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We’ve flipped the calendar to a new year and are emerging from a season of turmoil. As we prepare for success in the year to come, now is the time to plan accordingly. Goal setting is foundational to personal success and time management is key to gaining greater personal productivity. “Timing is everything.” Sage advice for this moment in time. Let me explain.

Exercise Your Right to Revisit Your Goals

One of my personal goals for 2020 was to launch Productivity Training Academy (PTA), a customized, on-demand, time management training system I’ve developed with my business partner, Nancy Kruschke. The launch hasn’t happened – yet. Besides being delayed working through challenges related to the pandemic, at the end of the year I uncovered a technical glitch within our training website platform. It wasn’t huge, but it would have made the portal less effective. I could have gone ahead and launched and met my goal for the year, but my partner and I both agreed we’d prefer to wait until the site is fully functioning to ensure the best user experience.

Maybe you had a 2020 goal delayed by the pandemic, too. Or, maybe you had to abandon your game plan entirely, and transition to day-to-day survival mode. Regardless, there’s a good chance that some of the goals you had in place this time last year are no longer applicable, or optimal. Some of you may have come to the conclusion that the entirety of what you were doing before Covid-19 is no longer what you want, need, or can, be doing. Now is the time to take stock and formalize your goal for what is next, even if the goal is “simply” to explore what is next.

Want to Use Your Time Wisely? Goal Setting is Everything.

The science behind goal setting is strong. Establishing clear, specific goals motivates us to engage in behavior that supports the goal and, in doing so, increases our odds of said goal attainment. Perhaps some of these goal-setting nuggets will speak to, or even inspire, you today.

Now is the Time to Go Big

The need to survive might have crowded out your ability to dream in 2020. Now is the time to correct course. Vision drives innovation. There’s been many good business books published since Jim Collins’ 1994 Built to Last, but it remains one of my favorites, particularly because of the BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal concept he explores in this book. In researching the commonalities of successful, enduring companies, he discovered the success of many could be directly tied to a clearly established and widely communicated aspiration; a vision that inspired action. Collins defined the BHAG as a “clear and compelling goal.” Think: the 1960s mission to the moon. Looking for motivation? Revisit the concept of the BHAG and craft one for yourself, or your company, this month.

Get SMART

There’s a reason I waited until the end of January to send out this blog post. True to the title, I knew timing was everything. The majority of people who made 2021 New Year resolutions have already abandoned them. It is likely because these resolutions weren’t backed by a plan to achieve success. Goals need corresponding tasks to support them. I doubt many of you are unfamiliar with the concept of SMART goals, but making goals smart does take some thoughtful effort. Now is a great time to revisit the SMART ingredients of productive goal setting:

  • Specific – ambiguous or vague goals are void of the necessary finish line.
  • Measurable – how will you define successful goal attainment?
  • Achievable – your finish line must be possible. (But note this is distinct from the essence of the BHAG.)
  • Relevant – what does the goal mean to you and/or your team? What is your “why” behind the goal?
  • Time-bound – a designated period in time is needed to qualify your finish line.

Goals Don’t Happen in a Vacuum

As you revisit and establish your goals, I encourage you to share them with your “board of directors.” Your board may be a traditional business board of directors, or it might be your team of employees, your clients, your vendors, your CPA, your close friend(s) and/or your spouse. Your board of directors serves two important roles. They are your trusted resource for guidance and will function as a conduit for accountability.

goal setting
Inspirational quote Old Ways Will Not Open New Doors typed on vintage typewriter.

Find Time by looking for Productivity Gains

Once you’ve established your goals, consider where you can garner gains in productivity to reach them most efficiently. Maybe it’s:

  • creating an optimized workflow
  • going digital
  • adopting new technology/software or consolidating existing systems
  • engaging in specialized training
  • securing outside professional help / outsourcing

Think outside of the box. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Maybe a sound goal for this year is to try a new approach. Now is a great time to adopt change.

To Reach Your Goals Set (and Honor) Boundaries

When it comes to personal productivity, time is everything. We must protect our time to pursue the things we’ve set our sights on. And, importantly, in doing this, we ensure our freedom to spend quality time with those we love. Setting boundaries on your time is crucial to achieving optimal and sustainable personal productivity.

Time blocking, an effective tool in time management, involves segmenting off time on your calendar to address specific tasks. The process ensures you allow enough of your time to accomplish your responsibilities. Now is a great time to revisit your time blocking patterns and, if necessary, recommit to your time-blocking practice. Ensure you are allotting your time congruent with your personal values and goals. Don’t forget that adequate personal time is an admirable goal. Block off your personal time, even if you are working from home. And schedule that vacation for the year. Time off pays off in productivity.

What Are You Aiming For?

Now is the time to take stock and plan for what we want to achieve. Now is the time to dream big. The pandemic may have altered the course you set out this time last year, but with the insights gained over the past 12 months, your updated goals will be better informed. Timing is everything and now is the time to go for it. We’ve got 11 months of potential ahead of us in 2021. Where are you setting your sights?

Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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