It may seem like January gets all of the goal-setting glory amidst the thrill of a new year, but many of us in the working world are lucky enough to relive this excitement three extra times at the start of each fiscal quarter. 🎉
Admittedly, this does look a little anxiety-inducing on paper, but does anyone else secretly love planning out their new objectives?
If you answered yes to this question, then we are the same type of weird. 🥲💜
The act of setting new goals can be such a validating experience. Even if you don’t yet have a goal-setting process in place, you’ve likely been working through an unofficial wish list of objectives for most of your career.
How do I know that? Because those objectives formed the habits that landed you your dream job, created a sense of fulfillment in your day-to-day routine, or maybe helped you become the person your dog always knew you were.
In short, there’s just something about setting and reaching goals that feels inherently natural and just good.
Plus, setting a mix of personal and professional objectives is also necessary to thrive in careers, like project management, that are constantly innovating.
We have the tools and tips you need to set and stick to your upcoming project management goals. Not to mention, eleven detailed project manager-specific objectives to kick off your quarter with a strong start.
- Why should you set project management objectives & goals?
- The makings of a great project management goal
- 8 strong goals for project managers
- 1. Improve communication and collaboration
- 2. Improve productivity and performance
- 3. Achieve the project objectives within the given constraints
- 4. Stay proactive to mitigate risks in advance
- 5. Gain a strategic understanding of company goals and implement similar initiatives
- 6. Manage stakeholders expectations
- 7. Upgrade your skills and certifications, expand your PM knowledge
- 8. Maximize your contributions
- Project management goals that may not be SMART, but are smart
Why should you set project management objectives & goals?
I mean, you’ve got your project roadmap. That’s gotta be enough, right? Not quite.
Your roadmap may layout the journey through a successful project launch, but the benchmarks along the way are where the real magic happens, especially when it comes to your professional development goals.
Before we dive in, we have a little disclaimer: In this post, we’re going to use the words “goals” and “objectives” interchangeably. In your professional experience, you might have previously held separate definitions for these words, but in the context of this article, they are synonymous.
Phew, glad we got that out of the way. Now onto the good stuff. 🤓
Project management is exciting because it’s always growing and allows project managers to learn something new almost every day with the sophistication of their projects. Setting goals helps you keep up with those changing trends and ultimately deliver a product that will bring your stakeholders to (happy) tears.
Since setting goals in project management is such a great way to improve the quality of your projects, it is, by extension, also an excellent way to improve yourself! By aligning your own project management goals with the overall direction of your company, you are committing to the success of your future self—and that relationship always comes first. 🥰
Aside from bettering yourself, planning out the key objectives you want to achieve in each upcoming project is a great way to stay motivated, stand out, measure your growth, and prepare for the future. But that’s not all!
There’s another (pretty serious!) reason why you should invest some extra time into project management goals. 😳
Project managers are also facing new challenges with the rise of remote work and freelancing that make the need for clear and SMART objectives even more important to stay on top of potential changes that may lay ahead…
“The coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts have tested the ability of organizations to effectively deliver projects and programs,” said Natasha Moore, Partner in Charge of Transformational Program Management at KPMG Australia. “Some projects and programs adapted quickly and effectively…while others have had substantial delays or cancellations.”
According to Moore, the teams best able to combat delays were the ones most willing to pivot and defined their project’s key objectives from the get-go.
While you might be tempted to scribble down “pivot” on a sticky note and display it on your monitor for easy reading, there’s a bit more needed to put that practice in motion and create healthy working habits. But luckily, ClickUp’s got you covered. 🙂
The makings of a great project management goal
At ClickUp, we are big fans of SMART goals, and the most impactful project management objectives share this quality!
A quick recap: SMART goals should be the North Star of your goal-setting journey and are defined as being specific, measurable, assignable, relevant, and time-based.
To be specific, your goal will answer the what, who, when, where, why, and which involved in a detailed action plan. You will have a defined set of metrics to measure progress and know the skills or tools needed to attain it. Your objective will also be relevant to you! Meaning it aligns with your career development or long-term personal goals. And last but not least, it is time-bound with a deadline to kick any procrastination habits to the curb.
What’s great about setting SMART goals is how thorough they are, but don’t let yourself get too bogged down in trying to create the biggest new quarterly objective in the group. SMART project management goals can be short term or long term, and many long term goals can be divided into more manageable milestones along the way.
Luckily, we’ll share examples of both and everything in between! Including a few extra healthy work habits that can have a big impact on your way to reaching new heights.
