Set goals

To become a successful developer you need to consistently set goals. This includes both personal development and projects at your work.

But that’s not as easy as it seems at a first glance. I remember the first time when I had to fill out my quarterly goals at Acquia. I had no idea what to put on that list. So I came up with things such as get better at PHP or learn about Scrum. I knew something wasn’t right until I read “the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

It helped me realize that I needed a professional statement.

Create a mission statement for your professional role

Writing a mission statement helps you figure out your destination as a professional. Setting any kind of goals without knowing your destination is not effective. A mission statement allows developers to set goals that contribute to their overall mission.

Below is the example of how I wrote a mission statement for my role at Acquia.

At the end of my time at Acquia I want the following to be true:

  1. In my solutions I always tried to address the root cause instead of hacking at leaves
  2. I spent most of my time solving the most important problems of the engineering
  3. I continuously learned to be a better engineer
  4. I helped others become better engineers
  5. Others felt benefited, appreciated, helpful and recognized by me

The above points are more abstract than concrete. They express principles and values rather than specific projects. The mission statement should be the basis for specific goals.

Use your mission statement to set specific goals

Now you can use this mission statement as a foundation to create more specific yearly and quarterly goals. Using spreadsheet format works pretty well. In the example below, the row with high-level mission statement items is highlighted green.

The biggest advantage of this format is that each specific goal sits underneath respective mission statement item. Therefore, it is easy to see if your short-term goals are relevant to what you’re trying to achieve in the end.

For example, one of my mission statement items is “I spent most of my time solving the most important problems of the engineering”. To make progress towards this objective in 2018 I created a specific goal “Migrate the UI to Angular2+” right below the objective. Then I created even more specific (quarterly) goals to define how exactly I want to get there.

There one more thing to keep in mind when setting goals.

Make sure your goals are SMART

SMART stands for 5 attributes that help setting better goals:

  1. Specific. Example: “Learn JavaScript closures” instead of “Get better at programming languages.”
  2. Measurable. Example: “Read 3 books on Javascript.”
  3. Achievable.  Example, “Finish 3 JavaScript courses” instead of “Finish 30 JavaScript courses.”
  4. Relevant. Example: if you want to become a frontend developer: “Evaluate Webpack” instead of “Write flight controller in C.”
  5. Time-bound. Example: “Finish 3 JavaScript courses by March.”

Learn more about SMART criteria: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria

Conclusion

In this post, you learned why it is important to set goals. You need to be proactive with what you are trying to achieve instead of spending your energy on what comes along. You also saw that before setting any specific goals it is best to figure out your overall objectives. These objectives is your mission statement. And the last thing you learned is to apply SMART criteria to your goals.

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