26 Mar

How to Set Strong Goals — and Actually Achieve Them

March and April is a good time to check in on the New Year’s resolutions you set at the beginning of the year. These goals are made with the best of intentions and hefty dose of enthusiasm, yet they are often quickly forgotten.

Here’s the good news: Even if you let your resolutions slip, there’s still three-quarters of 2018 left. There’s no rule saying you can’t re-resolve to follow up on your original goals for the year — and even set new ones.

In an Accountemps survey of more than 1,000 workers in the United States, 93 per cent of respondents said goal setting is important to their work performance. Without an end goal to strive for, you can easily get caught up in the day-to-day minutia and lose track of the wider view. But when you have a target set, not only do you tend to work towards it, you can also check your progress at regular intervals to make sure you’re still on the right track.

Here are five tips for setting strong goals and achieving them, no matter what time of year it is:

  1. Set aside quality thinking time. Setting goals and determining your best route to them doesn’t happen instantly. Give yourself time to focus on big-picture questions and consider the different possibilities and paths you could take.

Set aside a large chunk of your day, sit in a quiet space free from noise and distractions — including your phone — and ponder these questions:

  • What do you hope to achieve in your current job?
  • Are you ready for a career change?
  • What would bring you more professional satisfaction?
  • Are you happy with your salary? Where would you like it to be in the short and long term?
  • How would you rate your work-life balance?
  • Do you ever wish you could change your accounting specialisation?
  • Do you need more knowledge, skills or experience to achieve these goals?

Goal setting starts with serious soul searching. It’s a tough but necessary way to discover what you really want.

  1. Get specific. Having clearly defined goals is the first step towards achieving them. It’s not enough to have general ideas, such as be happy at work, make more money or get ahead. These desires are fine, but you should go further and get detailed. For example, what exactly does getting ahead look like to you? How can you be happier at work? What do you ned to do to bring home a bigger paycheque? DO you need to take on more responsibility? Get a promotion?

Don’t stop at vague hopes and wishes. It’s great to have lofty ambitions, but a specific definition of what they mean for you makes them feel more concrete.

  1. Break it down. Your accounting career is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, focusing solely on a far-away finish line could be daunting. Strong goals are measurable, realistic, achievable and time-based. Establish milestones — manageable, bite-size goals — that lead to the bigger prize.

Start with your final objective, such as becoming finance controller or CFO, then work backwards to determine what actions you need to take to get there. Think about the various positions along your ideal career path. Then consider the additional qualifications or degrees you’ll need. Then break those down into sub-goals. When you subdivide your professional desires into smaller chunks, they become less overwhelming and more attainable.

  1. Write them out. Seeing your long- and short-term goals in print can really cement them in your mind. Maybe it’s the visual reminder that resonates with you, or perhaps the act of writing signifies your commitment to follow through.

Some people are partial to pens, journals, paper calendars and sticky notes. Others enjoy digital tools: spreadsheets, smartphone reminders, calendars synced across devices, and productivity apps. Either way, it all speaks to solid planning. Use the method you prefer or mix and match. What’s important is that you create a visible space for your list of goals, which can be more powerful — and motivating — than just loose thoughts in your head.

  1. Seek expert advice. Achieving more is in your best interest, but it also benefits your employer. That’s why it makes sense to involve your boss — both during the goal-setting process and as you pass milestones. Your supervisor should be all for your plans for professional improvement and can offer support and training.

Others who can assist you along your journey are mentors. They’re tenured professionals who may or may not work for your employer. Their years of experience positions them perfectly to offer career advice and insights that can help you advance towards the finish line.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. For career and management advice, follow our blog at roberthalf.co.uk/blog.

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