Graduate Management News

October 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Make it Happen: Achieving–and Defining–Your Goals for Maximum Effect

Consider these five steps for adding clarity to your goals.

Professional Development Tips

Some goals, such as losing weight or building up a savings account, are easy to measure. Just hop on the scale or check your latest bank statement to see where you stand. Others, such as increasing your time on a particular task or being more proactive in your work, are tougher to define and achieve, but these five steps should help you approach goal setting more successfully.

  1. Identify. Before you think about how you’ll measure your goals, make sure you know exactly what your goals are. If you haven’t defined your goals, you won’t be able to measure them. If your goal is to be more productive, you need to think about what that means. If increased productivity is too broad, then it’s not a realistic goal. Perhaps you need to home in on a specific aspect of productivity as your defined goal. For what specific task or area do you need to be more productive? Is your goal long-term? If so, break it down into short-term increments.

  2. Measure. It’s difficult to measure your goals if they aren’t defined in terms of a measurable unit. There’s no other way to quantify your success. Think about assigning units of time to your goals. That way, a goal such as spending more time researching new technology, for example, becomes measurable. If it’s a productivity goal, define it (researching new video interviewing technology, as an example), and then assign a time unit to it (such as spending 10 percent of each week on this task). See where you are after two weeks and then measure again. You could also quantify your goal by measuring the number of solutions you investigate each week.

  3. Motivate. When you set goals for yourself, it’s important to set goals that motivate you. Make sure your goals are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or your goals are irrelevant to your career or personal life, given the larger picture, then chances are you won’t put the time into achieving them. Make sure your goals are motivating by thinking about why they are important to you. What value will you gain? How will they improve your life/career?

  4. Act. Make an action plan and stick to it. Focusing on the outcomes of your goals is important, but don’t lose sight of the steps you need to take along the way toward achieving them. Getting your steps down in writing and checking them off as you go will help you get a sense of your progress.

  5. Review. Goal setting is an ongoing activity. Build in your own feedback loop by scheduling reminders to see if you’re on track, review your progress, and make sure your goals are still relevant. Goals can change over time. They may remain the same over the long-term or may change significantly depending on current circumstances in your life and career. Reviewing your goals periodically gives you an opportunity to ensure their relevancy, value, and need.