I’m writing this article in December and that’s the time of year when many review the year that is just about to end and make personal resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. For those of us who work in education, it may also be the half-way point in our evaluation cycle. Six months ago, we set goals. Six months from now, we report on our success in meeting those goals.
I usually set aside time now to consider what I’ve already committed to at work—both in my annual goals and otherwise—and how I plan to meet those goals over the next six months, particularly so that I’m not reading those goals as if they are news to me when I’m writing my year-end self-evaluation. This year, I’m going to try to timebox those goals a bit. If you haven’t heard of timeboxing, read on.
Here’s my plan:
- Decide if each goal is still worth accomplishing. Has anything changed? Was it based on a job description or library strategic plan that has changed? Discuss changing any goals with supervisor so that it reflects the changes.
- Read each goal and consider what it means. What does success look like for each goal? A report? A discussion? Something implemented?
- Gather up any major commitments made since first writing those official goals. What else is on the list and why?
- Prioritize all those goals—the annual goals as well as the new ones that emerged. Which ones have the highest impact? Which ones match most closely with any personal or organizational strategic plans, vision, and values?
- Decide how much time to allot in total to each goal. This step is the timeboxing. Rather than allowing each goal to fill up all available time to the exclusion of all other work, decide how much time to spend on the goal and work to that.
- Add together the total time allotments for all goals and divide by the number of weeks remaining until the end of the review period.
- Schedule that time now on your calendar. If your calendar does not support these goals, then:
- Can any of them be completed with less time than the original estimate?
- Can you negotiate any of lower priority commitments? Are there unnecessary meetings on your calendar?
- Can the lowest priority goals be delayed or eliminated?
- Set staggered target dates—not all the same day—for each goal. Don’t assume that one goal finishes before the next one begins, but prioritize the highest priority goals first. Plan to complete most if not all the goals well before the end of the evaluation period. Put each goal with a due date in a task list or in the calendar as a reminder of that target date.
- For any goals which have multiple steps, list out the most important steps which will move you towards success. Start from the beginning, or start from the end—it doesn’t matter. Brainstorm with someone else if you need help. Even if you just list out the next steps, you are ahead of where you were a few minutes ago.
- Delete or cross out any tasks that don’t appear to move the goal forward to successful completion. Rearrange the tasks into a rough sequence.
- Commit to the next steps in whatever way works best for your personal time management style. For me, I will schedule the next steps for the highest priority goal on my task list with due dates for next week, schedule any meetings with others that will motivate me to complete work beforehand, and put specific tasks on my calendar in the time slots that I have dedicated to working on goals. I will also schedule a start date for the lower priority goals.
- During a weekly task list review, review each goal, adjusting tasks (but not time) as you go.
This strategy doesn’t sound much different from what I normally do in a more informal way, and yet I’m interested in seeing what difference timeboxing and setting early due dates has on those few goals that typically linger until self-evaluation time.
Does this post describe something that you already do? If so, how does it work for you? Does it describe something you’d like to try? Please let me know how it goes.