STEP 4: DETERMINE WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Last year, I set three goals for myself in my student priority area:
A) Maintain at least a 3.0 GPA during the first year of my MBA to keep my scholarship.
B) Get two club leadership roles (specifically with The Management Consulting Association and Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students).
C) Get a teaching fellow role by my second year of business school.
I listed out the steps that I needed to accomplish for each goal and put them in my calendar. Maintaining a certain GPA meant making a plan around schoolwork. I instituted a weekly 15 minute review to plan for upcoming readings or assignments and wrote them in my planner. I then made calendar events for study sessions throughout the week, which ensured that I had time devoted to getting my work done.
I made it known to MBA2s that I was interested in leadership opportunities that were relevant to my background or my career goals and made a point to participate in every event I could. Finally, I worked to build relationships with professors who might have teaching fellow positions to offer. I primarily did this by making sure I was prepared for class, which I had routinized in my schoolwork system. I also attended office hours, which I put also into my calendar at the beginning of the semester.
I think the best way to accomplish your goals is to routinize the steps you need to take and make them apart of your regular habits. Once you have your goals set, make a quick list of the steps you need to take and put them in your calendar and set them up in a to-do-list (digital, or analog, or both).
STEP 5: SCHEDULE IN FEEDBACK LOOPS
Make sure to build in regular feedback loops into your system so that you can check on your progress and make sure you’re on track or make adjustments if you’re not. Schedule a monthly, recurring 15-30 minute calendar event and a 30-60 minute mid-year check-in. This will be your dedicated time for you. Use it to briefly check-in on your goals and then look at the month ahead. When you do your mid-year check-in, you can reflect on your progress and get excited about the second half of the year where you can finish strong.
One of my other goals as a student was to practice my Mandarin Chinese and improve my language skills. I did not meet this goal at all! There were two issues that led to me not accomplishing this goal.
The first issue, that wasn’t obvious to me at the time, was that this was a fourth goal in my student bucket. I told myself I was only going to have three! I didn’t really have time for this as I had taken on way more in other areas of priority. I ignored the need to stay focused and included it in my goals and later realized that while it was an aspiration; it was unrealistic to put that pressure on myself.
The second issue was in my feedback loops. I had a monthly 30 minute calendar event on Sunday mornings to review my month ahead and check on upcoming tasks, projects, or meetings. However, I wasn’t really reflecting on the goals that I had set. When I did my mid-year check-in and reviewed the goals I set in full, I realized that I had devoted no time to studying Mandarin. I ultimately scrapped this goal for the year. Rather than being disappointed, I was happy to relieve myself of the pressure and guilt I felt about not working on that project and refocus on what really energized me.
STEP 6: RELAX
That’s right! You just did a thing. It can be difficult to sit down and be hyper self-aware as you work through this activity. So celebrate setting yourself up to crush another year!
MY PLAN IN ACTION
Because I started last year with a plan, I was able to stay focused on what I wanted and could easily filter for the things that would help me reach those goals and say yes to them. While the coronavirus pandemic made it easy to avoid some of the typical MBA distractions, I was still intentional about learning all I could in class, making a positive impact on the Stern community, and offering coaching as a teaching fellow to other Master’s and MBA students. In the moment, I often felt like I could have done more. But looking back, I’m happy with how my MBA journey has gone and that’s due in no small part to making sure I know what I needed to do to be able to say that I made the most of my time.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This process isn’t foolproof as things change, but you need to know where you’re going. The time spent reflecting is when you create your roadmap. Remember, it is a roadmap, not a schedule. No one is forcing you to do anything in a particular order or value something more or less than you want It to be. Things change and you can adjust based on where you are and what you need your roadmap to be.
The best way to avoid picking priority areas and setting goals that don’t suit you is to be very self-aware as you go through this process. Take the time that you need to feel comfortable with the goals you’re setting out for yourself. Your mid-year check-in will be the lagging indicator to determine what is or isn’t working and make the necessary adjustments for the rest of the year..
Hopefully this process will help you as you set out to finish this next semester strong and have your best year yet.
CALL TO ACTION
1. Schedule 60 minutes in the next week to sit down and go through the planning process outlined above.
2. Complete the process above, with a timer, a beverage, and a good playlist. I’ve been enjoying kombucha mocktails for an adjusted Dry January (some inspiration here and here) and lo-fi hip hop that I can relax to.
3. Extra Credit: Write a mission statement for yourself. Understanding who you are and what you stand for in a few brief sentences can be helpful to come back to when you’re feeling that your goals and plans aren’t reflecting who you want to be. The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People provides a great framework for how to do this exercise and that is what I’ll be using for myself.
Cortne Edmonds, a native who claims both New York and New Jersey as home, is a second-year MBA candidate at NYU Stern School of Business. Prior to business school, she worked as a general manager in the language services industry for eight years, with experience working in New York, Japan, South Korea, and Israel. After school, she will be working in management consulting. Each month, she offers her advice and perspective for prospective and current students looking to maximize their MBA experience.