10 Personal & Career Development Goals (That Are Actually Achievable)
Nicola Cronin
8 minutes
December 16, 2019

New year, new you?

As we enter a new year, it’s time to think about what we want to achieve, and set some personal and career development goals for 2023.

I say goals, rather than resolutions, because according to research, 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by February 15th.

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions, is that they are often broad, wishful statements as opposed to measurable goals – with ‘losing weight’ and ‘drinking less’ being among the most common. When giving yourself a whole year to achieve or change something, there’s a high chance it’s going to get forgotten about pretty soon.

Find out more about the benefits of mentoring for learning and development with Guider

Instead, we should all be applying the SMART goal methodology to our personal and career development.

SMART goals are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time-based

When using this criteria, a vague resolution such as ‘be more organised’, can quickly become a personal goal with a viable deadline. The SMART process will also help you realise whether a goal is realistic or not, and if you find it’s not you can adjust your expectations accordingly and fine-tune the goal.

Goals are naturally subjective, however, if you’re looking to go down a path of self-improvement in 2021 and are stuck for where to start, here are 10 personal and career development goals to inspire you:

Goal #1: Wake up 1 hour earlier and use it wisely

This one’s for the morning people of the world. Adjusting your sleeping pattern by an hour can give you extra time to start a morning routine.

(Plus, I can guarantee you’re still going to be tired whether you wake up at 07:00 or 06:00, so you may as well make it 06:00).

The reason this goal is a good one for your self-improvement, is that you can achieve a lot in a quiet early morning hour.

Rather than rolling out of bed and diving immediately, bleary-eyed into your day, you gain a bit of extra time to yourself to focus on something that will make you feel good and fulfilled. This early bird activity can be different for everyone depending on your hobbies and interests, but here are some ideas of things you can do in less than hour that are good for your wellbeing and productivity:

  • Go for a run or walk
  • Stretch your body
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Read a few chapters of a book
  • Write down your thoughts in a journal
  • Tidy your room / workspace
  • Treat yourself to a nice home cooked breakfast
  • Do a chore you’ve been putting off
  • Plan your focuses and goals for the day
  • Listen to TED Talks or podcasts
  • Practice a foreign language
  • Work on a creative passion project

Whatever you choose, commit to it every day for 1 month and you won’t look back – this is a goal that will very quickly become a habit.

If you’re not a morning person, don’t despair. Why not try shifting around your routine in another way: we’ve heard a lot about morning routines, but what about evening ones? Giving yourself structured time in between work and sleep means you can participate in the activities above and reap the rewards.

Goal #2: Start journaling daily

This is a great personal development goal for any time of year. Journaling helps improve our self-awareness, productivity, and can even reduce stress and anxiety. As we formulate our jumbled thoughts into words, we rationalise and understand them.

Journaling doesn’t just need to be an account of your day-to-day, but a place to reflect and document your thoughts and experiences. It’s a great way to reflect on and overcome our limiting beliefs.

It’s up to you which areas of your life you focus on in your journal, but here are some journalling exercises and ideas to get started:

Every day, write down:

  • Your goals for the day
  • Things you’re grateful for
  • Things that made you happy that day
  • Things that made you stressed that day
  • Your personal achievements / things you’re proud of
  • A challenge you’re facing
  • An account of your dream last night (if you can remember!)

As you start to journal, you’ll quickly realise what is and isn’t beneficial to you, and fine-tune the exercise. It can take as little as 10 minutes out of your day to do, so set a daily reminder on your phone and get started.

Read our 10 ways to encourage employees to focus on self care here

Goal #3: Begin a new hobby (or pick an old one back up)

Many of us are guilty of letting our hobbies slide, declaring each year we’ll “get back into painting” or “take piano lessons”. These creative or athletic pursuits naturally fall by the wayside in our busy work and social lives.

But hobbies are something we should not be neglecting. Having hobbies can significantly reduce stress by taking our minds off things, as well as increase happiness and fulfilment. Not to mention, learning a new skill and seeing yourself improve is incredibly rewarding.

So 2021 is the year to actually do it. On average, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become a habit, which immediately gives you a realistic and practical time-frame to work towards.

It’s never too late to pick up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Choose something you’ve always been interested in – particularly if you have friends who already do it as you can combine it with socialising – and take the plunge!

Goal #4: Reduce your screen time

For many of us, our phones rarely leave our sight.

Without even realising, we have become so dependent on our phones that the average person spends over 3 hours a day on it.

As useful as they are for work, communication, navigation, entertainment and more, they are also all-consuming.

When it comes to our attention spans, our phones are literally affecting the way our brains work, which is in turn affecting the way we work and communicate.

We have, in fact, become so used to distractions from our phones, that we subconsciously crave them – checking even though nothing has notified us, and picking them up absentmindedly when we should be doing something else.

