Goal Setting for Project Managers

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‘Tis the season for resolutions. Losing weight, eating healthier, cutting out the negative influences, and so on are all uttered resolutions waiting to be broken. Professional resolutions exist just the same. Getting a promotion, listening better, becoming more active, and so on become anthems ready to abolish by Spring. Intentions are good and heartfelt. People do not mean to set goals and aspirations only to not only break them but in record time. What is the issue? Is it the goals themselves? Is it the timeframe we put on them? Is it stating the goal without committing to the process of achieving said goal? All of the above.

Psychology of Goal Setting

The American Psychological Association (APA) agrees that resolutions and setting goals can be daunting. Frustration and anxiety build as time goes by and goals remain unmet. Viewing January 1 as a catalyst is a common misconception. Constant, lasting change should be the focus. New Year’s should be a reflection of the past year.

Here are some tips from the APA to uphold your resolutions: (favorited website)

  1. Start Small: Set attainable goals. Getting a two-month project done in five weeks sounds great, but is it realistic? For many, no. Completing the project in 38 days is within reach. Limit the frustration of your goal setting. If you cannot accomplish the goal, it may not be worth striving for.
  1. Change One Behavior at a Time: Multitasking does not work. The same goes for goals. Pick one and go with it. This approach limits that overwhelming feeling of I have to change my management style, read a book per week, take more notes, and become PMP certified. Before you know it, none of them get done.
  1. Talk About It: Sharing your goals helps others get involved with your situation. You gain support from family and friends. This encouragement leads to breakthroughs. Include others that have the same goals. Comradery builds momentum. Use that momentum to reach your goals.
  1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up: Being a perfectionist will inhibit reaching your goals. Good enough can be used as a mantra. Earning five percent profit instead of seven, good enough. Increasing sales by one percent instead of ten, good enough. These incremental, positive changes lead to major shifts down the road.
  1. Ask for Support: You have a team. Use them. They have information, can learn, and apply new techniques to help you reach your goals as well as their goals. Align your goals with your team, so when one gets accomplished, it has a trickledown effect. Again, building momentum to reach other goals.

Multiply Your Goals – 10x

Now that the sensible goal setting is determined, apply a multiplier to each goal to send you and your team into outer space. Once you start to see progress, push you and your team. If you can increase sales by ten percent, why not increase by 100%? This question should seem outlandish. Setting outlandish goals is a great way to realize unmatched success within your organization. The approach of shooting for the moon but landing in the stars. You may not have hit your target, but you are still in outer space while everyone else plays within the stratosphere. Actions are important when setting such lofty standards. The team has to see you are putting in the effort necessary to reach these levels. You cannot have your team be the only ones grinding while you reap the rewards and recognition. Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, asks his fellowship applicants this question, “So if you’re planning to do something with your life, if you have a 10-year plan of how to get there, you should ask: Why can’t you do this in 6 months?” This question fits in with Parkinson’s Law, which is work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Does it really take ten years to accomplish writing a book, becoming a C-suite executive, or retirement? If you give yourself ten years, then that is the duration it will take you. If you gave yourself six months, your work might fill that time accordingly. Some of your goals may be too attainable. Why wait?

Takeaways

Everyone has New Year’s resolutions. Every approaching year is the year. By March, most fall back to baseline and continue life as usual. Use the APA guidelines to setting and accomplishing goals. They do work. Remember, incremental changes lead to breakthroughs. Think of finance. Those percent increases are cumulative. Accruing over the years have exponential results. Once your goals are set, why not blast them to the moon? Take the extreme approach to goal setting. This advanced technique will experience breakthroughs quicker and more dramatic. Big changes get rewarded and recognized far greater than incremental changes. Think of weight loss. When you see a friend lose 20 pounds over 20 weeks, it is difficult to realize the success. If that same friend lost 20 pounds in two weeks, you would notice immediately. Be the team to get noticed now.

Chris Cook

Chris Cook

Over the past ten years, Chris Cook has spent his career in the construction industry. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Industrial Technology Management with an emphasis in Building Construction Management and Master’s of Science in Project Management. He is an accredited PMP. Follow more of Chris's insights at his blog EntrePMeur.

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