How to Achieve your Goals as a Software Engineer
Tips & tricks to help you execute your goals at work and beyond.
Last week I wrote about how to write effective S.M.A.R.T goals. You could spend your entire lifetime writing goals for yourself and never accomplish any of them. That’s why we’re going to put your metaphorical money where your mouth is and dive into some strategies to work towards achieving those goals.
Hold yourself Accountable with the Power of Visibility
One of the easiest ways to light a fire under your butt and make sure you’re making progress towards your goals is to share them with your manager. This often involves setting up some kind of shared document with your manager that usually outlines the goal, its current status, milestones, and any additional relevant notes. There should be tons of templates online that you can utilize, but I’ve found that a simple table based on those points works just as well.
Each time you meet with your manager, you’ll be able to go over your current progress and discuss blockers or missing resources you need to continue working towards your goals. As an alternative or bonus, you could also tell a few of your co-workers about your goals and ask them to help keep you accountable in whatever capacity they can. You can even do the same for them to return the favor!
Make Time for your Goals
There will likely be periods of time where you don’t accomplish much towards your goals and that’s ok. I definitely have stretches of time where my head is down and I am focusing on complex sprint work or helping my team cross the finish line on an important deadline. The crucial thing is to notice when this is happening to you at work so you don’t lose too much momentum on moving your goals forward.
Here are a few things you can do to carve out some time for making progress:
Block off time on your calendar. This can be either daily or weekly. Even 30 minutes of dedicated work time can add up over a long period of time
Sometimes we don’t realize we’re doing more than we need to be in certain areas of our day-to-day. Talk to your manager about evaluating what’s currently on your plate and see if there are areas that you can cut back on for a bit to be able to focus on your goals instead.
Try to align your goals carefully with your day-to-day work. It doesn’t hurt to try to kill two birds with one stone if there’s little to no flexibility in your current situation.
Celebrate Wins Along the way
As time goes on, it might feel like reaching a single milestone of your goal doesn’t really amount to much, but I disagree. It’s important to celebrate even the minor wins because it means you’re one step closer to achieving your overall goal. Taking a moment to recognize the hard work you’ve already put in can give you that extra motivation you need to keep on track and finish strong. So go ahead and treat yourself to a nice lunch or take a day off if you can.
Reflect & Iterate
You’ve done it. You were finally able to cross the finish line and check your goal off your list! Before you move on to the next one, take some time to reflect on the journey overall. What went well? What could have gone better for the next time around? Take those learnings and apply them to your other goals.
You can even take another stab at a similar goal and see if you can stretch a little further than the last time. Maybe you were able to help your team reduce the overall time it takes to get approvals on pull requests down to 4 hours. That’s a great accomplishment, but what if you could work towards helping tweak your team’s processes even further to get that down to 2 hours? The only thing I would be wary of is that if you’re going to iterate on the same goal, make sure it still provides ample room for growth in different areas as an engineer.
Hopefully, these strategies can help you knock your goals out of the park and highlight the great work you’ve done for that upcoming performance review. If you have any other tips and tricks you use or need some goal-related advice, let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter!