This is how to get closer to your goal.
1 Figure out a worthwhile career goal
Choose something big that you can realistically accomplish in the next five years. I’m not talking money or things that money brings (like “Afford a vacation home”). I’m talking career milestones.
For example, “Write and publish a book,” “Become a manager,” “Start my own company and get funding,” or “Get a job in financial services.”
If you need help with this, sit down with a friend or mentor and talk about what you really want from your career.
2 Determine some steps that will get you there
Just write down three or four or seven intermediate steps that will get you closer to your goal. Intermediate goals should be things you can accomplish very soon. For example:
- Take two courses on interactive design.
- Get a string of three quarters in a row of the highest possible job evaluations.
- Network to generate ten key contacts in my hoped-for field.
- Publish a paper in a scholarly journal.
- Learn to speak Mandarin.
- Put aside nine months salary to give me the financial cushion I need to transition my career.
Internet research and mentor conversations can help with this as well.
3 Create impossible-to-ignore constant reminders
One trick I used was to set my password so it would remind me of my goal. For years in my late forties my password was “Writer50” — a daily reminder that I wanted to publish a book by the time I was 50.
You could put a picture on your phone’s lock screen, paste a little note on your monitor, prop up a photo on the mirror in your bathroom, create an item that always appears at the top of your to-do list, or write a little recitation to say every night before bed, or every morning when you get up.
The point is not to forget. You’re basically getting generating constant nags from your past self.
4 Think about it in every spare moment
We all have spare time. That’s why podcasts are so popular during our commutes, and why there is a market for Netflix. Even at work, you have time at lunch, during your morning coffee, between meetings, or in the bathroom. It may only be ten minutes, but nobody is running around engaged at every spare moment.
In that time, think about your goal. Is there time for you to accomplish one of the intermediate steps? Do some research. Send an email. Make a quick call. Make some progress.
5 Reset every six months or so
Go ahead: put a 30-minute appointment in your schedule for six months from now. I know you have time free that far off — that’s how dentist’s appointments happen, after all.
When you get to that appointment, review your intermediate goals. Which have you accomplished? What new ones do you need to add to get closer to your big goal? What new daily reminders could you create?
Then set another check-in with yourself for six months later.
You got this
There are two ineffective ways people try to make goals happen.
One is to hope. Hope is pointless. It accomplishes nothing, and it just makes you give up eventually.
The second is instant, radical change without planning. That doesn’t work, either. Planning works best when you are already moving forward, not when you’ve jumped off the bus.
My hack allows you to make constant, slow, steady progress in time you already have. It allows you to create large changes in small increments. It also primes you to see opportunities when they arrive and grab them. Most importantly, it feels great. It feels fulfilling.
I used this method to become a published author for the first time at 49, and a successful independent consultant at 57.
I hope it works for you. Let me know.