Learn How To Make a Plan for Your Career Goals

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated March 11, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated March 11, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

Having a well-formed plan is important to achieving any goal. It's essential to develop a plan for any objective so you know exactly how to achieve it. Learning how to make a plan can help you create a series of steps for any goal in your career. In this article, we offer a complete guide for making a plan step by step, including tips to help you stay motivated and properly schedule your time.

Related: Ultimate Guide To Strategic Planning

How to make a plan

The following is a step-by-step guide to making a plan:

1. Determine your goal

You should have a clear idea of what it is that you want to do. For example, you want to create a successful travel website in the next 12 months. You want this website to generate at least $5,000 a month with an active comments section both on the website and social media.

2. Use your end goal to plan a list

When you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, you can start developing the steps to arrive at your desired goal. If you want to have a successful website with an active community that generates an income of $5,000 a month, then you need to design the website, work on your social media, research affiliate companies to generate income and more.

When creating your list, make sure it is:

  • Specific: Define exactly what you want to achieve and how you plan on achieving those goals.

  • Measurable: Create steps to reach your goal that are measurable with data.

  • Achievable: Make sure your goals are realistic in time and objective.

  • Relevant: Determine if your goals make sense long-term.

  • Time-based: Choose specific dates to reach each step to stay motivated.

Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

3. Look for milestones

Focus on tiny milestones that lead you to your end goal. For the travel website example, focus on designing each webpage. Once the design is ready, you can start the next milestone. Make a list of these milestones in the right order, and refer to it regularly so you can see the steps you need to take to arrive at your end goal. Sometimes you may need to change a part of the plan as you realize your goal requires a different step than you had planned, so make your list adaptable.

These milestones will help keep you motivated if you experience challenges. This is especially true with certain large tasks. A good way of making sure that you arrive at your goal is by adding a timeline to your milestones. Be mathematical in your approach. If your goal is to create a successful website in one year, it could be helpful to set weekly objectives on your calendar. At the end of each month, you can reflect on your weekly goals and make any adjustments.

4. Keep track of everything

When working toward your goal, you may need to complete a variety of different tasks. A good way of staying organized and on track is by creating an organizational system. Keep a binder or folder for physical papers related to your goal. You can also use a computer application that helps you organize notes, emails and pictures. Whenever you accomplish a task, you can add it to your documentation to ensure you stay within your timeline.

Related: 7 Steps To Organize Your Paperwork and Declutter Your Desk

How to choose goals

The following is a two-step process for how you can choose your goals:

1. Set goals for the right reasons

Consider what you want to do long-term to develop goals for the right reasons. You may want to work for a certain company, earn a managerial role or get a raise. Whatever your goal is, make sure it fits into your career path so you maintain focus.

2. Choose a journey that matches your goals

You should also think about the journey to reach your goal. For example, if your goal is to be a manager, you may need to develop leadership skills, gain more experience and build strong relationships with the right people. Having a general idea of how you need to reach a goal can help you determine if it's a path you're willing to take.

Tips for increasing motivation

Here are some tips for increasing your motivation when working toward goals:

  • Find meaning in what you are doing.

  • Celebrate small milestones.

  • Surround yourself with people who are also going on a similar journey.

  • Track your progress to see how far you have come.

  • Help others on their journey.

  • Stay positive and view challenges as learning experiences.

  • Share your goals with people you trust who can offer support when you need it most.

  • Learn how other people have reached their goals and adapt their methods to your lifestyle.

  • Find a mentor who can guide you and give you support.

  • Make a list of the reasons why you want to achieve your goal.

How to schedule time to complete each step

The following is a guide on how you can schedule time to complete each step:

1. Choose the best calendar for you

Use a calendar as a physical timeline for each step. You can use a physical planner to write notes in, or you can use an application to reference dates on your phone. Many calendar apps sync with other programs to automatically set important dates based on an email or other notification.

2. Organize your tasks

Use colors to distinguish the different types of tasks to stay organized. You can use colors to show urgency or group different types of tasks. If you're using a physical planner, use a highlighter to mark each task. Calendar applications usually have a variety of colors that you can use as labels.

Your list should also be separated into sections if you are working on a complex project. For example, with the travel blog, you would have a list of tasks to complete the website, another list regarding content to be published, a list relating to social media, one for generating traffic, another for generating income and more.

Related: How To Write a Professional Development Plan (With Examples)

3. Learn to prioritize

Ideally, the most important task of your day should be the first one you mark off the list. This is a way of making sure that you accomplish the most challenging task first. After that, your tasks will feel more doable. For example, if working on SEO for your website is the most challenging task of your day, then that should be the first thing you do.

4. Create a realistic schedule

Be realistic when scheduling the time for each task. Determine how much you can handle per day so you can accomplish what you planned. You might also add an extra 10 to 15 minutes for tasks that are more complex just in case they take you longer than expected to complete.

Leave gaps in your schedule for unexpected issues. Gaps are also good to give yourself a chance to recharge. While working hard toward your goal is important, it is also vital that you take breaks so you can remain motivated and focused.

Once you do take the time to create a schedule for yourself, honor it. Avoid postponing tasks so you can reach your goal in the time you planned for.

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