How to Design Your Year like a Goal Setting Pro

Gusto Editors

Do you know how to design your year and establish goals for success and happiness? 

Goal-setting is an invaluable tool for progressing professionally and personally. As an accountant, you can establish goals to advance your career, enhance your ability to assist clients, and grow your firm.

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, presented an excellent webinar all about goal setting featuring executive coach and inactive CPA, Amber Setter. Our webinar, “A Coaching Experience: Goal Setting For 2022 After Another Year of Disruption,” offers insights from Amber that are relevant for any year in which you’re establishing goals. 

In addition to this article, Part Three in the series, you can read Part One and Part Two to learn more from Amber. You can also watch the entire presentation here

New Year goal setting

Amber went into great detail about how accountants can design their years to strive toward their professional and personal goals. She asked a series of questions to help narrow down what you want to accomplish, and she delivered valuable insights into productivity and time management.

Businessman looking through window and making notes.

Although Amber’s questions specifically referenced New Year’s goal setting, you can use her questions and prompts at any time to establish and plan out your objectives. 

The first question she asked dealt with evaluating how you want to change, and Amber shared great answers from the live webinar viewers:

“What would you most like to change about yourself? … Getting some better sleep habits, being better to my spouse, getting healthy, waking up early, limiting time on social media … exercise, patience, and active listening.”

Amber Setter

Take a moment to ask yourself what you would like to change. It can be something minor involving your work, a healthy habit you’ve been meaning to implement, or anything else. 

Amber also asked her audience what they would like to learn in the new year, and she noted that it doesn’t have to involve your accounting work. In fact, it’s beneficial to take time to develop different parts of your brain with non-accounting interests:

“What would you like to learn? Maybe [it’s] not the stuff you should learn [for your job], right? … [Some of the answers I’m getting include] how to support my team with their goals, learning a new language, … how to crochet. … What I love about crochet is you’re using another part of your brain. Sometimes we overuse the analytical side [of our brains], … and so I think there’s really something special to getting out in nature, having time for art, doing movement of the body, whether it’s yoga or dance. Give that [analytical] part of yourself a break.”

Amber Setter

What hobbies, personal interests, or areas of study are you interested in diving into? Even though it’s always helpful to learn more about accounting and your professional craft, it’s also important to stimulate your brain in different ways and develop interests outside of your career. 

In addition to what you want to change and learn, Amber asked what you wish to improve on your work. Think about your work and what you’d like to change. Two of Amber’s viewers noted that they wanted to improve their time management at work. Amber speculated that difficulty with time management and focus could indicate underlying issues with your energy and satisfaction with your work: 

“I don’t believe in time management. I think there’s something deeper below the surface. It’s about managing our energy. … Why do you manage your time well or not? … [Another common issue is] staying focused. Whoever’s having challenges with focus, notice when you tune out. Where do you lose your focus? Sometimes it’s because the stuff’s really technically challenging. Maybe it’s because you don’t really love what you’re doing. Notice what happened right before you lost your focus.”

Amber Setter

If you have a hard time maintaining focus or managing your time while at work, you need to ask yourself what underlying issues could be hurting your productivity. Do you have trouble maintaining energy and focus because you’ve lost interest in your work or you don’t enjoy working with particular clients? Evaluate the underlying reasons why you may have trouble, and while you’re contemplating, ask yourself the questions Amber gave so that you can establish goals for yourself.

Living a life you love

Senior businessman and mid adult businessman happily working at the office.

Amber continued asking a series of questions to narrow your focus when goal setting and creating the life you want to lead. She noted that advancing professionally and personally often requires taking certain risks:

“What do you think your biggest risk will be [next year]? … [Some answers include] too many projects, … staffing risks, earning enough in a new career, retaining and hiring people. So these are all different things and challenges.”

Amber Setter

Ask yourself what risks you’ll take to strive toward your goals. Although taking risks usually feels uncomfortable, they’re often necessary for progress. Amber discussed how the current accounting status quo isn’t working, and professionals in the industry need to take certain risks to introduce innovations:

“Usually, the people that hire me are looking for something different and are looking [for a change]. The status quo hasn’t been working. … We’re seeing a lot of turnover and people that don’t stay because the way that firm management operates is just totally antiquated, and so there needs to be some shifts. … Anytime we make a change, it feels risky. Management of people and leadership of people will feel risky because it’s going to require new behaviors.”

