Life can be hectic. Between work, family, friends – you name it, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. It seems like we’re always playing catch-up. Often, it feels like our schedules, to-do lists, and obligations run our lives, not us. And the holidays only add fuel to the fire!
While we all face these challenges, one of the consequences, if we’re not careful, is that we fall into the trap of living reactive lives, instead of proactive lives. Our lives become dealing with the short-term or urgent things that “happen” to us, rather than proactively determining the life we want to lead. Next thing you know a year flies by, you pause, and you realize you’re not where you wanted to be.
But don’t worry. One simple habit can help change this. Reflection. Scheduling time into your life to pause, ponder where you want to be, evaluate where you’re at, and set a plan in motion to get from where you are to where you want to be is all it takes. The key is actually making time in your busy life to step away from the world for a moment and reflect – otherwise, your day-to-day will continue to dictate your path.
For me, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is often the perfect time to do this. The craziness of holiday parties, Christmas shopping, decorating, etc. is mostly behind you, but the world hasn’t quite kicked into full gear. It’s also a natural time to think about the upcoming year and what you want to achieve, both personally and professionally.
Below is the process I go through at the end of the year in order to reflect on the past year and prepare for the coming year professionally. I encourage you to be as specific as possible with each question. The more you can picture your response, the more likely you are to achieve it. The same approach can be applied to your personal life as well – but I’ll leave those reflection questions to you. 🙂
Step 1: Where do you want to be professionally in 1, 5, and 10 years?
- What type of organization do you want to be working for? What are its purpose, values, and culture? What mission or cause do you want to serve?
- What type of work do you want to be doing at that organization? What role are you in? What are your responsibilities? How much/how little are you working?
- What compensation level do you want to attain?
Step 2: Where were you at a year ago? Where are you today?
- Specifically, take each of the questions from Step 1 and apply them to a) where you were a year ago and b) where you are today.
Step 3: Evaluate the trend line over the last year.
- If you were to extrapolate that line forward, are you on-track to hitting your 1, 5, and 10 year professional goals?
- Where are you on-track? Where are you off-track?
- How is your work performance? Are you achieving at the level necessary to reach your goals? Where are the areas of improvement?
- Did you build your skillset over the last year? Are you building the skills and competencies necessary to attain your future career goals at a sufficient pace?
- Are you investing in building your professional network?
Step 4: Develop a SMART plan
- Of your current actions, what should you CONTINUE?
- Of your current actions, what should you STOP?
- Of your current actions, what should you START?
- Of your current actions, what should you MODIFY?
- How will you measure your success? Be sure to celebrate your successes along the way!
- How often will you “check-in” with yourself to see how things are progressing?
Step 5: Seek support
- Can your supervisor be enlisted as a supporter?
- Who do you know who is currently at the stage you want to achieve in 1, 5, or 10 years? Can those individuals serve as mentors?
- Who is someone who knows you well enough that you can be completely straightforward, who can provide both wise counsel and accountability? Share your goals/plan with them and grab coffee once a month to check-in.
Now is the time to plan for 2018. Don’t let it slip by and be another year that just “happens” to you. Make it the year you want it to be. And if that means a job change, let us know. WorkMonger would be delighted to help you find the right next job for you in the education sector.
Have tips or advice you’d like to share with others around reflection and goal setting? Share it in the comments section below.