An Admin’s Guide to Setting Measurable Goals and Getting Ahead

Setting Goals

Measurable goals for administrative assistants can mean the difference between professional success and professional stagnation. Without a solid set of measurable goals, your job can quickly become one never-ending, pointless to-do list. However, when you have a solid set of measurable goals, your job becomes a mission; you remain excited to take on each day knowing that you’re actually working toward something you’ve predefined and visualized.

In short, your to-do list is a map that helps you reach your goals, but it should never become your ultimate destination. When you find yourself getting things done just to get things done, then it’s time to reconnect with some big-picture goals. Here’s everything Administrative Assistants need to know about setting measurable goals.

Why Set Measurable Goals?

Motivation

Goals have been widely accepted as motivational tools for completing good work for years, ever since Edwin A. Locke, Gary P. Latham, and other authors published groundbreaking research on the importance of goals. The group’s findings form the backbone of goal-setting theory, the idea that clear goals and feedback motivate people.

While all goals can be motivating, the best goals are measurable goals; they express clear intentions to accomplish something specific. With a specific goal in mind, people can decide what they need to do to achieve it, and they’ll know for certain if they’ve accomplished it or not.

Compare the examples below to see how even well-intentioned goals can be too vague to truly motivate action.

  • Abstract goal: I will be more productive.
  • Measurable goal: This year, I will take on two more short-term projects and one more long-term project.

The abstract goal remains open to interpretation; if you start working through lunch breaks, that could mean you’re being more productive. If you take work home on the weekends, that could mean you’re being more productive.

The measurable goal, on the other hand, spells out the terms for success, and knowing exactly what you want to accomplish goes a long way. When you establish solid measurable goals for your days, weeks, months, and years, you get more than just motivation to stay on track at work. Measurable goals also help you:

  • Organize and prioritize work, even when work gets busy
  • Explain your progress, ideas, and ambitions to management
  • Justify requests for investments in equipment, continuing education, etc.
  • Increase decisiveness by outlining exactly what’s important
  • Measure your success in clear, coherent terms (This is especially helpful during annual reviews.)

Setting Measurable Goals for Administrative Assistants

Planning Smart Goals

Now that you’re convinced setting measurable goals is a sound career strategy, let’s learn exactly how to establish measurable goals that will set you up for success.

What makes an effective goal?

It should come as no surprise that Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham, the experts who first established the specific benefits of setting goals, also established criteria for effective goals. Locke and Latham found that the most motivating goals have a few features in common.

  • Effective goals are clear.
  • Effective goals require commitment.
  • Effective goals have been adjusted after receiving feedback from stakeholders.
  • Effective goals require an assortment of relatively complex tasks.
  • Effective goals are challenging.

This last bullet gives many people pause. If a goal is relatively easy to complete, wouldn’t it then be effective? Not necessarily. According to a white paper from Oracle Taleo Cloud Service, research from from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, American-Hungarian psychologist, affirms the appeal of difficult goals. Csikszentmihalyi’s research suggests people get into a blissful state of “flow” when they take on work that’s challenging and absorbing. Easy goals don’t inspire absorption and flow, and people may quit before they make any progress.

How To Set Effective Goals

Success

Make sure your goals are SMART

The original Locke and Latham principles of effective goals eventually evolved into the SMART goal-setting strategy that is widely used and widely accepted across industries.

To make sure your goals are smart, you must design them to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Sensitive

Here are some tips for fulfilling each criteria:

Making goals specific:

We touched on goal specificity above. To check the clarity of your goal, simply imagine you’re dictating it to someone else. Will they know what you want them to do?

For example, you might ask your kids to spruce up the backyard. As a result, you could get a field of Lego® flowers and a hand-dug mote. If you want the kids to mow the lawn, then simply ask them to mow the lawn.

Making goals measurable:

Pretend you’ve just sat down with your boss for the annual review. How will you prove, in concrete terms, that you’ve met your goal? To put the concept in other terms, imagine that you need to prove your success in the same way you prove your eligibility for a loan. Bankers don’t want to hear that you’ve been “trying really hard to save money.” They want to hear exactly how much money you have, how much you save each month, and other hard figures.

