Success in the home office

Success in the home office No.3

Welcome to the third of my top tips series on discipline for home workers.

Set goals

This is one of my favourite methods a home worker can use to stay motivated and focused. The psychological effect setting a goal has on your mind can’t be underestimated. Once you have a goal, you know where you’re going, what work you have to do, what steps you must take to get there and what challenges you will overcome.

What’s the alternative? Mooching along at a shambling pace, calling a client or two here, having a meeting there. It’s easy to fill your time… to no purpose whatsoever if you’re not careful.

By goal setting I mean telling yourself something like: “By 12 o’clock tomorrow I will have finished this task here, and I’m going to set aside the time from 9am onwards to do it.” Remember to build in (reasonable!) breaks and to reward yourself when you reach a goal.

You can build your goals into a plan for the day ahead, the week, a year or longer if you want. It’s all about having a vision and exercising a bit of control over how your time and energy is spent.

I find the SMART way of goal setting very useful. This acronym says your goals should be:

Specific – For example ‘be a successful virtual assistant’ is not specific enough. How are you defining that success? Break it down as much as possible – a better goal would be ‘to have three more clients by the end of the year’, for example. This brings you to set more goals leading you to achieve that – more networking, for example, a marketing push, or introducing a referral system for existing clients.

Measurable – Facts, figures and evidence are what is needed here. The example above is ideal – it’s quite difficult to be woolly over how many clients you have! Also, you need to know when you have actually achieved the goal, otherwise how will you know it’s time to crack open that bottle of bubbly?

Achievable – ‘Make a million in a year’ is not a SMART goal. Aim high, by all means. But if that’s all you have on your to-do list when you sit at your desk in the mornings, you’re probably going to feel a bit lost. Once again, break it down. Work back from your final goal if you need to, and figure out all the steps you need to take to get you there. Each one of those steps is a goal – it needs to be properly set, worked towards, and celebrated once you’ve achieved it.

Realistic – Remember to make sure that your goal is something that you are both willing and able to work toward.  There is no point in setting a goal only for you to not progress because you are not able to progress, or because you just don’t want to do it.  Nobody else is setting these goals for you so you can control what they are and how quickly you achieve them.

Timed – There’s nothing like a deadline to get you motivated. Be wise to how long tasks will take, and give yourself enough time to do them. The advantages of being your own boss is that you don’t have to drive yourself to meet impossible targets any more. And if you can score your goal ahead of schedule then do what any decent boss would do – give yourself the afternoon off!

What’s your approach to goal-setting?

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