goalsWhile I don’t necessarily subscribe to the concept of New Years resolutions, I do believe that the New Year provides us with a good annual marker to check in on how we are doing against our personal roadmap and validate that our goals are still relevant and aligned to where we want to go.

It’s an exercise that actually should be done more frequently (quarterly for example), but as we get into the year and the business of life takes hold again I recognize that many of us forget to check back in with our goals as regularly as we should. Maybe that should be goal #1 on all of our lists this year.

So what should our annual goal setting and check in session look like?

First, if you have done this exercise before you should pull out the previous version of your personal plan and spend some time reviewing it. Reflect on your 5, 10, and 20 year targets to validate that they are still relevant and resonate with you. Review your short term goals and check off those that you have achieved, and for those that you haven’t take some time to reflect and be honest with yourself on why you didn’t achieve them.

This first step isn’t about revising your future targets, but rather reflecting on them and your achievements to give yourself the opportunity to understand what’s working, what’s not, where you are getting in your own way, and whether your dreams have changed over the past year. If you haven’t been through the goals check in before now is a good time to start. You can download a template that I’m now using for this purpose here to help you get started.

Once you’ve finished your honest review of your previous personal plan (or pulled out a blank template to start from) you are ready to start the forward looking part of the exercise – goal setting and action planning.

The first step in this process is to put a vision of your goals and dreams on paper. Your dreams and goals gain power by writing them down, and the strength of that power increases exponentially in a direct relationship with the amount of detail you include in your description. The ideal outcome of this part of the process is a description of a vivid picture of the future and should include things like where you live, what your family looks like, what your income is, what your job looks like, and any key things your want to be recognized for or have achieved.

Don’t underestimate the time you’ll take on this – it would not be unusual to spend an hour or more on each of your vision time horizons. I generally recommend building a vision for 5, 10, and 20 years into the future to allow yourself to dream big and build a roadmap or story that gets you there. When you’re thinking about your goals at each horizon try to leverage the power of radical goals to give yourself the best opportunity to create greatness and abundance in your future.

Your second key activity is to set the short term (< 12 months) goals and actions which will move you down the road toward your nearest term vision horizon. While I highly recommend my radical version of the SMART goal setting acronym for your long term goal setting, your short term goals and actions should leverage the traditional version of the acronym:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Relevant
T = Timely

These near term actions should include specific achievements, people you would like to meet, changes in your behaviors you would like to implement, books you would like to read, and things you would like to learn. Your time horizon visions should help guide and inform the things you add to your short term goals – if you haven’t described an active hobby or career in carpentry for example, you likely don’t need to add learning how to operate a wood lathe to your list for this year.

Again, don’t shortchange yourself on the time you invest in the short term goal setting.  This may take a couple of hours either all at once or in a few sessions to complete.

Finally, remember that your personal plan provides you a guiding light to defining your future, but it’s only effective as you allow it to be.  Review it regularly, reflect on it with honesty, and start yourself on the path the future that you want to have.

Happy New Year!

Related Files:  Personal Planning Worksheet – Word 2010 Format

About Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

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