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How to Efficiently Set Goals as a  Developer

How to Efficiently Set Goals as a Developer

I know two types of people in my life. Those who lay down the goals ahead of themselves, and make sure each goal is presented with a clear path that is sustainable and achievable one step at a time. The second type of people seem to “wing it” but the difference is that they generally do not feel the need to put their goals and wants on paper. They, be it subconsciously or fully aware, choose to rely on their thoughts to guide them towards their goals over time and do not feel they need the added task of dedicating specific and written form of goal setting.

With that, a very common question arises: why do people set goals for themselves? Does it help, or is it just a nag in the back of your head for what you wanted to achieve but haven’t yet?

Personally, I find setting goals keep me on track. It helps me navigate and assess situations in a way that is still coherent with the bigger picture of my life. In this article, we explore just that: what effective goal setting is and how it can be used to take away from the stress of daily life.

After that, it is up to you to decide if it is a principle you would like to adopt in your daily practices.

Why you Need Goals

We all have desires and we have an image in our head as to where we want to be next week, next month, next year. And growth is natural. Even if you try to remain in the same position you are in now, you will find that external factors will play a big role in demanding you to change and adapt to your surroundings.

Working for a bespoke software development company has taught me something very important. Growth is not a process you should be afraid of. Change is natural and is easily the best way for you to build the life you picture for yourself.

Why you Need to Categorize Your Goals

When we talk about professional growth we picture what our future work life would look like. Maybe you want to change your position from a junior to a senior developer. Or perhaps you want to take on more responsibility and become a team leader for a project.

But how does the rest of your lifestyle perform when compared to your work goals? Do you tip the scales towards career goals or towards personal development? The truth is, in order to become the person you see yourself to be in the future, you likely need to take action on building those, ideal for you, characteristics one at a time. And this cannot happen unless you are actively pursuing your vision as a daily mindset. To do that you need to expand beyond the limits of work goals.

Dedicating separate categories for your personal growth, allows you to have a “bigger picture” understanding of what impact your actions today will have on the three-years-from-now you. While those will likely be different depending on what you are aiming for, we should start with the ones that, in modern society, play a huge role in your objective well being.

Health

My personal advice would be to always put health first. That being said I choose to further break down this main category into two subdivisions: Physical and Mental. While you can be physically healthy, allowing yourself to neglect your mental health will be detrimental to your overall health over time, rendering the efforts for physical well being ineffective. And it goes the other way around as well.

To be objectively healthy, you must take conscious steps to maintain your physical and mental health equally. That is, in addition to striving to raise your quality of life, making the process easier and more sustainable in the long run.

Finances

In this world, functioning on principles of capitalism, having basic financial knowledge can make your life so much easier. This includes doing research on the conditions of your bank accounts, understanding how to build a credit score over time and approaching any credit responsibly, rather than getting caught in the bank’s excellent marketing strategies.

One more thing you could do is to make an effort to establish an additional source of income, so you have a fallback in case of emergencies. You could also optimize your budget by cutting off any expenses that you do not feel you really benefit from. This in return allows you to have emergency savings that can help you with medical issues. Or even if you decide to change your job but feel you need some time to make a smoother transition and brush off on your knowledge. Generally, the recommended amount to have saved for emergencies would be your necessities and monthly expenses for six months. And ideally, you would be able to accumulate this amount before you start investing your money in passion purchases so your stability is not put at risk.

Financial stability and expertise are hard to build, and it will likely take you a lot of time to become truly responsible. However, you should be aware that the longer you allow your bad practices to control your budget, the easier it is to end up in debt, and the harder it is afterwards to override bad habits.  Such as impulsive buying, with other financially healthier ones – like budget planning and setting up a saving system.

This will look different for each of you depending on your income, your financial habits and the amount of debt and expenses you have accumulated so far. But it is always a good time to sit down and put in a dedicated effort towards creating a better monetary strategy.

Intellectual growth

Humans strive for success. And a part of it is the feeling that your skillset, your abilities and your experience are evolving as time goes by. Easily one of the main reasons video games are so addictive – having a clear measurable growth and inevitable evolution.

What are the areas you are interested in? How do you want to build up a stronger knowledge and understanding for? This could be a focus towards a hobby, exploring philosophy and reading up on topics that are important to you. Perhaps you could be curious about how to utilize the power of habits productively or how to build soft skills and better relationships with people.

