This is a perfect time of year to reflect back and see what we were able to accomplish and what we could have done better. We often overestimate how much we can do in one day, but even more often underestimate what we can accomplish in the year. It’s much harder to stay consistent and do certain things on a daily basis. Motivation and inspiration is hard to maintain. This is why Gyms across the world are full in January with people full of energy and new year’s resolutions, those same Gyms are not nearly as full towards the 3rd and 4th quarters.
In my opinion, setting goals and working towards their fulfillment is not only the key to success, it is also a key to happiness. Without goals we drift aimlessly through space and time. We start questioning what we are doing with our lives, we get depressed and disappointed. Having clear goals gives us purpose. Knowing we are doing something great for ourselves, our loved ones, and the world gives us a sense of purpose. Knowing that by the end of today we will be a little closer to fulfilling our goals than we were yesterday is a great feeling.
So how do we set our goals and keep ourselves accountable, motivated and on-track. Let’s go through some steps and examples. In this example, let’s assume your long-term goal to achieve a promotion in your professional role.
Step 1. Write down everything you are doing or intend to do in order to achieve your goal.
Step 2. Organize these items by their time horizon. Career goals (multi-year), Strategic Objectives (yearly), Targets (weekly)
Step 3. Stack-rank the objectives by their priority / importance based on your personal view (what you want) and the outside world (your company / organization)
Step 4. Stack-rank the targets by their priority
Step 5. Estimate how you currently allocate your time given the stack-ranked list of your objectives and targets.
Step 6. Gain understanding of any mismatches that exist between your targets, objectives and time allocation.
Let’s focus on these steps one at a time:
Step 1. Here it’s really important to initially just brainstorm and write everything we are doing and planning to do in trying to achieve our goals. Here is my list:
- Accomplish targets and goals of the programs assigned to me.
- Keep excellent documentation and status reporting of the programs assigned to me.
- Meet and exceed the expectation of my stakeholders and customers as it relates to the programs assigned to me.
- Actively, meaningfully and constructively participate in all meeting I am invited to.
- Meet with and get to know my leadership team. Make sure they have a good level of understanding of the programs I am leading, their value / impact.
- Become a subject matter expect in the area of AWS PrivateLinks, Network Perimeter architecture, and networking in public clouds.
- Achieve a promotion to the next level in my career track.
- Start and help run the Community of Practice for Program Managers within my organization.
- Create and deliver at least three presentations for the organization.
Step 2. Organize / categorize the above items along Career Goals, Strategic Objectives and Targets. Ideally each Strategic Objective should have at least 2-3 Targets. If some of the strategic objective lack targets, one of our jobs is going to be identifying these targets or things we can start doing right away or as soon as next week to get us closer to those strategic objectives.
|Career Goals||Strategic Objectives||Targets|
|Senior Director Promotion||Perimeter network program delivery||Provide centralized place for program status.|
|Public cloud network redesign delivery||Identify program risk, dependencies, progress towards mitigation|
|Become a subject matter expect in the area of AWS PrivateLinks, Network Perimeter architecture, and networking in public clouds.||Read AWS documentation|
|Create and deliver at least three presentations for the organization.||Take AWS class|
|Actively, meaningfully and constructively participate in all meetings I am invited to.||Review each meeting agenda the night prior and prepare|
|Start and help run the Community of Practice for Program Managers within my organization.||Make suggestions and ask relevant questions in every meeting attended|
|Meet with newly assigned skip level leadership team|
|Setup communication and stakeholder management plan for each program|
|Share community of practice proposal with the new leadership team|
Step 3. Let’s rank our objectives in the order of importance. The way to do that is by thinking about them in terms of three criteria.
- What do I want to do
- What I am good at
- What the organization needs from me.
For instance. If I want to initiate a penetration testing workflow for new services within my organization and I am super excited about it. It should be more important than things I have very low interest in doing. However, it’s important to be honest and ask am I good at it. Do I have the necessary skills and competency to accomplish this objective. am I best for this work. If the answer is ‘No’, It doesn’t mean we should not learn and pursue new tasks and skills, but it should not be the highest priority getting us to our long-term goals in the most effective manner possible.
Now let’s take an objective look at what our organization and our leadership team is prioritizing. Let’s say that improving performance, scalability and security for our customers is the top of mind business objective for the leadership team. I want to make sure I prioritize the delivery of the programs in this space.
