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Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals in Remote Work

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes 

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Yea or Nay? During our January Networkplaceless event, attendees agreed that resolutions can be fun and inspirational, like Teresa Douglas's resolution to “eat better cheese." However, are resolutions useful when the goal is to make real progress? How many resolutions have we all let slide as the year progresses? How do we align our day-to-day energy with our bigger picture goals and aspirations?

With another uncertain year ahead, goal setting can undoubtedly help you and your teams feel in control. As remote workers and virtual team leaders, having a vision, setting goals, and meeting goals are especially crucial for remote career development and for virtual employees to document their value. Goal setting in a virtual environment can also look different than in-office—from the types of goals and the resources available to how you share and achieve your goals.

The four key steps to remote goal setting and goal achieving are:

 

Step 1: Find a Goal Setting Framework that Works for You or Your Team 

In order to find and focus on your true priorities, our Workplaceless team member and career coach, Katie Scheuer, recommends using the WOOP—Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan—model.

Wish: What is your most important wish or concern?

Outcome: What would be the best thing, the best outcome about fulfilling your wish?

Obstacle: What is your main inner obstacle?

Plan: Name one action you can take or one thought you can think to overcome your obstacle.

Here’s an example our Networkplaceless group came up with: 

My wish is to increase my productivity, and the best outcome is I’d feel calm and satisfied (not stressed). My obstacle is I get distracted regularly. If I get distracted, then my plan is to block off my calendar for focused work and turn off all notifications.

WOOP uses mental contrasting, a behavior change strategy required for developing meaningful goals. Try it out for yourself! The WOOP website provides step-by-step guidance for completing WOOP. It's a five minute virtual activity that your team can walk through jointly or individually to identify obstacles from a personal, career, or organizational perspective. With WOOP, recognizing wishes comes before writing SMART goals or adding OKRs to your project management tool.  

 

Remote Leader Tip: Use WOOP as a framework for setting goals across your team to align team member goals and business performance objectives, and to identify growth opportunities. Enroll your team in Growplaceless—which offers structured guidance and aligned rubrics specifically through a remote lens.

 

Step 2: Set an Action Plan

Oftentimes annual goals are of a scope or on a time scale larger than can be tackled in a few days. Once routines start to pick back up, it’s easy to get distracted from the larger goals you’ve made by daily demands. One key to successfully achieving your annual goals is to break them down into digestible milestones or embed them within your routines. Here are couple ideas to get you started:

  • Use a project management tool like Asana, Trello, or ClickUp to outline a specific roadmap with tasks and deadlines.
  • Write plans and next steps in a group Slack or Teams channel.
  • Set milestone alarm reminders.
  • Add action items to your to-do list.
  • Register for that event or course now, not later.
  • Block time on your calendar in small recurring increments. 
  • Assign colleagues to check in with each other.
  • Schedule routine meetings to check on progress.
  • Set 30-, 60- and 90-day reminders.
  • Set aside a few minutes everyday or every week to take One Tiny Action toward your goal.
  • Align behavioral change to OKRs for the month, quarter, or year.

 

 Remote Leader Tip:  Do you have a budget set aside for your team’s learning and development? Work with your team members now to outline their goals, and deliver upon your commitment of support by funding their training or development programs.

 

Step 3: Identify Resources for Support

Getting side-tracked from a goal or resolution is an all-too-common problem. Support systems and accountability partners or tools can be critical to keeping you on course to achieve your goals. 

Brainstorming these resources, including how to access them, is an important part of the goal setting process. For remote teams this can become trickier as environmental cues aren’t always available, such as on-site trainings that are occurring, seeing people in mentorship meetings, coworkers taking fitness breaks for a walk or the head to the gym. In remote and hybrid environments, we miss some of these physical cues, and individuals have the extra responsibility of identifying and accessing resources that will support their goals. 

Resources could mean finding an accountability partner who has similar goals as you, installing a new tracking app, or even sharing your goals out loud via a resource like LinkedIn’s “Goal” post prompt. Or even, as Jillian Alexander, a Networkplaceless attendee, shared, giving yourself a chance to mentally and emotionally recharge by scheduling time specifically for activities that may not align to any of your goals.

Consider creating an Resources Inventory Map. This is a visual way to outline the different resources available to you in achieving your goals. We break the map down in a matrix of:

Resource Types: Knowledge, Social, Experiential, Financial, and Other

Resource Access: Remote, Personal, Company, Community, Industry, and School

Example Resources Inventory Map: (using MURAL)

 

 Remote Leader Tip: Create an open-access, team-wide Resources Inventory Map. Since remote workers often live in different parts of the country or world, managers need to document collective and individual resources to increase the awareness and accessibility of available resources. Create a Slack or Teams channel to reinforce the sharing of resources, and revisit this chart regularly. 

(For more support, the Goal Setting module of our Growplaceless course goes into depth about both identifying internal and external resources.)

 

Step 4: Reflect and Process

Setting basic professional and personal goals always requires reflection. The WOOP framework in step one goes deeper in acknowledging internal wishes, challenging personal barriers, and hopes for the future. As we worked through WOOP together, some Networkplaceless members expressed discomfort, recognizing that if fulfilled, their wishes could lead to transformative changes. You may experience fears of failure, fears of success, frustration over lack of resources, or feelings of being overwhelmed.

Take the time to process the emotional impact setting big goals can have. 

 

 Remote Leader Tip: Help your team set goals, but make sure to allow space for them to process and reflect. A few strategies include:

  • Holding synchronous one-on-ones or group discussions when setting goals.
  • Using the Feelings Wheel to guide conversations.
  • Having regularly scheduled reflection time to reflect on progress.


Lastly, goals don’t always have to be so serious. Add light-hearted milestones, a little humor, or even some friendly competition to your goals. Amber Dailey-Hebert shared how her family starts the year off with a resolution "quiz" about who will achieve what goals and then checks-in during the following holiday season to see how everyone did.

To set the vision for your remote team and business, visit our Goplaceless program.

To put all of these ideas into action, enroll your team in our Growplaceless course. It’s all about remote professional development and kicks off with Goal Setting in the first module. 

 Katie Scheuer, Learning Experience Lead at Workplaceless

Scheuer helps teams, leaders, and companies thrive in hybrid and remote environments. A former career coach, she has spent her career guiding adults to develop new skills to achieve their personal and professional goals. In 2019, she quit her job to travel through Asia and Europe, and is currently digital nomading in the US.

Follow her on LinkedIn.

 

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