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Did you make any New Year resolutions?
What were they? Getting fit, finding better work life balance or learning something new often tops the list. Alongside these resolutions you also have to focus on achieving your RTO’s vision and the strategic, operational or training/assessment goals. These goals are important because achieving them can give meaning to your day to day role.
One of the biggest problems with plans is that they are often not implemented. Setting the key directions is the exciting part of planning. But once that is done, the details of implementation can seem tedious and unnecessary.
The key to achieving these goals is to have a plan that will help you focus and not be side-tracked by distractions. An action plan details each step and timeframe required to implement the goal. Of course priorities may change and new opportunities will arise, so it needs to be dynamic and flexible. Consider these 6 ways to take action and hit the ground running.
1. Write a clear and specific set of goals
This is how action plans begin. For a goal to be motivating it needs to be challenging and stretching, but not unrealistic. You will be more motivated to work toward a goal that matters to you rather than one that is imposed on you. As much as you can, try to align your goals with your interests and career aspirations as well as with the RTO’s goals and future direction. Make sure you write down your plan. Just the act of writing out your plan will increase the likelihood of you achieving your goals. It will also make it easier to share with others and seek their input.
- Do you use a goal setting or action planning tool to record your plans?
- Do you follow the plan to monitor progress?
- What would help you to do this i.e. set goals and monitor progress?
If one of your answers was that you just didn’t know where to start then our next point may be of use for you.
2. Break your goals into measurable milestones
Actioning goals becomes easier the more momentum you create. Successfully completing some of the first few tasks will help to create the impetus to facilitate your progress towards achieving the next few steps. The best way to ensure that you actually work towards your goals is to turn them into an actionable plan that includes the steps to take and some milestones to help you measure progress and success. For example, if one of your goals for 2018 is to implement an effective system in your RTO to monitor the professional development completed by your trainers then you may break the task down into phases e.g. Research, Development and Implementation. Place some parameters around each of the phases so that you know what you wish to achieve at each point. For example during the Research Phase you may focus on your current systems and why they are not working or you may wish to research IT solutions that would enhance your current system? Regardless of your focus, breaking down the goal and setting milestones will provide clarity of purpose!
- How often do your plans fail because the task is overwhelming?
If setting milestones is not enough to get you moving with your plans, develop an action plan that outlines step by step what needs to be done.
3. List the key steps required to achieve each milestone
This helps to create and maintain momentum and makes the task seem easier. An action plan should facilitate action. This seems like an obvious statement but it is critical to ensure that the action plan actually results in achievement of goals. An action plan is like a well written recipe that should guide you step by step towards achieving the outcomes you are working towards. And remember, the greatest weapon against procrastination is momentum. Taking one small step can be the catalyst you need to overcome the tendency to put something off because it seems too large and daunting to achieve. If you need help with your planned tasks, the action plan is also helpful to determine what resources will be needed, including physical, IT, financial and human resources. It can also help you to discern which of the RTO teams need to be work together or whether outside help is required e.g. a VET consultant, a research company, government departments etc.
- Do you thoroughly resource projects in your RTO?
- What success do you have with half – baked ideas that are not fully supported?
- What is the biggest factor influencing the completion of projects?
If one of your answers is lack of time, then the next point will help you. Many managers in RTOs operate continually in crisis mode and find it difficult to plan for long term projects to improve practice etc.
4. The time factor – is it enough to just assign time frames to everything?
Many people feel better about their plans once they have assigned time frames for completion of their projects etc. But then they play the ‘lack of time’ card to excuse their inability to finish a task. We all have the same amount of time each day, it is how we use the time we have available that is the difference between success and failure.
We have some suggested solutions for breaking out of the cycle of panic, crisis management and excuse making. Firstly, take a step back and analyse how your time is currently being used. Effective planning can only occur when you have a good understanding of yourself and your values. Analyse how your time is spent to help you understand where your time is going. Is your time spent wisely on what you value? Many busy managers find themselves stuck in a cycle of urgent but not important meetings or dealing with crises with no time for reflection or development activities. If this is you, ask why? How can this change? How much of your situation is within your control and how much is influenced by others?
