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YOUR CAREER

How to set SMART personal goals

In your role as law office manager, you no doubt set goals for the practice and your staff. But have you taken the time to think about your career goals?

As baseball great Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

Understanding the process

Although a performance appraisal or a new year may seem like an ideal time to set goals, goal-setting should be an ongoing process. Life keeps changing, and priorities change as a result; therefore, goals must be reviewed regularly and adjusted accordingly.

Personal goal-setting is also different from goals you set in your role as law office manager. For example, as manager, a goal may be to delegate more to staff. Your personal goal, on the other hand, may be to return to college. The two aren’t unrelated, however.

Perhaps it has always been a goal to obtain a college degree. Yet you don’t see how you could possibly have enough energy to take courses at night. How might giving your staff more responsibility affect your workday?

When contemplating your goals, you need to do just that: focus on you. When was the last time you asked yourself what you want? If you’re like most people with busy lives, personal goal-setting has probably been put on the backburner.

Making a commitment

Your first goal is to make goal-setting a priority. In order to do this, you’ll want to schedule the task as you would any other.

Once the appointed time rolls around, where do you start?

PeopleTek, a coaching and leadership development firm, encourages clients to think in terms of individual vision and mission. Granted, these sound like job-related buzzwords. Nevertheless, this process is about your vision and mission.

Vision is defined as the aspiration you have for yourself and your career. It provides direction.

Mission represents what you are going to do, and how you’re going to do it to carry out your vision; it begins to bring clarity to your vision.

Goals, meanwhile, are the roadmap.

Goals bring 100 percent personal clarity to your vision and mission. Why? Because goals require action.

PeopleTek encourages participants in its Leadership Journey program to think in terms of what, when, and how as they set goals.

Additionally, goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable/achievable
  • Realistic/relevant
  • Time-bound

Goal-setting requires buy-in; you have to accept that the process works.

The biggest mistake people make is they don’t think they need goals, says Michael Kublin, founder and president of PeopleTek.

There’s another issue as well. For the process to be successful, goals need to be committed to paper or its equivalent. You need to write your goals down, Kublin says.

But he cautions that they don’t have to be perfect. As long as they are SMART, and written, goals can help get you to your destination.

Example of a SMART goal

Say you’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language. “I want to learn a foreign language” isn’t Specific enough.

“I want to learn Spanish” is better, but it could be more Specific.

“I want to learn Spanish so I can converse with clients at our law firm.”

Now you’re getting somewhere. This statement even covers the Measurable part, in that the goal will be achieved when you can speak conversational Spanish.

What do you need to do to make it Actionable/achievable?

“I want to learn Spanish so I can converse with clients at our law firm. In order to become conversationally proficient, I will need to take two classes, Conversational Spanish I and Conversational Spanish II. Each is a 12-week class that meets once per week at the adult educational center in my town.”

Ah, now Actionable/achievable is overlapping with both Realistic/relevant and the Time-bound portion of the goal. You’ve figured out how to make it happen, and there is a timetable to achieving the desired result.

Unfortunately, you’ve discovered a glitch. In order to take the classes, you’ll have to leave work half an hour early on Wednesdays.

The Realistic/relevant part of the goal-setting process isn’t always smooth. Still, with a little navigating, you can often work around any obstacles. And the more determined you are, the more likely you will come up with a solution. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Because this particular goal is work-related, why not share it with your boss and get her or his support? Explain how learning Spanish will help you in your job and ask if it’s alright to leave half an hour early one day per week to attend class. If your boss responds enthusiastically, you may even want to ask if the practice will pay for the class.

What are your goals? How might achieving them enhance your career, and your life?

Related reading:
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