I’m writing this at the start of a new year, a time when we traditionally look towards the future and speculate about what might be coming, and what we could manifest with hard work, ability, and a little bit of luck.
The last couple of years, however, have left most of us battered and bruised, and many of us are feeling nervous about next week, let alone making goals and plans for the rest of the year, or beyond.
Setting goals is still important, even (and especially) in the face of the unknown. Creative professionals live with that uncertainty all the time, and if we left out futures completely in the hands of fate we might end up very disappointed and bitter indeed. The trick is to set the right kind of goals — and then make a plan to keep them.
Power and Influence
One of the most important aspects of making and keeping goals is to be very clear about where you have ‘control’. Is what you want something that you have some influence over? Or is realising that goal in the hands of other people?
The right kind of goals are those over which you can some degree of influence. These ‘internal’ goals don’t require someone else to tick the box next to your name. You can influence the outcome of your hard work and ability, without having to seek approval from a third party, as long as you’re strategic about where you focus your attention, time and energy.For example, let’s say your goal for this year is to make money from a significant grant. You have no control or influence over that outcome – grant recipients will be decided by panels. No matter how fabulous you are, no matter how tightly you cross your fingers and toes, you will never be able to control the outcome of that funding round.
However, you do have some power and influence over your application for that grant. Did you submit your best work? Did you approach the process with intelligence and enthusiasm? Were you prepared? Did you give that application your all?
The external goal is to get the money. The internal goal is to submit the best possible application you can. You have control over the latter, not the former. The more you can focus on creating internal goals, the more likely you are to get what you want.
12 Weeks Only
For keeping goals, the time frame is also vital. I’m convinced that 12 weeks is the longest amount of time that you have any control over, especially post-pandemic. Anything after the next three months and you’re reaching beyond your own capacity and entering the great unknown. The next 12 weeks are also unknown, of course, but the closer time frame gives you more opportunity to plan how and when you’ll work towards your goals and exert that influence over what you can and can’t control.
So, where do you want to be in 3 months? Again, if the goal was applying for a grant in 12 weeks time, what needs to be done in that period?
- Brainstorm all the steps needed and actions required to get from here to there;
- Work out what needs to be done first, and which actions in what order from there;
- Be as detail focussed and specific as possible – have you forgotten anything, or been too vague?
12 weeks also allows you to be flexible. If unexpected work pops up, or another lockdown occurs, you’ll be able to move the elements around to help you stay focussed on your internal goals, even though the world around you has shifted.
‘Diarise’ and ‘Calenderise’
The final step to completing your 12-week goal strategy is to put each of your chosen action steps into your diary or calendar. It’s very unlikely that the time you need to achieve your goals is magically going to appear – everyone is busy and it’s easy to let your goals slip away in favour of time spent on more pressing or ‘important’ matters.
Make the time you need for each specific action. Put aside explicit time in your week for each step, and be as protective of that time as you would be for time spent working for clients. Work towards your 12-week plan just as you would a project for someone else – after all, isn’t your goal as important as someone else’s deadline?
For a real-world and practical look at this process, check out our free recorded webinar called The Goal Matrix and learn more about the 12 week process.