Do you ever feel like days, weeks or even months go by when you’re not sure what you’ve really achieved or what your hard work has been in service of?

All too often, our minds are reactively focused on the estimated 35,000 decisions we make each day and the management of the 150 tasks on our to-do lists that research tells us the average professional has at any given time.

It’s easy to lose sight of where you’re headed and why when you’re running on autopilot.

While we can’t necessarily slow things down, we can increase our ability to control outcomes by working with goals. The idea of goal-setting is far from new, but what I notice from people I coach and manage, and from my own behaviours, is that the way we approach goals is often flawed.

We repeatedly set far too many ambiguous goals and make no time to understand the practicalities of how we get from where we are today to where we want to be in the future. The result is an increasing list of unmet goals and decreasing confidence in our ability to get what we want out of work. It’s certainly not a recipe for a happy and fulfilling career.

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Over the past few months, I have been taking a new approach to creating and completing goals, which has helped me to achieve more impactful outcomes and increased my motivation to keep going.

I have learned that there are specific ‘tricks’ in goal setting and in how you go about achieving your goals that can increase your likelihood to actually complete them. Armed with these tricks, you can stop yourself getting stuck on autopilot and increase your sense of achievement and fulfilment.

Setting better goals

First, you need to focus on how you can set your goals, and yourself, up for success. I think about this in terms of how ‘zoom-in’ and ‘zoom-out’ goals work together. Think of these like a map. With a zoom-out goal, you’re taking a step back to see the destination you’re aiming for. In contrast, a zoom-in goal provides you with visibility of the route to get you there.

An example of one of my zoom-out goals is completing my MBA dissertation by 31 December. All too often, this is where people stop. It’s the ‘new year’s resolution’ syndrome of…