How to Set Useful Goals

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Contributed by Jenny Oberhaus

So how do you set a goal? I mean, where do you even start??? Allow me to make what might sound like an unconventional recommendation: start at the end. What is your ultimate goal? Where do you want to be in 3-5 years? Determine the answer then work backward to plot the stepping stones that will get you there. Setting smaller, more manageable goals that lead you to your bigger goal is a smart strategy that will keep you encouraged and motivated along the way.

For example, let’s say your ultimate goal is a promotion. It’s helpful to break down the things that will help you earn that promotion. Which areas need growth? What things do you struggle with that you could improve? Perhaps you need to be more effective in giving presentations and could use help with your public speaking skills. That’s a great small goal that will contribute to the larger goal.

Then establish a timetable. Be realistic but not lackadaisical in setting an appropriate amount of time, given the goal. It could be three months, six months or even a year. Anything that takes longer than a year may need to be broken down into separate, smaller goals.

Next, identify the activities that will help achieve each goal – in this instance, to improve existing public speaking skills. You could find a group – such as Toastmasters – that exists entirely to help professionals gain experience in public speaking. Or, perhaps, volunteer to lead meetings. Or be the one to introduce a speaker to a large group meeting or conference call. It’s not a new concept but “practice (eventually and with a lot of hard work) makes perfect,” or at very least, leave you in a better place than when you began.

So, how do you know your goals are good ones? The three questions you can use to evaluate them are:

• Is the goal desirable?
• Is the goal feasible?
• Is the goal measurable?

You must be able to answer yes to all three questions. If you can, you know your goal is solid. And, if not, refine your goal until you can answer yes to all three.

Finally, check in and re-evaluate your goals and your approach regularly. Think internally: Are the activities I’m doing working? Are they getting me closer to my goal? Is there anything I can change that would be more effective?

Also, it helps to establish an accountability partner. Whether it’s a peer or a mentor, having someone whose opinion you trust to check in with periodically is especially valuable in the process. They can guide you to stay on task, making it more likely that you’ll achieve your goals.

So is it worth it? Absolutely! While—yes—it took me some time to get around to setting goals for myself, I’m so glad I did. It’s given me focus and drive to go for the things that really are important to me.

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Jenny Oberhaus works at Scripps Networks Interactive as a Digital Ad Sales Marketing Activation Specialist, based in Knoxville, Tennessee. She originally became a member of WICT in 2007 but has recently rejoined after a hiatus from the industry to spend time at home, raising her two kids. She is a lover of travel and any competition cooking show- especially “Chopped.” She would love nothing better than to eat her way around the planet with her husband of 16 years, Jason.