we “must” or “should” be doing.

I am not a fan of what I call the “tyrannical should” - but you can turn it to your advantage.

Give yourself a quiet moment, and a blank sheet of paper/ blank Google doc (whatever method works for you).

Then set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, and just WRITE.

List every single one of those thoughts about the things that you want to do or need to do or should do.

Once you have this list, analyse it: group similar actions together; and prioritise them.

The filter is, “which of these actions will give me the biggest and best results”. Once you’ve done this, you will have some clear goals to action.

3. Timeframes

A classic method of setting goals is to use time: in other words, long-term; medium-term and short-term.

You can define these in whichever way you want.

Personally, I like Sheryl Sandberg’s 18 months time-frame - I would use that for medium-term, with six months for short-term and 5 years for long-term. But you choose the timeframes that work for you.

Then think about where you would like to be in your career in those timeframes.

This will both give you something to aim for, but also help you define steps along the way (to be discussed further next week).

4. Categories

When I work with 1:1 clients, I often start with the “career wheel”, which is a simple but highly-effective tool for analysing your current career. This not only sets a very useful baseline for our future work, but also helps point to areas that might need a particular focus.

You can do this too:

  • brainstorm a list of 8-12 categories that are relevant to your career (for example remuneration; career development opportunities; leadership responsibilities etc)

  • then score them out of 10 (0 being very unsatisfied, and 10 being the most satisfied).

This will help you understand the categories where you might want to set some goals.

5. Event-based

It can be helpful to consider your goals in relation to forthcoming events, either in your organisation or your industry.

For example, are there particular conferences that you might like to speak at?

Or are there important events that are relevant to your work (a spending review, or a change in leadership, or publication of something significant)?

Draw up a 12 space grid, and mark each space with one month of the year.

Then write in key events in their relevant month.

What does this tell you about the goals you might want to set around these events?

6. Number goals

Number goals are very simple and clear, and therefore very compelling. Do you have any number goals that you could set for your career?

  • A performance review score?

  • An amount of money you’ve made in a certain period?

  • The size of your bonus?

  • The numbers of people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn?

  • The number of staff working for you?

  • The number of events you’ve spoken at or attended?

  • The number of emails in your inbox (the lower the better in that case!).

If you can define a number goal, it will be very easy to work out whether or not you have reached it - which is a very powerful motivator.

7. Visualisation

For some people, visualisation can be a very effective method to help you define your goals.

Either use a guided visualisation (such as this one here, which helps you visualise a day in your next great job), or do it on your own.

Find a quiet space, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and allow yourself to settle.

Then allow your unconscious mind to wander forward into the future.

Allow yourself to imagine your desired future: what it looks like, feels like, sounds like.

And use this as a springboard to help you define where and how you want to take action.

FINALLY - there is a very simple and easy way to help you define your career goals, and that is to work with me.

I am expert in helping my clients define their career objectives, including clarifying their dream job - even if they have no idea what that might be when we start working together.

Using some, or all of these methods (plus some extra ones of my very own!), I can help you define exactly where you want to get to, so that you can then take the steps you need to get there. (And I will help you with those too…)

As a client of mine said after just one Power Hour of coaching:

“I now have a clear idea of what success looks like, a plan of how to proceed, and a way to review the options available to me. I have already discarded some potentially time-wasting paths that I was considering before, and now feel confident that my structured searches will result in me achieving my dream career”.

And for one of my Career Transformation Package clients:

“thanks to this coaching programme, within five weeks I applied for and secured a new role which perfectly aligns with my values, sufficiently pays the bills and has set me up for feeling fulfilled from my career for years to come! Without Kirsten, I wouldn’t even have applied for the job. And getting results so quickly has enabled me to feel positive and excited about working again. I’m so much happier now about my career! ...thanks Kirsten!"

Using my expert advice will help you short-circuit the goal-setting process...

...quickly finding the best methodology for you...

...and helping you come up with an answer that you can have faith in... that you know that your actions will take you to the best possible career for you.

🌟 For a free phone consultation on my Career Transformation Package (six sessions of transformational, completely bespoke coaching), get in touch at / LinkedIn / +44 7976 555 575.

🌟 Or you can take advantage of my current offer of a £99 “Define Your Dream Career” Power Hour - only available until 24th July.

Good luck! xx