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Focus and Set Boundaries

Author: Mike Scaletti

How many of you have experienced this? You start your week out knowing exactly what it is you need to accomplish over the course of the week and feeling set up for success. But as the week goes on you get additional projects dropped in your lap, or "interrupts" that shift your priorities around. You end up feeling overwhelmed and rudderless as you scramble to get everything done.

Or how about this? You simply have too many goals. They aren't codified in such a way that allows you to easily prioritize them, and so you struggle to make meaningful progress on any of them.

Or worst of all, you have your goals prioritized and are working hard to achieve them, but no matter what you do you feel like you're invisible, like no one is noticing or appreciating all the effort you are putting in.

Believe me when I say, you are not alone. These are all super common ways that your career progress can be held back. The solution is simple. Narrow your focus and priorities to ensure that you actually achieve more.

These are all common and might be holding your progression back. What I would like to share with you is a few ways to focus on less and not only achieve more but also show everyone else you’re achieving more.

To start you need to identify what the priorities are, both for you and for your company. This allows you to identify your goals and put them into a document that identifies and commits to the following:

  • These are our near term goals (IE our goals for the next 30,60, or 90 days)

  • We are 100% dedicated to achieving these goals in the time frame indicated

  • Anything not on this list can is secondary to the items on this list

The benefit of this, in addition to helping you better track those goals, is that you can then point to this document both as a an indicator of your task availability and as a tangible example of your achievements.

This is not simply a matter of arbitrarily deciding on these goals. You need to have discussions, with your team and your leadership, about what the priorities and measurable objectives should be for your company or department. Once those have been set in stone then you can work to categorize and prioritize them in order to put into place a plan of action to achieve them.

Setting Boundaries

Once you have identified your goals, set them down in a document, and created an action plan to achieve them, they are available and tangible to you at all times. This is EXCEPTIONALLY important for allowing you to set boundaries and say "no" when someone asks you to do something unrelated to those goals.

If someone comes to you with an interrupt that is outside of your agreed-upon priorities, you can point to your mutually created document and ask the question "is this important enough to displace what we all agreed were the most important objectives for us to achieve?" Most often, the answer will be no.

This doesn't mean you should ignore or throw out any great ideas that may come up. One trick is to set up a backlog folder in which you can store all of the potential goals and projects that have not yet been prioritized. As each previous goal is completed, you can reach into that backlog catalog and decide as a group which item you should replace the completed objective with.

Once you can start setting boundaries it allows you to focus with laser precision on the objectives that you and your team have decided are the most important, while simultaneously reducing your stress levels. This sets you up for sustained long-term success!

How to Set the Best Goals

As mentioned previously, how you decide on your goals and priorities is a collaborative effort between you, your team, and leadership. There are numerous frameworks you can use to identify and set those goals, however whatever framework your team decides works best for them, there are some common things to keep in mind.

  • Stay Targeted: Focus on at most a few goals that you can stay dialled in on. If you have too many targets you'll find yourself unfocused and overwhelmed.

  • Aim High: Staying focussed doesn't mean setting a low-bar. While you should have a limited number of goals at any given time, make sure that those goals are ambitious!

  • Open Communication: Be clear about the goals and the time and support you will need to accomplish them, so that everyone knows how they may be needed to help you achieve them.

If you utilize these tips you will find yourself with more focus, more time, and more indicators of measurable success, which means that when you hit review time you will have plenty to point out to show off what you've accomplished!

Good luck out there, and if you need any help planning your career goals, don't hesitate to reach out to The Job Shop, we're here to help!

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