Sticking to career goals, especially long-term ones, requires patience, tenacity, and a whole lot of motivation. It’s a sizable challenge, but one that’s achievable if you break it down into manageable bits. Here are a few tips for keeping your eye on the prize — whatever that may be — without letting career concerns take over your life.
1. Analyze the past, take stock of the present, and plan a future.
In order to set goals that are challenging yet realistic, first look at what you’ve accomplished over the last year. What felt most satisfying, and how can you push it further? What didn’t quite get done but is still in the realm of possibility? Make a list of career goals for the coming year — they may build on previous accomplishments or they may be totally new. Then prioritize what you most want to achieve.
2. Use your strengths wisely.
Goals that require completely changing your habits are destined to fail. But goals that harness your strengths and encourage improvement will challenge you without causing frustration.
3. Make your goals detailed and specific.
Once you have your list of goals, it’s time to make them practical and quantifiable. Including numbers and dates can help you focus on what exactly you want to achieve, and give you a benchmark for measuring your success. Breaking down large goals into more manageable pieces (“write 1,000 words per day” versus “write a book”) can prevent them from being overwhelming.
4. Use tech to keep track of tasks, trends, and spending.
Mobile apps that allow you to view and analyze data over a period of time are great for keeping you aware of your progress. Productivity apps, for example, help you manage your to-do lists, events, reminders, and notes.
5. Focus on your own progress, not on that of others.
A bit of career envy can be a good motivator, but becoming fixated on others’ achievements will only make you feel bad about your own professional path. Make sure your goals are geared toward your own growth rather than trying to impress others or achieve a standard set by someone else. Success is not a finite resource; others’ achievements don’t negate yours.
6. Meet regularly with people who can help you achieve your goals.
This could be your boss, members of an industry association, or a freelancer meet-up group. Spending time with people who understand the unique challenges, jargon, and culture of your job will help you clarify and refine what you want to achieve. You’ll also discover how others are meeting their own goals. If it’s a more relaxed social setting, you may be able to team up to help each other stay on track.
7. Keep your goals where so you can see them daily.
Whether you stick them above your desk, enter them into a memo on your phone, or write them in a planner, keep your goals visible and accessible. Having a daily reminder of what you’ve set out to achieve will likely keep you motivated. Extra credit: At the end of each day, take stock of the little things you’ve done that contribute toward each goal. Those daily tasks that may seem trivial at the time build up and have a big impact — and serve as powerful encouragements along the way.