Setting “micro-goals”


Career transitions can be overwhelming. This can especially be the case for big-picture thinkers who prefer brainstorming to brass tacks.

While there’s definitely a time during a career search when thinking in terms of unfettered possibility is an asset, you may find that once you’ve defined in an overarching way where you want to end up, getting there proves awfully difficult.

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to become a nurse. You have some experience in the health-care field and you feel fairly certain nursing is where you want to go next. How do you find out for sure?

You make a plan with your career coach to begin researching nursing. What education do you need? What schools in your area offer it? Do you need to upgrade before applying? What does a day in the life of a nurse actually look like? What kind of nursing do you want to do? Do you want to work in an emergency room, with geriatric patients, with children? What is the job market like in your area? If it’s dismal, are you willing to relocate? If so, where would you like to go?

As you can see, just deciding what you want to do can raise far more questions than it answers. Tackling all those unknowns can feel so overwhelming that procrastination sets in.

We all know that setting realistic and manageable goals can help us move forward in life. But sometimes we need to break down those tasks even more to push through the inertia that fear and confusion can bring.

In his three laws of motion, Sir Isaac Newton determined that while “objects at rest tend to stay at rest, objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? The more we move toward our goals, the more we’ll continue moving. The key is to GET MOVING in the first place. And that, as many of us know, isn’t as easy as it looks.

Enter micro-goals.

What do micro-goals look like? Let’s take one of the many questions from our list above and break it down.

“What does a day in the life of a nurse look like?”

By far the best way to find out is to talk to a nurse. Some micro-goals for this task might be:

  1. Turn on my computer.
  2. Open my contacts list.
  3. Look through all the names to see if I know any nurses.
  4. If not, figure out which of the people I DO know might know a nurse I could talk to.
  5. Find the contact information for one of those people.
  6. Open my email program.
  7. Compose an email explaining what I’m looking for and asking for assistance.
  8. Set a reminder to follow up on the email on a specific date in the near future.
  9. Make a list of questions to ask once I get in touch with a nurse.
  10. Open a document on my computer called “What to ask the nurse.”
  11. Write down one question.
  12. Write another question.
  13. etc. etc. etc.

And on and on it goes. The key is to KEEP MOVING. And the key to overcoming the procrastination that comes from being overwhelmed and afraid and maintaining that forward motion is teeny-tiny baby steps like the many listed here.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s ridiculous. Why would I need to actually set a goal to just turn on my computer?!” I can tell you from personal experience it works.

I haven’t written a blog since the beginning of January. I’ve been very busy with my work and, I will readily admit, I’ve been putting it off. Today I decided to try taking on the task one tiny step at a time, and voila!

Next time you feel overwhelmed by the things you need to do to move your career in the right direction, consider breaking down your goals into micro-goals and starting very, very small. You may find that before you know it, you’re picking up the momentum you’ve been missing.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s