How can you ensure that you actually stick with your career goals in 2017?
The new year is a time for dreaming big. Maybe you envision writing a business book, or learning computer coding to bolster your resume. One of the best ways to ensure that your career progresses steadily over the next year is by turning these aspirations into actionable goals.
The hard part, however, is sticking with them. By the time February rolls around, your January enthusiasm may have worn thin. Here’s how to set strong goals so you can stay on track come February, March, April, and beyond.
1. Set SMART Goals
If you’re having trouble staying on track, maybe the problem isn’t you—but your goal. Too often, young professionals falter by making vague or overly ambitious goals. Avoid setting impossible standards by following the SMART method, ensuring that each goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
S = Specific: In clear and unambiguous language, state exactly what you hope to accomplish. Otherwise, you won’t be able to focus your efforts going forward.
M = Measurable: Create a quantifiable framework to measure your progress towards an end result, including targets and milestones to meet.
A = Attainable: Setting unrealistic parameters will, more likely than not, result in failure and disillusionment. Work towards an attainable goal that will move you in the direction of larger aspirations.
R = Relevant: Quite simply, the goal has to matter to you and align realistically with your circumstances. Be sure the goal is worthwhile, and makes sense for your present situation.
T = Timely: A defined timeline is crucial for long-term commitment. Having a deadline will also create a sense of urgency, ensuring that you don’t lose track of your goal come February.
Here’s an example of a SMART goal in action. If a person’s broad aspiration is to write a business book, their SMART goal would be: “In order to establish myself as an expert, I will write a 150-page book on social media by writing one chapter per month (3-5 pages per week). The book will be completed in 10 months, and then I will search for a publisher or explore self-publishing.”
To stay focused, keep your New Year’s goals to a maximum of three. With too many in place, you’ll probably get overwhelmed and give up entirely.
2. Stay Positive
You might have a SMART goal, but do you have a good attitude? While effort and willpower are important, so is remaining motivated and encouraged in the face of setbacks. Sometimes, all it takes is reframing the way you view your goal.
Psychologist Heidi Grant proposes incorporating a “promotion focus” (recognizing what you have to gain from your goals) rather than a “prevention focus” (concentrating on avoiding risk or losing what you have) to give yourself the necessary confidence to believe you can accomplish your goals. With a promotion focus in mind, keep a written list of all the good that will emerge from keeping your resolutions. Visualize your future self enjoying the rewards of your hard work and dedication.
3. Schedule It in
New Year’s Resolution jargon often is about “making time” for what’s important. Unfortunately, us mortals can’t “make time”—we can only use the time we have. So, if you’re going to keep your resolution, you have to schedule the necessary steps to fit that goal into your day.
Under the “measurable” section of your SMART goal, establish daily, concrete practices that you can schedule onto your calendar. Over time, your daily thirty minutes of hard work will add up to a significant achievement.
4. Celebrate Success
In order to keep yourself motivated on the long journey, celebrate small successes along the way. Use your pre-set quantifiable milestones as an opportunity for self-congratulation: take yourself out to dinner, or include your loved ones in the celebration. This way, you’ll continue to build momentum on your way from Point A to Point B (not to mention holding yourself accountable along every step of the journey).
So, regardless of whether you’re looking to become a social media guru, a coding wizard, or something else entirely in 2017, be sure to pursue your aspirations in the SMARTest way possible.
Ken Sterling is the Executive Vice President at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau – the leading keynote and business speakers bureau in the world. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales & marketing expert. For press interviews, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Business 2 Community.