While advancing your knowledge on the technology you are working with is a must to stay relevant for the software industry, in this category you should focus on your personal development instead to become a well-rounded individual.

Professional

While being a well-rounded individual requires you to advance your skill set outside of work as well, professional growth should in no way be neglected either. So make it a goal to dedicate time to advance your knowledge. You can set aside a certain amount of hours for the sake of learning. You can pick up a book, or start a passion project to keep your skills sharp and your resume fresh.

Professional growth is important and it is often supported by the company you are working for in one way or another. If you would like to advance in a certain field, it is worth approaching your assigned manager and discuss options, especially in a company where this precedent is established in advance.

Appearance and Etiquette

We do live in a material world, and as genuinely important as our actions are, how we are perceived is still widely affected by our outward appearance. Looking well-dressed, well-groomed and well-behaved is something that everyone should tend to.

While etiquette seems to be falling behind in the priority list, due to the various elements of the value our digital world offers, it still makes a great impression when you make a conscious effort to be well put-together and overall behave in a socially acceptable and fitting manner.

Even though the benefits are not ones that are reaped immediately, you will begin to gain a reputation as someone who is reliable, presentable and overall well-perceived and this may end up driving your career forward. Being well enough perceived allows you to become the face of your organization and opens up more leadership opportunities. On the other hand, your private relationships and friendships stand to gain a lot all.

Why you Need to be Specific

Now that we have discussed the importance of setting your goals apart in categories so you do not miss out on something that is important. You should also be aware of what the goals  under each should look like for optimizing the effectiveness of the method.

Do not add too many goals

If you create too many categories and then go on to overpack each with too many items, you will set yourself up for failure. Being overwhelmed will get you nowhere. My advice is to stick to having only the three most important ones at a time. Worst case scenario, I would push it to five only if the goals are fairly small and achievable.

Example: for Health I have three main goals

  1. Workout 3-4 times a week
  2. Limiting sugar intake to a minimum. The max allowed amount is one piece of a sweet snack per day.
  3. Schedule and attend my routine medical checks, for the best chance of prevention with any medical issues.

Update regularly

Understandably, you may want to build up more goals than the big three. So one thing you can do is rotate the whole list in certain time periods. Let’s say you choose to switch your goals every three months.

Here are my financial goals for the next three months:

  1. Establish the budget, and routine expenses every month before the payday and set aside enough money for all necessities and known expenses before spending anything.
  2. Anything left from the paycheck at the end of the month immediately goes into savings, rather than being spent on things I think I “need”.
  3. Buying clothes and other daily items, when I need to replace a no-longer functional ones. No shopping therapy.

Here are my financial goals for the three months after that:

The first two remain top priority.

  1.  Establish the budget, and routine expenses every month before the payday and set aside enough money for all necessities and known expenses before spending anything.
  2. Anything left from the paycheck at the end of the month immediately goes into savings, rather than being spent on things I think I “need”.
  3. Shrink, non-utilities expenses to optimize the amount I can save monthly. Using the saved money to pay-off leasing purchases quicker and in larger portions, to lower the overall interest fee.

Be very specific

Surely you have heard of the hoax that is “New Year Resolutions”. You tell yourself you will do better once the new year comes, you get to it very motivated and suddenly, you find yourself back to your old habits banging your head why you could not stick with them.

Essentially the resolutions culture stems from setting goals and a deadline. However the approach is wrong. Why? You must be specific with your goal setting.  Here is an example:

Saying “I will work out more often” will simply not cut it. If you go to the gym once every three months now, then going once a month will fit in your resolution. But it will not fit your expectations, nor give you a sense of achievement and resilience you seek.

Instead tell yourself: “I will go to the gym three times a week for the next three months”. You have a consistent base and an easily measurable metric of whether you are on track or not.

Know Your “Why”

As human beings, we can get motivated by many things we are met with on a daily basis. From the people, you follow online. From those close to you in your life. From working well under pressure and the desire to meet tight deadlines. Or perhaps, a sense of necessity. Or simply from a personal drive to perform better and the pleasure of achieving the goals we set for ourselves.

When you are setting goals for yourself knowing why you want to make the change, why did you choose this specific goal and why you think it will add on to your life will make all the difference. Once you do that, customize this method to fit your needs specifically, and approach it responsibly to make the most of it, rather than overpacking it to the point you feel you are not doing enough.

What do you want to do in your life? What makes you get up in the morning and get your day going? Think about it and try to get more of it in your life with consistent and targeted actions on a daily basis.

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