On 15 September 2021, a “back to school”-feeling Women in IP coffee date was held, focussing on the theme of goal setting. Rather than having regional groups, we trialled a central sign-up so that people could network with others outside their geographical area. It worked well, and we will be using this method again in future.
This blog post from Isobel Barry of Carpmaels & Ransford – co-coordinator of the Women in IP coffee dates – sets out the key insights and discussion points from the event.
The first question we asked ourselves was “Do you set goals for yourself in your personal and professional development? What kind of goals do you set? Has your focus changed after the events of the past 18 months?”
Interestingly, a large number of people said that they didn’t set themselves goals but would start to do so after reflecting on this question. Those who do set goals do not always write them down. The main reason for not setting goals was a lack of time, but it was acknowledged that taking time to look at the bigger picture can help break down the steps needed to achieve a goal and could be key to achieving it: this can be more effective than simply taking each day as it comes. It can also be helpful to ask for advice on what you need to do in order to make the progress you aim for.
It is easy to focus only on core work goals, but it is also important to think about softer work goals such as internal networking. Everyone agreed that goals relating to one’s personal life are key, especially after the upheaval of the pandemic: we need to ensure that we address any bad habits we have acquired, such as working too long at the expense of family life. There is a renewed focus on being as productive at work whilst also being more present with family and friends and focusing on one’s own physical and mental health. It might be useful to set goals to achieve this.
Our second question was “How do you keep your goals in mind and hold yourself accountable?”
One group found that those with most success seem to write their goals down at the start of the year or put them in a planner and work on them and review them over the course of the year. The review is not just to check how much progress you have achieved, but also to examine whether it is still a relevant goal and whether you are still approaching it in the right way.
There was much discussion on how to achieve goals that have a habit of slipping to the bottom of any to-do list because they are not urgent, such as article writing. A top tip was to make yourself accountable by promising others that you will deliver within a certain time frame, or joining up with others for mutual accountability. Another was to diarise time every week to look at things you want to do. You can also use time-recording and productivity tools to force yourself to focus on a specific task for a period of time. Putting your goals somewhere you will see them every day, such as a white board or a sticky note on your monitor, is helpful. Linking a smaller task to the overall goal it is directed toward can improve motivation. One contributor writes down goals every year in the form of a vision board, which helps keep focus, and reviews it once a month. One attendee recommended Atomic Habits by James Clear for tips on how to build good habits and break bad ones.
On the positive side, we discussed giving ourselves rewards for achievements, however big or small, and using pop-up messages to remind ourselves to “be kind”, “be calm” or “be patient”, or just to stand up and move around!
Finally, if there is a task you continually fail to complete, it might be worth thinking whether this should really be on your to-do list or someone else’s!
The final question was “Can you think of a time when you did not reach a goal you set for yourself? How did you deal with it?”
The key here was resisting the urge to compare yourself with others and to worry about what others will think. For example, when it comes to professional exams, everybody takes different amounts of time, and those qualifying faster will not necessarily be better at their jobs in the long run. Analyse what you have achieved as well as working out what’s prevented you from achieving other goals: it is important to look at why a goal was not achieved, and how can you reset to achieve it: don’t allow failure to cause paralysis. It’s also important to keep perspective on what is within your control and what is beyond it.
Above all, be kind to yourself and remember that we always set higher standards for ourselves than we do for others!
[Our next Women in IP coffee date will be on Tuesday 15 February 2022 at 8.30 am. Please save the date and keep an eye on the Women in IP page for more details.)