When Goals Fail

That to-do list you created at the beginning of the week still has a few items on it that you just haven’t managed to check off. A client had a last-minute project they needed completed immediately and other duties got pushed to the back burner. Procrastination reared its ugly head and as the end of the week creeped up, you found yourself unable to complete those final tasks.

No matter how accountable you hold yourself, no matter what steps you put in place to ensure you reach your goals and meet your objectives, sometimes you just can’t quite get there. Failure is a natural part of growth in any facet of our lives. In the workplace, it is important to make sure we learn from those mistakes, view any failures as teachable moments, and strive to improve next time.

Making peace with these failures is a first step in moving on from our mistakes. Just because you missed that deadline, you made an error in a document, or were unprepared for a meeting doesn’t mean you are a failure. Don’t make it personal and try not to let your mistakes define you as an individual or an employee. Another part of making peace with our faults is making certain we don’t dwell on things for too long. So often we beat ourselves up for the mistakes we make far worse and far longer than anyone else does. Changing the past is impossible; focus rather on reshaping the future.

Review what went wrong. Why did you fail to meet your goal? What steps did you overlook when trying to complete your objectives? What can you apply to your goal setting process next time to ensure you don’t make the same mistake twice?

As long as you can walk away from the situation with a new outlook and can genuinely say you learned from the experience, try looking at your mistake as a learning experience rather than a failure. We are all human, even the most experienced of us struggle from time to time. What matters is how we move on and our desire to grow.

Holding Yourself Accountable

The end of the week is looming and Rose has just started an editing project that has been pending since the week before. More time sensitive tasks kept popping up, there were client issues to tend to, and frankly the dry job of editing a technical document wasn’t something Rose necessarily wanted to do with any sense of urgency. With only a day left until her deadline, Rose has found herself scrambling to complete the project, kicking herself for not taking time each day to work on the document, a goal she set for herself when this task was assigned to her.

Sound familiar? This all too common scenario of procrastinating on our least favorite duties happens to the best of us. Even when we set goals, sometimes we simply lack the motivation or time to get the job done. If you anticipate these obstacles popping up, you can establish methods to hold yourself accountable to ensure that you’re not scrambling at 4:45pm on a Friday to finish a project.

As we discussed in a previous blog post, setting sub-goals or objectives can help you reach the end result. Consider these mini goals as a step to get to the finish line. When you accomplish those smaller objectives, reward yourself in some way (e.g., nabbing your favorite coffee beverage, taking a break and going on a short walk, or relaxing by reading a book for 15 minutes).

Additional ways to hold yourself accountable include:

  • To-Do Lists – At the end of each day, write up a short to-do list of tasks to accomplish the next day. There is nothing more rewarding than checking off these items as you complete them.
  • Make the Goal a Priority – Plan ahead. Take a look at your to-do list and plan accordingly to ensure those items get done. Block out distraction-free chunks of time for the day ahead to make sure you have the resources ready to complete those tasks.
  • Complete One Task at a Time – Multitasking has its benefits, but if you are short on time and have deadlines looming, trying to do too many things at once can do more harm than good.
  • Have an Accountability Buddy – Many of us work on projects as a team. If you’re working with more than one person, agree to hold one another accountable by checking in regularly, discussing issues that may arise, and providing feedback along the way.

While setting goals is a great first step in achieving success at work, simply putting those goals out there isn’t always enough to ensure that we actually follow through. By implementing a number of techniques to hold yourself accountable, you can successfully create a map to get you from point A to point B,with methods and techniques help cross obstacles when they fall in your path.

Conflicting Goals and Projects

It’s Thursday morning and the COO just sent you an email requesting a detailed analysis of all customers’ accounts.  A project that will take a couple of days and of course she needs it by Friday afternoon.  To make it worse, you have a major employee presentation on the new company products tomorrow morning and you still have to prepare the slideshow and talking points.

While this scenario might not happen often, it demonstrates a conflict of goals where you almost have to choose one over the other.  The COO has a reason for needing the detailed analysis by Friday afternoon even if you don’t know why and you also need to inform the employees on the new product lines in the morning.  How do we manage the conflict?

First things first, determine the urgency of each goal.  Check in with the COO regarding the deadline and possibly the scope of the analysis she needs.  Often the requestor doesn’t realize you have a conflict and can change the deadline which gives you some breathing room.  Additionally, you can also verify the scope of the project to ensure there isn’t any miss-understandings.  The latter might help you cut down on the actual project time if it isn’t as time consuming as you thought.  Additionally, you can review the prior goal (in the scenario demonstrate a new product line) and see if you can delegate most of the preparation work to someone else or if that deadline can be moved.

If you have appropriate staff or coworkers for delegation, now is the time start reviewing who can do with.  Additionally, you should know your resources that can help accomplish both goals.  In the scenario, you might be able to task a lot of the analysis onto another employee with you finalizing the report after the employee presentation.  Or vice-versa you can delegate the task of preparing the other project to an employee with you finalizing the project near the end.

Goals that you have a long ramp time to accomplish, you can start planning your steps to each goal ensuring that they logistics don’t compete with each other.  Unless in the event the accomplishment of one goal decimates the other goal. In the latter event, you need to evaluate the importance of each goal and determine which one is the most important.  With the scenario above you may have to determine which project is more important or ask the COO for her input on which one should be accomplished.

Competing goals can often discourage a good employee and manager, however with careful planning and forward thinking you can start planning accordingly.

The New Year: How to Set Effective Goals

Last week we discussed the common tradition of setting goals and resolutions at the start of the new year. In the workplace, establishing regular objectives is a necessary part of accomplishing all we have to do (both in the short and long-term), but there are ways to effectively set those goals to ensure you are held accountable and stay on track to reach those end goals.

Simply setting a goal isn’t always the best way to achieve that end result. You have to create a road map of sorts, detailing how you are going to get from point A to point B. This can be done through setting additional objectives (consider these mini or sub goals) and key results (what you’re specifically going to do to make sure those objectives happen) needed to accomplish your goal.

For example, say your overall goal is to have a more organized office at work. How are you going to get there? What steps do you need to take to ensure that this goal is achieved in the most efficient way possible? To illustrate this method of goal setting more clearly:

Goal: To have a more organized office at work.

Objective: Declutter and purge excess “stuff” out of and on top of the desk.

Key Results: Set aside an afternoon once a month/every other month to clean out desk drawers of excess accumulation, clean and dust surface areas, and remove anything not used on a daily basis from the desktop (e.g., file, store, trash, or recycle).

Objective: Eliminate piles of excess paperwork.

Key Results: Take 30 minutes a week (or more depending on the amount of paperwork accumulated) to scan and shred paperwork that can be electronically stored and archived. File paperwork that requires hard copies to be saved.

By establishing these steps to accomplish your overall goal, you are more clearly defining what you need to do which keeps all your ducks in a row and makes it easier to get to the finish line. Consider implementing this new take on the goal setting process into your own routines, or as part of the performance review process for your employees.