You spend your day helping your executive reach her goals; you take the time to understand her priorities and how they tie back to the ultimate vision, and you make sure her activities align with those goals. Executive assistants are excellent at understanding and working towards goals — but do you put that same focus on yourself and your own goals?
As a great executive assistant, you come with strong traits — resourcefulness, organization, and efficiency, to name a few — that will serve you well in setting and reaching your own personal goals.
Read on for tips to get started on goal setting to move your career and your life forward.
Why is goal setting important for EAs?
Setting goals gives you a map for your journey — a direction to go. It will not only give you purpose, it will help you to know what actions to take and what decisions to make. Having goals and knowing where you want to go will make setting priorities a breeze.
Even though you know the benefits of goal setting, it can still be hard to prioritize. As an EA, you wear a lot of hats, and your projects and specialties can change daily. This can make it easy to put goal setting on your “nice-to-do list,” but instead it is the reason goal setting is a must. Having goals for yourself, professionally and personally, will give you a path and motivation to continuously improve, and add heaps of value to your executive and to yourself.
How can you set goals that actually stick?
We’ve all been there; we make a goal, we feel energized, we get busy, we forget the goal — repeat. How can you set goals that actually stick?
Choose a theme
You are bound to have multiple goals at one time. If you aren’t careful, you might find them competing with each other. Choose a theme and create an alliance between your different goals — stretch that theme across your personal and professional goals. Having that greater vision will help to ensure those goals work in the same direction. If your goals are scattered, keeping them can be cumbersome.
What are you trying to achieve with this goal? A common mistake in goal setting is not tying your goal to a clear outcome. Without an outcome, it can be really hard to know it was achieved.
Do you want to get better at project management? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to be more physically active? None of these are outcomes — let’s try to rephrase each of these to be outcome-based:
- I want to get my PMP certification.
- I want to be home to cook dinner with my family every week night.
- I want to run a half marathon in June.
All of these goals have specific outcomes that you can easily track your progress against.
Now that you know where you are going, you have to plan how to get there. A goal is not complete without an action plan. Action plans guide you to live your theme and achieve your goals. Actions should be specific and time-based. Use the SMART goal method to ensure you have a clear plan in place:
- S — Specific action-based
- M — Measurable
- A — Achievable
- R — Relevant
- T — Time-bound
Let’s take the “I want to be home to cook dinner with my family every week night” goal. What actions can you take to help achieve this goal?
- Set a dinner time the whole family can agree on to meet at home for dinner.
- Assign cooks to specific nights to get the whole family bought into nightly dinners.
- Pre-plan meals and buy all ingredients for the week ahead of time.
Now you try: choose a goal, and come up with at least 3 actions you can take to make that outcome a reality.
What goals are right for you?
You know why to set goals, and how to set goals, but what goals should you set? Executive assistants do it all; how do you decide what goals to work toward to better your career and yourself?
Here are some threads for you to pull on to help find the right goals for you.
Tie into your executive’s/organization’s goals
Hopefully you work for an executive and an organization that you believe in, with a mission you want to see through. What can you do in your role to help move that mission forward? Goal setting is about you and your career, but it is also about what is best for the company and your executive. What goal can both elevate you and help the company reach its mission?
Bonus: If your goal will benefit your organization, your executive may be willing to invest time and even money into your action plan (work time for training, sending you to conventions, etc.).
Choose goals that will improve your day-to-day
Think through what types of tasks you and your executive do every day. Are there skills you can learn that will benefit your projects? Take an Excel course to make those weekly reports more efficient. Learn Photoshop or Illustrator if you find you are consistently working on invitations and publications. What activities will add value to your role and your organization?
Choose goals that will elevate your life
As an executive assistant, you dedicate your work to serving others, getting work done, and improving the lives of those you support. When you are setting goals for yourself, think about giving to yourself what you give to others. What will advance your life both professionally and personally?
A successful executive/organization sets goals and aligns activities towards those goals — apply this same process to your life and your profession as an EA, and you will give unending value to your executive, to your career, and to yourself.