Professional inputs for knowledge workers are becoming more overwhelming each day. And the pandemic has worsened this trend due to the shift to virtual and remote work many are experiencing.
Those who also have the privilege of leadership responsibilities face even more challenges.
That’s precisely why effectively setting clear directions and managing your time and energies becomes essential.
Whatever it takes, reaching your goals and success on them is the most relevant achievement as a professional and leader.
Developing habits to handle such complexities and maintaining a positive attitude during the journey are crucial elements to keep you moving towards your professional goals.
Do You Know Your Professional Goals?
“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”
How can you genuinely set priorities if you do not know where you want to go? How can you say if a task or an action is more important than another? Urgencies are easier to sort out, but important actions depend on which goals and targets.
Usually, your professional goals should be a combination of the following factors:
- Your company priorities and plans
- Your boss’ (or board’s) inputs and assigned objectives
- Your specific professional values and targets: for instance, your teams’ growth, process, and service continuous improvements, always ensuring alignment with the above items.
They should be only a few: it eases an intense focus to achieve them.
If not done yet, I recommend grabbing a pen and a paper and writing them down immediately. Don’t overthink, and review your list until you recognize it sounds. Afterward, you can evaluate sharing your goals with your boss, peers, or team members you trust.
Finally, review them regularly. I do it weekly.
Do you have habits sustaining the development and execution of your plans?
Once your goals are crystal clear, which practices do you put in place to ensure effective and efficient moves towards them? I mean, your plans to reach your destination.
A plan is a sequence of actions you decide to execute, with a priority ranking. I use to set and manage my plans.
Habit #1 - Remind yourself of your goals, as often as possible, and review them
I read my professional and personal goals weekly during my GTD®-bases weekly review, which I simplified a bit in my implementation (see if interested).
I sometimes feel the need to review part of them, be more specific, take decisions, especially when new inputs emerge.
Habit #2 - Critically review actions you defined or set new ones
During my reviews, I usually look at the actions I’ve already defined and ask myself if I need to do more or different, move priorities to reach my goals.
Here too, GTD® methodology is a crucial success factor for me.
I sometimes accept to underperform in specific tasks, knowing I am entirely focusing on my goals, where I intend to be outstanding.
Habit #3 - measure your teams’ mood and work to keep it positive
Empowering your teams should always be a specific goal, as it grants a righteous path to growth and velocity.
But to reach it, your teams need to be in a positive mood, which fuels the willingness to contribute, move through obstacles, collaborate, be creative.
Check on their status regularly: I do it on each occasion and set specific agenda slots to have “virtual coffees” (due to the pandemic), which offer informal space to freely talk and open each other.
Habit #4 - Master your calendar
Your calendar is perhaps the more crucial success factor to reach your goals, as it defines how you use your time.
During my weekly review, I check if focus time and meetings which are levant for the priorities I set, are in my calendar. If not, I adjust it accordingly.
Be sure to leave free slots in your calendar, no matter how challenging your demands and priorities are. I struggle with it, honestly, but I can keep some hours a week for myself, which I can use for contingency, talk to my team, manage emails, and review my calendar.
There’d be books to write on mastering leaders’ calendar, but discipline is, in my experience, the most relevant habit here.
Habit #5 - Do weekly reviews
As I said, I practice GTD®-based weekly reviews.
On Sundays, I usually spend two hours entering all I captured during the week into my digital tool and reviewing all of my actions, projects, and targets, and deciding which I will act on the upcoming week.
Then I copy them in my handwritten notebook. During the week, I log all new stimulus, actions, demands into the “to be captured” section in my notebook (unless urgent, in which case I add them into the current weekly actions list), and I will manage them during my following weekly review.
I also fill context content, such as one-to-ones with my team members, topics for my boss, meeting preparation notes, all helping on staying focused on what I need to handle in my weekly timeframe.
Habit #6 - Define your top priorities for the day
Each morning, before my workday starts, I take 15 minutes to review my weekly actions, planned for the day before and not done. Also, I review the whole weekly planned list of actions to decide which ones I will execute during the day as mandatory or try to manage it if possible.
I often get back to this list during my working day, ensuring that new emerging inputs might bring me elsewhere.
Habit #7 - Keep your virtual and physical desk clean
In my experience, keeping your virtual and physical spaces is a crucial productive ingredient and grant more focus and fewer distractions.
I consider my inbox as a virtual desk, thus I do my best to keep it clean: I practice a weekly inbox0 ritual (see if interested) while checking and managing top priority emails daily.
Also, in my experience, if you as a leader read and give feedback to all of your relevant emails weekly, you’ll establish a reputation for your teams and stakeholders of being there for them, listening, and reliable. No matter if you might come back within a few days, they know you will.
The above habits and practices result from years of experience, experiments, continuous improvement in my productivity posture.
I focus on goals as a leader in your company, but these habits can support your career and personal goals.