Reflect on your use of time and the factors affecting your effectiveness:
- Plan your critical tasks at significantly below your peak capacity.
- Leave room in your plan for reserve capacity to accommodate unexpected events
- Compile a list of important tasks that you never seem to get to and use your reserve capacity each week to complete these tasks. This way your capabilities don’t weaken by being underutilised.
Consider the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. The Pareto principle states that 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results. And conversely 80% of the effort produces 20% of the results. The trick is to spend 20% of your time on the tasks that are of the greatest importance and are likely to yield the greatest results.
When considering your goals and plans, take some time to prioritise and then you will be ready to change your behaviour and achieve your goals.
We have some very simple advice for your next steps: schedule all your tasks in a diary. Can it possibly be that easy? You may be surprised how you can be if you take on a disciplined approach to diary use and management.
Setting deadlines will help to ensure that you keep focused on the required tasks. Even when your diary seems relatively clear, work has a way of filling every available space in your day and when you look back and think about what you have achieved it can be hard to define. Deadlines can help to structure your time and ensure you are working towards the results you want. Planning & managing your time, however, is more complicated if you are a trainer because much of the day is already scheduled with little discretionary time. This makes it even more important to develop strategies that work for you. Take some time to monitor how a typical week is spent and identify the things that get in the way of effective time management. Then find a way to stop these time wasters.
For example, if you are constantly interrupted by a stream of students, trainers and other staff during non-class time then consider finding a window of time that can be interruption free, divert your phone and put up a sign that says you are unavailable. Obviously it is important to be available to students and other staff, but this does not have to mean every morning and afternoon. Establish times that you are available and communicate these but guard some uninterrupted time for other important tasks that need to be done. Other strategies to address your time wasters could include: limiting interruptions by working from a different location for a period of time each week; organising your work space so you can find things or saying no to additional projects. Find a strategy that fits with your time wasters.
- Are you a procrastinator?
- Do you search for simple tasks to keep you busy so you have an excuse to avoid the more complex jobs?
If you answered yes to these questions it sounds like you need help to keep you on task. The best way to do this is to share your plans and your diary with others!
5. Sharing your plan with others
Sharing your plans with others will help you stay on track. Some of the tasks and goals you are working towards will be in collaboration with others, so therefore it is important that as a team you communicate clearly and share information and progress. Coordination with other teams in the RTO is also important, to ensure that you can access the resources you need. But in addition to these logistical reasons, sometimes it can just be helpful to share your plan with others simply so that they can provide you with some accountability. They can check in with you to see how you are progressing and perhaps provide support or encouragement along the way. It can also be helpful to share your goals with others so they can challenge your ideas and give another viewpoint to broaden your perspective.
- How good are you at communicating your plans with others?
- Do you expect others to drop everything to fit in with your plans?
- Do you monitor progress in a way that will ensure that your projects are achievable?
- Are you prepared to adjust your plans where required?
We are almost there – don’t stop reading now. Monitoring is an important part of achieving your plans!!
6. Monitor and adjust as you go
People who monitor progress, using the milestones during the early stages of planning, are more likely to achieve their goals than those who lose focus. Monitoring your progress can help you to maintain momentum because it provides feedback on progress. It also allows you to adjust what you are doing when necessary, identify obstacles, redirect resources, learn from mistakes and take up new opportunities as they arise.
When you reach your goal or key milestones along the way take some time to celebrate your achievement. Reward yourself and thank those who have helped along the way.
- When was the last time you achieved an important goal? Did you take the time to celebrate?
The best way to ensure you achieve your goals is to develop and implement a clear action plan.
- Identify the time wasters in your week and implement strategies to minimise their impact
- Involve others in the process of actioning your goals and monitoring progress and be prepared to adjust your approach as you go.
- Don’t forget to celebrate before moving on to the next goal!
Want access to more resources?
- A free action planning template or
- An introductory video or
- A podcast discussing procrastination and resilience
- A series of podcasts addressing this topic
that discusses these concepts further.
As always, please don’t hesitate to call us if you need help or if you wish to comment on this blog or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to hear from you about what you need from us in 2018. New ideas for blogs, webinars and videos will be accepted with gratitude.
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