Amber Setter

Changing the status quo requires accountants to exit their comfort zones and take on certain risks. Maybe your firm needs to offer accountants more flexibility, or you need to do away with the billable hour. These are just examples and are not necessarily suitable for your firm, but it’s important to note that making positive changes often requires taking on a certain degree of risk. 

Amber asked what advice you’d give yourself when making changes and taking on risks, and she discussed the importance of getting out of your comfort zone: 

“What advice would you like to give yourself as you take on new things [and] take risks? … As we make changes, our ego [and] our scared side will tell us, ‘No, no, no, don’t do it. Go back to your comfortable ways,’ and it helps if you’re able to give your fears some advice to calm them down. So what advice [would] you might want to give to yourself?”

Amber Setter

Contemplate what advice you’d give to yourself to embrace taking on calculated risks and getting out of your comfort zone. For example, one viewer answered the question with “breathing.” Conscious, slow breathing is a great way to calm anxiety and push forward when feeling discomfort. 

After discussing taking risks, Amber discussed the importance of bringing more joy into your life:

“What brings you joy, and how will you create more of it? Achievement and money are going to bring you success and happiness to a certain point, but after a certain amount of time … it just plateaus. Beyond achievement and beyond financial rewards, what’s going to bring you more joy?”

Amber Setter

Money and achievement will not bring you continuous joy, so you need to contemplate how you can create long-lasting happiness. Maybe your answer involves your family, your friends, or helping others? Contemplate how you can bring more joy outside of your career and success.

Start with one focus in professional goal setting

Business man working on laptop holding a pen in his mouth looking concentrated.

After Amber asked her series of questions, she focused on one critical insight she wanted her viewers to learn from her presentation. She discussed the importance of setting your sights on one particular area of your life:

“I want you to just get one area of focus. … What is that one thing that you want to create for yourself or within yourself, and … what is an external result you want to reach, or what is that shift within you? [For example], ‘I want to improve my self-confidence,’ and that’s going to be your area of focus in the next year.”

Amber Setter

Rather than worrying about establishing many different goals and making several changes, focus on crafting a single goal for next year or the rest of this year. You can set a single goal and contemplate how it will serve you. At this stage, don’t worry about how you’ll accomplish your goal—just focus on establishing it. 

“I always want to remind my friends that are accountants, don’t worry about the how-to. So you might be initially struggling to come up with that one thing. … [Accountants often] get stuck in declaring future success because [they’re] not sure how [they’re] going to get it done. So an example, ‘I would want to grow my book of business by 75%,’ … [but your] ego is tell[ing] you, ‘It’s not possible, it’s not realistic, [and] it’s not achievable.’”

Amber Setter

Don’t limit yourself to what you think is realistic when goal setting. Rather than getting bogged down in how you’ll accomplish your goal, focus on what you truly want to achieve. After establishing your goal, you can create your steps for achieving it. 

Learn more about goal setting

You can ask yourself a series of questions to narrow down what you want to accomplish next year or in the rest of this year. Some of these questions include: “What do you want to change?” “What would you like to learn?” “What do you think your biggest risk will be this year or next year?” and, “What is one thing you want to create for yourself, and what is the external result?” It’s critical that you initially focus on what you want to create rather than the details about how you’ll accomplish it. You can focus on the details and steps after establishing your goal. 

If you want to learn about how to design your perfect year, read Part One and Part Two of this webinar article series. You can also watch Amber’s entire presentation here

If your goal involves improving your ability to serve clients, consider becoming a people advisor. People advisors assist businesses with people-based operations such as payroll, benefits, and HR. Gusto offers a People Advisory Certification that’s perfect for getting you started. Join a community of accountants and bookkeepers building for the future with our People Advisory Certification and Gusto Pro’s modern tools. As a People Advisor, you can better serve your clients and their incredible teams. Get certified.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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