I never used to set work goals. Maybe at the start of the year I’d write down a few, but nothing week-to-week or month-to-month. And I definitely had no idea how powerful setting goals at work would turn out to be…
Here’s the old me: I figured I’m going to do my best, and picking a goal that I may or may not hit is pointless. I thought to myself- why not just work hard and do as much as possible and see exactly how far I can get instead of guessing in advance?
It wasn’t that I was afraid of failing. I just viewed goal-setting as guessing.
I was Dead Wrong and I’ll explain exactly why.
Sure, when you set a goal you aren’t sure if you’ll make it.
But the reality is that failing or getting halfway toward a well-defined and measurable goal will do much more for you than just ‘trying hard’ and seeing how far you can get.
Here’s some of the best stuff that happens when you set specific goals, and specific deadlines for them:
Success or failure, you tend to reach the deadline and look back on what went well and what could have gone better. I haven’t found myself coming to the conclusion that the goal was unrealistic when I fail. Far more often I find valuable insight into what I could have done better, how I could have prioritized differently, outsourced pieces of the work, etc!
This creates a great learning opportunity that essentially guarantees I’ll be more efficient on the next project. And I wouldn’t be asking myself any of these questions if I hadn’t defined a goal beforehand, because I’d have nothing to measure against.
You have limited time in each day and limited resources to get your work done. When you introduce specific goals with timelines attached to each, it forces you to prioritize. What is the highest-impact action you can take today? As you near the deadline and aren’t sure you’ll make it, which non-essential pieces can be scrapped? Is all of this really necessary? Can I combine tasks?
These are the extremely valuable questions you’ll be asking yourself, but only if you have a measurable goal and exact deadline.
If you don’t have a specific goal and deadline, you can’t tell your friends about what you’re targeting. Which means you can’t get support and encouragement from them. They can’t hold you accountable, check on your progress, tell you to stop making excuses and get it done!
Social support from friends and colleagues is hugely important. It’s almost impossible to succeed in complete isolation, and goals provide a way to interact and seek encouragement.
The end result of all of the above is that you achieve as much as possible for yourself! I mentioned earlier that you might only get half way toward a goal. That 50% is still further then you would have made it with no goal at all, I guarantee it.
I only started realizing all of the above as a freelancer on Upwork this year. I wish I had realized back when I worked in corporate as well because I think it would have had a tremendous impact (tens of thousands of dollars probably).
At this point you couldn’t pay me to start a project without a goal and exact timeline in mind because it’s just an invitation for endless menial tasks, undefined objectives, excuses and lack of focus.
My conclusion (I know this isn’t rocket science; many of you have realized this long ago) is that goal-setting is ESSENTIAL if you want to succeed and improve in your work and career.
It’s only been a month or two and I already see huge improvements. I launched my complete Interview Guide last week and would probably still be struggling with it if not for specific milestones that I was determined to hit each week.
Here are the other big improvements and changes I’ve noticed:
That last one is important!!! Goals help you remember you’re working hard and doing a good job. They help you look back on the week or month and realize that you’ve accomplished a lot.
I got spoiled in 9-5. Good bosses will tell you when you’re doing awesome work and I was fortunate to have a great boss.
Well, when you’re working for yourself, only YOU can tell yourself if you’re doing a good job. And goals are a way to look back and appreciate what you’ve accomplished rather than only looking forward.
Don’t start a work-related project or task without defining what pieces are required to succeed and how long you expect each piece to take. Write it down, tell one friend/colleague, and hold yourself accountable. On every project you do. After 1 month, you won’t want to stop.
Got a thought or comment? Please share below. I think this applies to all types of work and careers so I’d love to hear from a variety of people…