Have your goals gone mad?

Imagine that you’re training for a 100-metre dash. Suddenly your coach says you need to shift your attention to the 400-metre race. You up-end your training regime and reset your goals. Progress is slow, but just as you feel you’re getting the hang of the new distance, your coach decides you need to master the high jump and resurrect the 100-metre sprint.

Moving targets, competing priorities and overload – how can anybody do a productive, fulfilling job under these circumstances? Here are a few ways to take back control.

Don’t gamble

Don’t rush goal setting. Always prepare before discussing targets with your manager – you will have to live with the consequences. Speak first to set out your priorities. Beware of overconfidence. Consider: what is the basis of the target? Has it been done before?

Say ‘yes’ slowly

When asked to do something big and new, think before you agree.

  • “Sounds interesting, could I sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow?” Scrutinise: will you cope? Could you do it well? Will it help you grow?
  •  “If I take this on, what do you want me to drop (and who will pick it up)?” Overload is the surest route to shoddy work and burnout.

Avoid a narrow focus

Goals are compelling, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. To achieve lasting success:

  1. Figure out how your targets fit into the bigger picture, so they are a source of motivation.
  2. Build the occasional learning goal into your objectives, like job shadowing or learning a new skill.

When you know what you are aiming for success is less complicated. Goal setting is more than an administrative task. Treat it with the care it deserves.


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