How to Set Your Professional Development Goals for 2021

How to Set Your Professional Development Goals for 2021

Everyone would agree that 2020 was an unusual and challenging year that no one wants to repeat.

Many people found their goals and paths blocked by the unprecedented events of 2020, some of which are still affecting 2021. While last year was one of the most challenging years in living memory, there is a way to extract a silver lining from it. A new year has arrived, and we are looking at an opportunity to move forward with the lessons we learned from 2020 rather than the damage and debris. Instead of lingering on how hard last year was, we can set goals for this year and chart paths to move forward. No matter what your goals are, use 2020 to help you reach your goals rather than as a hindrance. Look towards 2021 and beyond to determine what goals you want to achieve this year. Here are a few tips and tricks to get started on professional goals for 2021, so you can thrive after 2020 and not be held back by a terrible year.

Smart Planning

Setting professional goals is similar to setting new year's resolutions. You may be tempted to aim for the stars and try to achieve your greatest dreams in one tear, but that is unrealistic. Just like becoming a bodybuilder in one year is a stretch, so is aiming to become an expert level data analyst in six months. Having lofty ambitions is good, but do not set unrealistic goals or deadlines as you will only end up disappointing yourself when you fail to achieve the nearly impossible goal you have set for yourself.

Rather than aim for the stars, keep your goals reasonable and measurable. Becoming an expert data analysis in six months is a tough task, but completing an AdWords certification in the same time frame is much more reasonable with a measurable end date of six months. You can keep your ultimate goal in mind, but break it down into smaller steps that help you achieve the primary goal. An expert data analyst needs a collection of skills and knowledge, so incrementally acquire what you need to reach your ultimate goal with smaller, building block goals. 

Improve Communication Skills and Practices

Chances are you work with other people as a regular part of your job. You may think that your current status quo is acceptable and functional, but it could be better. Communication skills are soft skills people often discount or undervalue. Without good communications, teams do not work well together, and efficiency dies. Safety culture and professional feedback are both based on good communication, so taking the time to improve your communication skills is never a bad idea. These skills can help you in your personal life, too, as conflict resolution, accepting honest feedback, and other communication skills are always helpful.

Time Management Skills

One of the best skills to make the most of this year is time management. If you properly manage your time, you can fit more into this year than years past. That is not to say you should work every available moment of the day, but you can maximize the hours you have to work anyway. Time management is not about working more, it is about working smarter, so you ultimately waste less time throughout the day, which adds up to significant time saved at the end of the year.

You can work on time management in various ways, ranging from keeping a digital clock on your desk to better track time, using apps that help you build habits and awareness, or any other method that works for you. Periodic alarms can help you measure time passing and how long you take on a specific task. A written planner or journal of what you did that day and how long it took can help highlight patterns. Find the system that works best for your preferred work methods but also helps you stay on top of your time. Better time management at work can lead to more free time after work, which creates a better work-life balance.

Looking ahead to what 2021 may bring can be daunting, but if you start planning and working on your professional goals now, you can still achieve your goals for 2021. Set reasonable goals for this year with smaller goals to help you along the way. Work on your communication and time management skills, as these skills will serve you well no matter where you work.

Posted by Nick Rojas

Nick Rojas
Nick Rojas combines 20 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium businesses and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, digital transformation, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto.

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