I call my main list “resolutions”, but it’s really a combination of goals (things I want to do) and resolutions (ways I want to be). As a project manager, I recognize the need for goals to be SMART (in case you’ve forgotten: specific, measurable, agreed upon, recorded, and time-framed). Resolutions can be more vague, more about general improvement or change. A resolution could be, “write more”, but that’s hard to keep track of, so instead it’s a goal: one blog post per month. A resolution is, “don’t be abrasive”, meaning to be careful of mood and tone when dealing with others, so is less about completion and more about ongoing awareness. I also organize my list into categories, to help make sure I don’t miss anything: family and friends; relationship; music; money; travel; health and fitness; work; other.
It’s also the time of year that I revisit my work priorities. My own approach is an adaptation of The Wheel of Life. My approach involves three steps:
- List the criteria that are important to you in any position or work role. These are quite personal, as everyone has their own criteria to determine satisfaction with their work: status or compensation, upward mobility, job security, etc. List the things that matter to you. For example, mine includes, “opportunities to contribute to the development of others”. Other people might include, “opportunities for promotion every 6-9 months”.
- Next, rank the importance of each of the criterion as high-medium-low. This is probably the hardest part of the exercise: making the distinction between things that are high, medium or low. Since it’s rare will you have a position that satisfies all criteria, the ranking helps when evaluating the inevitable trade-offs. Not everything can be high priority; there have to be some things that are more important than others. This three-point scale is a bit easier than a complete ranking, but use whatever works as long as not everything is mandatory or high.
- Then, on an annual basis or whenever makes the most sense for you, evaluate your current position/role against the criteria, as to whether or how well that criteria is being met. The idea is to see not only which criteria are being met, but also to evaluate overall if ENOUGH of the criteria are being met to indicate whether things are good or if a change is required. For example, if a “high” criterion is only being met at a “medium” level, but several other low ones are being met at a high level, perhaps things are satisfactory overall. This also gives some guidance when looking to make a change – either within a current role or when looking for a new one – as it becomes clearer where dissatisfaction might be coming from and so what needs to be changed, or whether a new role might meet the overall criteria better.
Monitoring change year over year (or how ever often you evaluate things) can provide some focus on specific challenges and changes required.
You should also include all of your work in your evaluation of your current position. For example, I have both a full-time job and work as a consultant and trainer in project management. So my evaluation of my priorities includes both roles, as both contribute in different ways to the rewards and responsibilities of my work life. Perhaps your day job is less than ideal, but it provides the means for your dream work as a writer or musician – your priorities and criteria should reflect that dependency, and your assessment should consider how well the priorities are being met overall in your current situation.
These approaches are about providing tools for prioritizing – statements of objectives and scope that allow you to identify opportunities for change, improvement, and mitigation of risk, as well as decision making when considering new or additional work.
A simpler approach can be just identifying the roles that are most important to you, and then saying “no” to anything that doesn’t fit in or add to those roles. It can work well when things become overwhelming. Saying, “I’m these 5 things” and then eliminating anything that doesn't fit within those, can help clear some of the clutter and noise, allowing you then to focus on the priorities for those things.
For a more in-depth approach, you could consider a life audit - just be sure to give yourself enough time and space to do it well. Or adapt part of the process for yourself.
Ultimately, some way of prioritizing and organizing is essential to managing your time and energy in ways that help you achieve your own personal goals.
How you set goals? Do you have an annual review or system? Use the comments below to share ideas on ways to make resolutions and goals.