October starts the fourth quarter of the year. In the business world, top companies kick off “Q4” by gathering together their leadership teams to assess what’s gone right this year, what’s gone wrong, and what steps they can take to finish the year with strong forward momentum.
Preparing for a positive Q4 sprint could also help you end this difficult year with a real sense of personal accomplishment. Answer these three questions and put an action plan in place to achieve your most important goals and start laying the groundwork for a successful 2021 as well.
1. What are my top goals for the next 3 months?
We’ve all had to deal with a myriad of challenges and changes in 2020. Those experiences probably had a profound impact on the goals you set for yourself way back in January. Perhaps, due to social distancing or work displacement, some goals just aren’t very realistic right now. Or perhaps social justice movements and community needs inspired new goals that have jumped to the top of your list.
The space between the things we want to do and the things we can do in this environment might feel overwhelming. But if you try to do too much in a short space of time, you’ll only scatter minimal progress across targets that you won’t be any closer to hitting. Instead, reflect on how 2020 has affected you personally, professionally, emotionally, and physically. Focus your attention on one or two practical goals that will give you the most fulfillment. File away any goals that don’t make the cut for your 2021 game plan.
2. What can I do today?
Once you’ve broken down your list of goals, it’s time to break down those goals even further into actionable daily steps. These little achievements will build up to major accomplishments over time if you’re diligent about crossing them off your to-do list.
Again, some of your goals might have to change to accommodate 2020. Your “exercise three days per week” goal might have to take place in front of a computer rather than at a gym. This step might also help you improve a vague goal, like, “I want to give back,” with a more specific and actionable step, like, “I’m going to call the local food bank and see if they have any volunteer opportunities.” Making that phone call will lead you to another actionable step that you can take tomorrow, and so on.
3. How will I hold myself accountable?
Effective goal setting creates a stepladder that builds on the previous day’s progress and keeps you moving closer to your ultimate goal. But some days getting up on that ladder is easier than others.
Many people maintain motivation via short-term rewards. For example, when you’ve made it halfway to your savings goal for a deposit on a new house, treat yourself and your spouse to a nice dinner. If you accomplish your daily job search tasks for four days in a row, give yourself a Friday afternoon off and watch a film or play a round of golf.
Another strategy is to track your progress. There are many online tools and apps you can use to check off daily tasks. It could also be fun to personalise a pen-and-paper journal that combines your to-do lists with reflections on your journey.
Finally, there’s no stronger accountability system than other people. Knowing that your running friend is waiting for you on the running trail will get you out of the house even when your bed is especially cosy. And whatever you’re trying to get better at, you can find groups of likeminded strivers online who will inspire you to write more, cook healthier meals, sand down the rough edges, and learn the next three chords.