I was sitting for a coffee with a friend the other day when I got this question. I didn’t usually got this kind of question when I used to be on a payroll so I was caught by surprise.

Suddenly various thoughts and questions started to pop out in my head and I quickly realized that I don’t have a quick answer at hand. I also realized that I have to think a bit because this is something that should be first of all important for me to have an answer.

To make things even worse I have realized that actually I hadn’t set any goals beforehand in order to be able to evaluate them and have a competent answer.

Some time ago when I was working in the corporate world setting objectives and evaluating them was part of the annual business routine. Most of my peers considered this was just another corporate crap and didn’t take it seriously. I thought the contrary for many reasons, provided of course that both sides manager and direct report were taking it seriously, and do the homework properly:

  1. Firstly it keeps you motivated and focused on what you have to accomplish throughout the year
  2. Provided the framework for you and the manager to have a rich discussion on your performance, receive feedback and guidance
  3. Sets expectation on how much bonus you are going to receive at the year end

Now that I am out of the corporate system and have to manage myself I think this becomes even more important in order to keep your performance at a high level. I also think that there is another side that should be added to the professional goals and that is the personal growth goals. Here you can include things like acquiring a new skill or improving and existing one, studying and learning, sports performance physical shape or diets or even spiritual ones. Of course provided that all are measurable and you keep track of your performance. I stress out that both professional and personal are important in order to feel good about yourself.

So here is framework that might help you structure your thinking and reward yourself with the answer of knowing how well did you do at the end of the year:

Goals Result and comments
Professional Goal 1

  • Quality requirements

Personal Goal 1

  • Quality requirements

A few clarifications:

  1. Goals. These should be 3 to 5 depending on how complex are and how much time they realistically need to be completed. More than 5 is probably too many and less than 3 is not stretching enough. In case there is a goal that spans over more than one year than this should be broken down in chunks or phases that can fit within one year. They should be formulated in such a way that sound motivating and inspiring. These can be related to projects or initiatives that you plan to carry out throughout the year ahead.
  2. Quality requirements. These are specific, measurable things that need to happen in order to complete the goal. If some of the quality requirements are not accomplished the goal is not fully achieved.
  3. Result. As a rating I propose a simple 3 point scale which forces you to clearly isolate underperformance: failed, on target, exceeded. In order to be On target a goal has to achieve ALL its quality requirements or at least 90% if you want to be more indulgent to yourself and if you have set many. Failed and Exceeded should be clear. You can eventually add comments and notes to the rating to remember learnings for the future.

And there is an example:

Goals Results and comments
Professional Goal 1: Improve company X profitability

  • Achieve 500,000e in sales
  • Reduce overhead costs by x%
  • Take a business course for entrepreneurs on how to grow profits by end of march
  • Identify 3 specific projects to improve profitability by mid-year

Professional Goal 2: Open an online shop for handmade scarfs

  • Develop online image and presence for the shop by end July
  • Facebook page with 3000 users by end of year
  • Achieve 50,000e in sales by end of year
Personal Goal 1: Achieve top physical shape

  • Exercise for one hour at least 2 times per week
  • Do not eat after 8 o’clock
  • Loose 5kg and maintain constant weight

Personal Goal 2: Learn Snowboarding

  • Study you tube videos
  • Take instructor course
  • One week in Austria for snowboarding

Now with this framework in mind I did a quick review on the projects that I spent energy in 2014 and the answer was pretty straight forward:

I had 6 initiatives which I have translated into goals. Some of my friends warned me that it was too many but I was confident and motivated to do them all. They were right, one of the goals was barely started so I am going to roll it out in 2015. There were 3 professional goals: 2 failed and one on target. And there were 2 personal goals which have been exceeded. And there is the answer!

As for the 2015 I will be more thoughtful and have the goals ready by end of Jan so by Dec I will know how I close the year.