At work, our phones can distract us to the point of reducing productivity by up to 40%. While in our personal lives, they are distancing us from our partners and families.

In 2021, make it your goal to reduce fruitless time spent on your phone, and make a conscious effort to be more present. Set time limits on your apps (or even delete apps all-together) and leave your phone away when you’re in company or focusing on a project at work.

We promise, you’ll feel better for it.

Goal #5: Get yourself a mentor

In order to set and achieve goals all year round, it helps to have somebody supporting, guiding and advising you.

Getting a business mentor is an incredible way to develop in your career in a relatively small period of time. Whether it’s bagging that promotion, increasing your confidence in big meetings, or changing your approach to work, a mentor can seriously help.

Not only that, a mentor is an effective way of improving personal development and self-awareness as well. The benefits of mentoring are endless, increasing confidence, happiness, job satisfaction, promotion possibilities and more.

So how do you go about it?

  1. Determine your specific career goals
  2. Assess your network and identify potential mentors
  3. Put in the groundwork – make conversation, support their work, and be proactive
  4. Ask them for coffee to pick their brain about a specific topic
  5. Access their experience and the chemistry between you to see if they could be the person to help you achieve your goals
  6. Ask them to be your mentor

For more info, check out our full guide:

How To Find A Great Mentor

Goal #6: Learn to code (even just a little bit)

This is both a personal and career development goal, and it has the potential to be life changing.

Whether you like it or not, the digital age is not slowing down. With advancing technology and rising automation, the world needs more coders than ever.

There are countless free resources to help you learn to code online (check out this list), as well as meet-ups and communities that support people teaching themselves. Even if you don’t have the time (or interest) to learn to code yourself, at least set a goal to become familiar with the theory and logic coding relies on, as well as the key languages.

By learning to code, you will be up-skilling and making yourself more employable – which seems a good goal for 2021 if you ask me.

Goal #7: Ask for that pay rise

Sometime in 2021, it’s likely you’ll be up for a performance review.

Unless you set yourself the career goal to negotiate a salary increase, you might find the chance slips you by.

Salary discussions can be uncomfortable, but the opportunity does not arise all year round. So if you believe you deserve a raise, you need to be prepared for that conversation.

Collate examples across your time at your company that show how much value you have added to the business, and the impact your projects are having on your key metrics. If you can justify and provide data driven evidence for your pay rise request, you’ll be in a far stronger position to achieve it.

This career goal is clearly measurable, as well as time-sensitive as you will have a date to work towards. You can do it!

Goal #8: Eat vegetables every day

A much simpler goal than getting a pay rise or learning to code…but valid nonetheless!

Everyone has different health goals depending on fitness levels and exercise / food preferences. However, one thing that unites us all is the power of vegetables.

This might be a small or a big behaviour change depending on your current diet, but set yourself a personal goal to eat a variety of vegetables every single day. An easy way to do this is by ensuring at least half of your meals are always veggie.

The vitamins and minerals we get from vegetables do wonders for our bodies and minds, and so this is an easy but powerful goal to set yourself for 2021. Moving to a more plant-based diet is also a benefit to the environment, so you’ll be helping more than yourself.

Goal #9: Learn to say no

For those prone to people pleasing, this is a tough one, but it’s definitely an important goal for both our personal and career lives.

If you find yourself always saying ‘yes’ to social occasions you don’t want to go to, or to co-workers trying to offload their work on to you, make 2021 the year that you learn to say no.

A lot of the time, our fear of upsetting or angering people by saying no to them completely outweighs our own desires and interests. Many of us are conditioned to be overly helpful and to please others at all costs, but often the things that we feel we have to do, can do far more harm than good.

Forcing yourself to an event, or going out of your way for somebody when you don’t want to, can result in higher stress and dissatisfaction. Not to mention it takes up time that you could be reallocating to things and people you actually care about.

Reduce the time, energy and money you spend on things you don’t want to do in 2021: just start saying no.

Goal #10: Do something just for you monthly

Following on from that goal, why not use all that extra time to focus on yourself.

In our hectically busy lives (where we’re constantly doing things for other people) often the person we neglect most is ourself. Every goal on this list should help to contribute to a happier, more fulfilled and successful you, but this one is the cherry on top.

Every month, treat yourself to something you enjoy. These don’t have to be lavish trips or luxuries, but anything that brings you happiness.

Everybody is different, but here are some ideas from us:

  • Visit a special or memorable place
  • Get a massage
  • Hire a cleaner
  • Go to the theatre
  • Bake something tasty
  • Buy new bedding
  • Watch the sunrise / sunset
  • Go to a library or art gallery

The list could go on and on…

Figure out what makes you happy, and make sure you do something solely to that end, at least once a month in 2023.

Find out more about goal-setting with Guider: 

How to Set and Achieve Long-Term Career Goals

Top Mentorship Goals for Mentees in 2023

How to Set Goals and Actually Achieve Them

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