With EOFY out of the way, it’s the perfect time to buckle down on your professional goals. Whatever you want to achieve by next July 1 shouldn’t be left until June – instead, set yourself up now with thoughtful and achievable goals to maximise your likelihood of success.
The best way to make sure your goals are attainable over a twelve-month period is to work out – in definite terms – what it is you that want to achieve and what needs to be done to get there. SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, is a system of measuring the value of goals which has been hugely popular since the 1980s.
So, what is the SMART system, and how can you use them to give yourself the best chance of success? As an example, let’s take a look at one of the most common goals lawyers set for themselves: increasing your billings.
In order to be useful, goals need to be specific. How much growth do you want to see in your billings, and over what period of time? Most importantly, how are you going to achieve it? A specific goal involved having a plan in place to make sure you stay focused and on track.
How do you plan on measuring this goal? Measuring an increase in billings is fairly straight forward, but what if you wanted to improve your technical competency?
How would you judge your progress? Would it be more positive feedback from clients? Is it a higher proportion of your recorded time being charged? Do you plan on checking in with your partner once a month to see if you are improving in the ways you planned?
Goals that are too easily achievable can hinder your motivation and productivity, but it’s equally important that your goals aren’t completely out of reach. You should be planning on working hard, but you shouldn’t be feeling overwhelmed or preparing yourself for disappointment.
If the increase you want to see in your billings means that you have to work on weekends and Christmas Day, it’s just not a sustainable goal.
Consider whether this goal aligns with your other goals, both professional and personal. If increasing your billings by 10% is only achievable if you work 20-hour days, it won’t work alongside your responsibilities outside of the office.
Your goals should also be relevant to the current point of your career. Is increasing your billings more important right now than improving your technical skills? Should you be focusing on building your practice and delegating billable work?
When do you want to achieve this goal? In the next week? The next month? Over the next financial year? Setting a time limit on your goal will keep you focused on achieving it, even when other work gets in the way.
When you are setting your time frame, remember to keep the other elements of a SMART goal in mind. Doubling your billings in the next month may be measurable, but it’s definitely not achievable.
Of course, goals also need hard work and commitment, but measuring your plans against the SMART criteria is a good way of determining, from the outset, the likelihood of your success.
What goals are you working towards?