Having goals in life is important. Without them you’re not likely to achieve as much than if your efforts were more focussed. However, once you know what you want, your goal/s might seem so large that you just don’t know how to get there or where to start. Breaking big, vague goals down into smaller goals, and those goals into simple tasks, makes the challenge of succeeding seem much less daunting and much more achievable.
Let’s use an example during this post that you can probably relate to. A career goal. Whether or not you have thought about what you want in life, or how you want to live, let’s say your goal is to be hired at one of the big four accounting firms. I’m using accounting as the field of work because it is one I am familiar with and have already researched. However, this general process will apply to many career goals.
Some steps will require researching the goal, and some steps will benefit greatly from brainstorming the different possible ways of getting from one place in the plan to the next.
Breaking Down the Big Goal
Your first step is to figure out what needs to happen to get you from where you are today to the position you want to be in.
Where are you today? You might be unemployed, working full-time, only studying full-time, or studying and working part-time. What industry are you in? What experience do you already have? What professional and personal skills? In this example, I will assume you are in Year 11, working part-time in retail.
What are the attributes of someone who is hired by one of the big four accounting firms? If you aren’t sure, research. From memory, some attributes are:
- They’ve finished secondary school
- They’ve graduated from a commerce or business course, likely from a university with more prestige than most, but not necessarily
- They got decent to great marks during university
- They probably had work experience, and likely in a relevant line of work (e.g. in a previous accounting role or a role exposed to the inner workings of a business)
- They probably did relevant extracurricular activities. For example:
- being on the committee for a university society or group in the field (e.g. The University of Melbourne had the Accounting Students Society);
- taking part in such societies (if they weren’t on the committee);
- volunteering, especially in a related role or field, or if it involved a position of leadership or responsibility;
- playing sport, especially having a leadership role in that sport; or
- taking part in university sport.
- They are probably very driven and have goals to rise in the ranks in one of the big four accounting firms
- They probably have a network of colleagues and mentors that they could turn to for advice or to get help from to get hired more easily
- They interviewed well enough to make it through the interview process and get hired
- They will have to begin (if they haven’t already begun) their professional accreditation course to become either a CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) or CA (Chartered Accountant). If they haven’t begun, they should at least know which accreditation they will pursue.
There might be more to the list, but the one above is comprehensive enough for you to get a good picture of where you need to be if you still want to be hired by one of the big four accounting firms. The above list is what you could come up with regardless of your specific goal.
Turning the Big Goal Into Smaller Goals
Now compare your current attributes to the attributes you will likely need to attain your goal, or that your goal progress would benefit from. Phrase each difference into a goal for you to achieve. For example:
- Finish secondary school with good enough marks to enable you to get into one of the top universities that offer a course in business or commerce
- Get good marks in university and graduate
- Get a part-time job in a role that offers accounting exposure and/or experience
- Pick one or two extracurricular activities to pursue in addition to part-time work, such as participating in a business or accounting society at university and playing a sport
- Network on a regular basis with students with similar goals and with people who are already in the industry
- Learn about the interview process, practise for interview questions, buy appropriate interview attire (e.g. a suit), and work on confidence and approachability
- Research the difference between being a CPA and CA, and the courses involved in each, and decide which one is most appropriate
These are your new goals. No longer focus on the big goal of getting into the career you desire, focus on the steps that will take you to that goal. The completion of each one will bring you closer to your overall goal.
Rinse and Repeat
If any of the smaller goals above are still too big, just repeat the process. For example, you might notice that one of the steps I recommend to getting hired in your ideal role is to get hired part-time first in a role that offers background experience in the same field. Since it’s another ‘get job XYZ’ goal, that would be a good one to break down some more.
Part 2 of ‘How to Break Down Goals Into Easy Steps’ goes into turning small goals into tasks you can do today. If you are unsure of how to go about finding the right information to split up a goal, I also go into some suggestions for that.