Once you’ve defined your goal in measurable terms, also record a few Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. (If your goal is to find a new vendor for office maintenance, then a KPI might be the number of vendors interviewed.)

Making goals attainable:

Quiet your inner overachiever for this one. Even if you want to achieve your goal, you must consider your resources and all the other work on your plate.

  • Does your goal require special tools, advanced knowledge, or heavy investments? Do you have the skill set to achieve the goal?
  • Sit down and consider how many work hours achieving your goal will actually take. How much time do you need to fulfill your existing responsibilities?

Making goals relevant:

According to the career experts at MindTools,

“Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll fritter your time – and your life – away.”

Is your goal relevant to both your personal and your professional life? Is your goal relevant to the broader goals of your company? To make absolutely sure your goals are relevant to your company, seek out feedback from leadership. You don’t want to commit to a goal that is outside your company’s scope.

Making goals time-sensitive:

Time-sensitive goals require a specified time-frame. For example, you might need to improve your public-speaking skills (by delivering presentations to an audience once a month for 6 months) before an annual industry summit.

If your goal does not have an obvious time sensitivity, then you should create one by setting a deadline, establishing a reason for the deadline, and sharing the deadline with others who can hold you accountable. Goals fade if you always push them to the back burner.

Set super ambitious goals for your eyes only

Secret goals

Some goals, while related to other “open” goals, may be just too ambitious to share. After all, you don’t want to be held accountable for goals that may be a tad overzealous. However, by establishing “monster” goals, you can deepen your own motivation. Your most ambitious goals symbolize a “level up,” the flight of stairs you can’t even think about until you’re done climbing the one under your feet.

Evaluate your commitment to the goals  

Did you set this goal because you want to achieve it or because you think your boss wants you to achieve it? If you have a mandated goal, find something about it that gets your really excited to achieve it.

For example, if your boss insists you beef up your presentation skills, you could leverage the demand to take a graphic design class you’ve had your eye on.

Examples of Measurable Goals for Administrative Assistants

Administrative Assistant

Administrative Assistant Task: Calendar management

  • The Measurable Goal: Evaluate, select, and adopt calendar management tools to reduce weekly hours spent on calendar management from 20 to 10 before the start of quarter 2.
    • Specific: This goal is specific enough because we can easily imagine what action items it requires.
    • Measurable: Hours serve as the measurable metric for this goal.
    • Attainable: If an Admin is already spending 20 hours a week on calendar management, then he should find it manageable to invest a little more time in a temporary project that will eventually halve hours spent on calendaring.
    • Relevant: This goal involves improving an existing task, making it relevant by default.
    • Time-Sensitive: The deadline for this goal is quarter 2.

Administrative Assistant Task: Meeting and event planning

  • The Measurable Goal: Increase attendance to the annual January New Year summit by 25%.
    • Specific: Attendance has only one meeting, so Admins will know exactly what they’re shooting for.
    • Measurable: By comparing year-over-year attendance at the New Year summit, Admins can measure their success.
    • Attainable: This goal could be ambitious depending on the size of the company and the event-planning resources at the Admin’s fingertips, but it should certainly be within attainable territory.
    • Relevant: This goal is relevant to the company and the Admin’s event-planning skills.
    • Time-Sensitive: The goal must be achieved before the January New Year summit.

Administrative Assistant Task: Office design

  • The Measurable Goal: Redecorate three main conference rooms before a client pitch in March.
    • Specific: The goal doesn’t specifically define what redecorating means, but it tells the Admin what to do.
    • Measurable: Performance can be measured based on the number of conference rooms redecorated.
    • Attainable: Since the goal leaves the specifics of the redecorating open-ended, this goal can be condensed or stretched depending on the Admin’s resources.
    • Relevant: Refining the conference room appearance can have a major impact on the success of a client pitch.
    • Time-Sensitive: This goal comes along with a March deadline.

What’s a measurable goal you’re looking to accomplish? Let us know in the comments – We’d love to cheer you on!