Now for each of the 3 criteria, let’s assign a rating from 1 to 10. Below is a sorted list of objectives:
|Strategic Objectives||What I want to do||What I am good at||What my organization needs||SUM|
|Perimeter network program delivery||9||9||10||28|
|Public cloud network redesign delivery||8||8||10||26|
|Actively, meaningfully and constructively participate in all meetings I am invited to.||7||8||8||23|
|Start and help run the Community of Practice for Program Managers within my organization.||7||7||6||20|
|Become a subject matter expect in the area of AWS PrivateLinks, Network Perimeter architecture, and networking in public clouds||8||7||7||22|
|Create and deliver at least three presentations for the organization||6||7||7||20|
Now let’s turn our attention to our targets, or items that have a weekly timeframe. Our goal here is to stack-rank these targets based on which objective their our furthering, and how effectively they advance that particular objective. Note, it is possible, and in fact likely that we’ll have multiple targets associated with a given objective.
I created sample table adding the scores for my objective from the table above and adding 10 points if the target is very effective in getting me closer to meeting that objective and 5 if the objective somewhat meeting the objective, then I sorted the targets by their overall score, which got me a prioritized list of targets:
|Target||Objective||Objective Importance Score||Effectiveness (in addressing the objective)||Overall Score|
|Provide centralized place for program status||Perimeter network program delivery||High (28)||Very Well (+10)||38|
|Identify program risk, dependencies, progress towards mitigation||Perimeter network program delivery||High (28)||Very Well (+10)||38|
|Setup communication and stakeholder management plan for each program||Public cloud network redesign delivery||High (28)||Very Well (+10)||38|
|Review each meeting agenda the night prior and prepare||Actively, meaningfully and constructively participate in all meetings I am invited to.||High (23)||Very Well (+10)||33|
|Make suggestions and ask relevant questions in every meeting attended||Actively, meaningfully and constructively participate in all meetings I am invited to.||High (23)||Very Well (+10)||33|
|Meet with newly assigned skip level leadership team||Actively, meaningfully and constructively participate in all meetings I am invited to.||High (23)||Very Well (+10)||33|
|Read AWS documentation||Become a subject matter expect in the area of AWS PrivateLinks, Network Perimeter architecture, and networking in public clouds||Medium (22)||Somewhat (+5)||27|
|Take AWS class||Become a subject matter expect in the area of AWS PrivateLinks, Network Perimeter architecture, and networking in public clouds||Medium (22)||Somewhat (+5)||27|
|Share community of practice proposal with the new leadership team||Start and help run the Community of Practice for Program Managers within my organization||Low (20)||Somewhat (+5)||25|
The next step is to determine how much time we spend on these objective contributing activities. To get a sense of where our time goes, we can start by answering a few questions:
- How many hours do you spend on work vs other activities?
- While at work what are the three activities on which you spend most of your time.
- What is the amount of time you spend on meeting, answering messages, emails and other interrupt activities
Armed with this information, let’s go back to the list of ranked targets you’ve compiled above and have an honest look at how much time you devote to those activities that directly contribute to achievement of the most critical objective.
If you find that the significant potion of your time is spend on task that are not contributing to those important objectives, it is important to bridge that gap.
Let’s go back to the stack-ranked list of targets and put a date you expect for those targets to be completed, this is a list of critical tasks. Create a separate list for tasks that still require your attention and need to be done, but that do not directly contribute to the objectives you’ve identified, also put a expected date of completion keeping in mind that under most circumstances the critical objective-contributing tasks should take precedence. Keep in mind that this lists are not set in stone, the list should be revisited on a regular basis (at least weekly) in order to make adjustment based on changing priorities, new projects, operational issues, etc.
Here are some important takeaways from these exercises:
- To be productive you need to be very clear about defining and prioritizing your goals.
- It is critical to match your time allocation at the targets contributing to your most important objectives.
- To fully grasp your roadmap to success write down your long-term career goals (3-5 years), strategic objectives (1 year), targets (1 week or less) and stack rank them in the order of importance.
- When doing the stack ranking / prioritization be aware of things you like to do are good at, as well as what your organization needs the most at a given point in time.
- When prioritizing your weekly targets consider the extent to which the contribute to your most important objectives.
- Compare that prioritized list with how you currently spend your time. If there are significant mismatches, figure out why and make appropriate changes to bridge those gaps. Note some of the ways to address those mismatches will require changing your personal habits and tendencies, while others require changes in how your organization runs.