Find out why reviewing and setting goals in July can be more effective than traditional annual career and business planning in January.
In many parts of the world, the trees and flowers are in full bloom, children are done with the school year, and calendars are populated with summer travels. While it might seem like the perfect time to disengage from goals and planning and taking some time to literally and metaphorically stop and smell the roses, it's the perfect time to pause and evaluate your professional and personal goals, especially since the year is half over, providing enough time for course correction and adjustment.
July 1 vs. January 1
Traditionally, when the calendar flips to a New Year, we launch our strategic planning efforts at work and our personal plans for self-improvement. There's nothing wrong with planning based on this cycle, but these plans tend to be cast aside like a heavy winter jacket around the end of the first quarter. Around April you'll likely find that massive strategy presentation that seemed so important in December and January languishing on a server somewhere, unopened for months. Similarly, the gyms and fitness centers that were bursting at the seams in early January are now half full.
The midpoint of the year provides a time to revisit those bold goals that were set earlier in the year, with six months of experience (and hopefully effort) at executing under your belt. It's the perfect time to reflect and evaluate, especially as many organizations relax a bit as the summer sunshine arrives.
Take stock in your progress
In the coming days, dust off the strategy presentations and annual goals that you carefully crafted. Where do you stand against those objectives? If you're a bit more distant than you thought, evaluate each one and ask:
- Was it the right goal, or did something change to invalidate the underlying assumptions?
- Were there other activities that took priority and shifted focus away from that objective? Was that a conscious decision or did "business as usual" push your strategic goals out of the limelight?
- Was there a lack of will, organizational support, or some other structural or organizational challenge that prevented you from executing as you'd planned? Have you identified and discussed the issue or is it still present and blocking you from executing?
Conversely, if you find that objectives you'd planned to take six months were done in a matter of weeks, and you're effectively coasting along within easy reach of your goals, ask:
- Did we intentionally set the bar too low? If so, is this a consistent habit that should be investigated and adjusted?
- Was there something you did, or an external factor that made you more productive and capable than originally anticipated? Is this something that can be captured, scaled, and leveraged to other activities?
- Was the goal itself adjusted over the course of the year, such that the bar was lowered to the point that you were able to celebrate the completion, but ultimately didn't accomplish what you'd set out to do?
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In both cases, try to identify lessons that you can extend to other goals, as well as areas to discuss with your team and leadership. Setting and realizing strategic objectives is one of the most difficult tasks for leaders of any organization, so beyond just striving to "get it done," consciously examine your successes and failures and look to improve your abilities in this area.
Apply the same thinking to your personal goals. Perhaps your objectives around health, relationships, finances, and other areas, and your progress against those objectives hold kernels of wisdom that can be applied to accelerate, restart, or redirect your efforts in these areas.
Tweak the plan
It's easy to let those bold January plans slip into oblivion and hope that no one notices or remembers the details, but this is not a recipe for long-term leadership success. Instead, celebrate the fact that you have half of the year left, and apply the lessons from your progress assessment to accelerated progress for the rest of the year.
If you're behind on an objective, there's time to refocus energies, adjust the targets, and redirect resources. Similarly, if forces outside your control derailed what seemed like reasonable plans, launch corrective actions and seek the help of your peers and leaders in addressing those challenges, even if they're as large and thorny as deep-rooted cultural or structural problems within your organization.
Rather than shifting into autopilot at the midpoint of the year, take stock of your personal and professional situation. Not only will this allow you to use the rest of the year effectively, but you can enjoy the pleasures of the summer guilt free, knowing that you're tackling the year's goals head-on.
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