Reading time: 3mins

I’m forever working on my planning skills.  I’m not a natural planner – I’m an ENFP on Myers Briggs Type Indicator and true to type, I love spontaneous activities and the joy of last-minute pressures.  I hugely recognise the importance of a good plan though, and over-compensate for my preferences enormously. One little thing I do that makes a big difference is to break down my day using a planning notebook.  This nifty little notebook also provides space for listing 3 things I’m grateful for at the beginning of each day, and to reflect at the end of the day on 3 wins and 3 things I could have done differently.  A little spot of reflection and mindfulness, which I actually like, amidst all the planning.

The power of these small practices got me thinking about tips and techniques for setting big goals and working toward these.  I’ve shared a few suggestions for achieving your big goals below:

Set a vision for your big goals

  • Visioning. Set a vision – do this however you like. I love a vision board and a mind-map, others prefer an excel spreadsheet or OneNote.  However you lay out your big plans, this will help you to set a direction of travel and what you’re aiming for.
  • Outline your key goals. So, what are you aiming for? What big things would you like to cross off your list over the next 12 weeks? Go for longer-term goals if you like, but don’t feel that you need a 3-year or 5-year work or career plan.
  • Dream big. If you’re not excited about this goal, ask yourself why.  You’ve got to create sustained energy toward this goal, so explore ways to adapt the goal or to get excited. It’s a big world out there and it’s a big marketplace – don’t dream small.
  • Ask for support, then ask for more. Consider who can support you to achieve these goals, and how will you garner this support? If in doubt, just ask.  Little caveat here – give out lots of support too, even if it feels small.  Nothing builds trust like a bit of give and take.

Create some time boundaries

  • Break it down. Break your day into hourly chunks, 30min chunks if it helps, and instead of focusing on what you’ll do in that time, think about the outcome you’d like to achieve at the end of it. Outcomes don’t need to be tangible.
  • Take control of your time. Give yourself your best shot at achieving your daily goals. Tell others how you will be using your time, set clear expectations for meeting outcomes, and only go to meetings where you are a decision-maker, key influencer or an active contributor.  Or at least ask yourself why you’re going!  How many people have you heard say, ‘I have so many meetings, I have no time to do the actual work?’ Gain some control back.
  • Be realistic. Be realistic about what you can achieve in an hour, 1/2 hr et. Give yourself time out for surfing the internet if needed, as it actually helps to put a boundary around this, and to prevent it from creeping into lost hours.
  • Review and reassess – don’t berate yourself. If you don’t achieve what you set out to in a day, don’t beat yourself up. Break down the overhanging activities into that brilliant little quadrant of urgent on one axis, important on the other, and consider how you want to tackle these over the coming days.  Clearly the important and urgent activities are things you will be getting on with.

Carve out time to deep-dive into your work

  • Do some deep work. I read an interesting post referencing Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, on LinkedIn yesterday and speedily read a summary of it on Blinkist (great way of getting a taster of hundreds of top books via their App). Cal shared the growing body of research to suggest that multi-tasking doesn’t work i.e. it results in multiple distractions, and you achieve less rather than more. He recommends that we find strategies to remove distractions and to carve out time each day for deep work.  This isn’t feeling ‘in the zone’, which can happen randomly; it is time specifically cordoned off in your calendar and your mind to concentrate on a given activity.
  • Turn off the distractions. This could mean unplugging your phone or at least turning off notifications. Give it a whirl – it’s liberating. An old colleague once suggested I had FOBO (Fear of Being Offline). She was quite correct, and giving my phone a little spa break made me feel like I’d had one myself.

Get yourself an Accountability Buddy or at least someone who will ask how you’re doing

  • Check-in with a buddy. When I first started in self-employment, a good friend text me to see how I was doing and what progress I’d made. I had hit overwhelm and was richocheting around the day like a person minus a plan or a notebook to put it in. Her question alone made me reflect on where I was at.
  • Look outside your pool of usual suspects for support. Accountability Partners come in all shapes and sizes. It’s been suggested that someone outside of your friendship or family circle can work best, as they have no vested interest in how you apportion your time.

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small

  • Celebrate the small wins. Share them with others, and reflect on how you achieved them.  Give yourself a reward. Hey it’s almost Easter – make it chocolate.  My own business mentor said to me last week that I don’t sit back and reflect on what’s going well enough.  She is absolutely right. And I’ve noticed I’ve achieved far more than I thought. So what?  Well, it’s motivating, and self-motivation is incredibly helpful in a busy workplace, and stupendously helpful in self-employment.

There is a whole host of research, tips and techniques out there for setting a vision, forming goals and creating workable plans.  These are just a few thoughts for a Tuesday coffee break.

I’ve supported many teams and individuals through coaching to set and achieve their own vision, strategy and goals.  I’ve also set up peer coaching so teams can achieve exactly that together, in a self-sustaining model of support.  If you’d like to find out more about team, peer or individual coaching, you can find me at kath@heartsparks.co.uk

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