As we enter yet another week of social distancing, having probably finished cleaning the house from top to bottom and finally uncluttering the hall closet, thoughts may turn to setting some professional goals to achieve by the time things return to "normal." But while making a list of things one wishes to accomplish sounds like a simple task, it’s important to make those goals not only relevant to your overall career path but also attainable.
A few years ago, I read that in order to successfully set and ultimately achieve a New Year’s resolution – or any goal, for that matter – you should choose only one, rather than making that traditional list. It’s much easier to really focus on a single goal and the steps you’re going to take to achieve it. Haven’t we all felt demoralized by making a long list of objectives then failing to complete a single one?
Experts suggest following the acronym SMART when setting goals – they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
1. Specific: When defining your goal, answer the five “w” questions: What do I want to accomplish? Why is this goal important? Who is involved? Where is it located? Which resources or limits are involved? Example: I want to gain the skills and experience necessary to become a Certified Master Appraiser in order to open my own small appraisal business and laboratory, with several associates, so that I can build my career and lead a successful team.
2. Measurable: A measurable goal allows you to track your progress and stay motivated. A measurable goal should address questions such as: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? Example: A CMA must accumulate seven years of experience, complete the Appraisal Studies Course, and pass the practical and theory exams.
3. Attainable: Your goal must be realistic and attainable to be successful. It is important to stretch your abilities, but the end goal must remain possible. To be sure your goal is attainable, ask yourself: How can I accomplish this goal? How realistic is the goal based on other constraints, such as time or finances?
4. Relevant: Your goal must, of course matter to you, but it also must align with other relevant goals including those in your personal life and those of your family/support group. A relevant goal should answer: Is this goal worthwhile? Is now the right time to pursue this goal? Does this goal align with other efforts/needs? Is this goal applicable given the current socio-economic environment? Example: If you want to start a family will the extra hours of study required be possible/desirable at this time?
5. Time-bound: You need a target date to aim at so that you have a deadline to focus on. A time-bound goal should answer: What is my deadline? What can I do today? By the end of the week? What can I do next month? What can I do in six months?
Once you’ve chosen your goal, break it down into concrete steps you can take every day, every week, every month, every quarter, and every year in order to achieve it. If we look back at the example of opening a small appraisal practice shown in item 1, you can see that there are several separate steps into which the goal may be separated: 1. Become a CMA, 2. Build a Certified Gem Laboratory, 3. Open an office, 4. Hire Employees. Each of these broad steps can be broken down into smaller ones which can be easily achieved on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The positive reinforcement of regularly crossing these smaller goals off your to-do list will keep you motivated and working toward that larger prize.