8 strong goals for project managers
This list is a combination of short-term and long-term goals, but you may also notice that these are goals you can set for yourself again and again. With each new project, use the same SMART logic to measure your progress over an extended period of time using these goals as your baseline.
…just one more thing before we get onto the meat and potatoes. 🍽
You can work on all of these objectives in tandem! The intention behind the order of the list is for each goal to build upon the previous one, but if you are a seasoned project manager, be our guest and skip around as you please. 🚀
1. Improve communication and collaboration
This may be a short term goal, but it’s here for the long-haul. Even if we didn’t suggest improved communication and collaboration as a top priority, this objective would likely still have a place in your group because good communication requires constant effort!
Now, if you are currently sitting in your swivel chair asking yourself, but if I’m always going to have to work on communication, then isn’t the goal not time-bound and therefore not SMART?
No. It’s still SMART.
Be clear and thoughtful with how your define “improvement” in this area by looking back on past projects or recent challenges. Hindsight is 20/20, can you now retrace lines of miscommunication back to their root causes?
Maybe this comes in the form of too many channels of communication, i.e., Susan loves email but Jimmy prefers Slack, and you’d rather put a pin in it until everyone can just hash it out over Zoom on Monday?
I sincerely hope that is not your current situation. 👀
But it’s never too late to put a definitive process in place. Identify the pain points and start laying out a solution in writing for the project team to follow and refer back to.
If there’s one form of communication that doesn’t work for anyone then eliminate it entirely from your daily workflow, but if there are a few growing pains while adjusting to your new process, stick it out for a month or two before changing the process again. There is such a thing as overcommunication, and constant pivots can be confusing and ultimately counterproductive.
Now that your team knows when, where, and how to talk to each other, make sure they know it’s 100% encouraged.
While managing the team, guide the conversation by encouraging open communication and team collaboration. Especially for remote project teams, ensure that no one feels as though they’re working in a silo and establish an “open door” policy when it comes to addressing questions, needs, and feedback.
Project manager pro tip: if you’re going to encourage the team to connect and share new ideas, make sure you’re willing to listen too.
2. Improve productivity and performance
This project management objective doubles as a short term and long term goal!
The way you go about putting this goal into action will depend on your company’s current practices but boils down to how you measure productivity and performance in the first place.
Look back at past projects, tasks, milestones, and timelines—are you consistently sticking to your deadlines? And if not, can you find the cause of potential low-performance areas? Bottlenecks and blockers are sometimes completely out of your control, but conducting a full audit of your team’s workload and the pace of your projects is never a bad idea. While it may require a time commitment, it may give way to new areas for improvement that you hadn’t seen before.
Our advice? Invest in a productivity tool that can handle time tracking, real-time reporting, deadlines, and team workflows!
Use these Performance Review Templates!
For example… 👀
Flexible time-tracking features in ClickUp help you focus on your work with a global timer, time estimates, and reports breaking down your time per task. Plus, with ClickUp’s Chrome Extension, you can even track the time you spend outside of ClickUp, allowing you to get the full picture of your workload from truly anywhere on the web.
From there, you can take your time management a step further with ClickUp’s unique Workload view to see how the time estimates of your tasks measure up against the time you have in your week.
For my fellow visual learners, this is an excellent way to help structure your days and make sure everyone knows what to work on.
And if you like Workload view, wait until you get a load of ClickUp’s Dashboards.
Think of Dashboards as your high-level home base for developing Sprints, resource leveling, and progress monitoring. But what’s really cool about Dashboards, is that you can create one for virtually any scenario. Instantly pull progress based on goals, milestones, tasks, time, activity, and more.
With over 50 widgets to customize how you display your wins, ClickUp Dashboards are an excellent thing to have on hand to present to stakeholders.
But I digress. Back to our project management goals! 🤪
3. Achieve the project objectives within the given constraints
While it can be exciting and sometimes take a bit of extra care to set new goals, make sure you never lose sight of the big picture! Your project objective, scope, time, quality, and budget must be upheld.
Delivering your projects within the set time and budget are the two most important requirements as a project manager. Missing deadlines, falling behind, and going over budget not only affects your reputation as a project manager, but also potentially impacts your product’s profitability and ultimately your company.
Bonus: Project Management KPIs!
4. Stay proactive to mitigate risks in advance
AKA, always have a contingency plan.
Falling behind on a project can sometimes be out of your control and eventually happens to everyone. Maintain a competitive edge and establish yourself as a proactive leader by having a process in place to move forward when things don’t go your way. It may not be perfect, but it’s something, and that counts!
Plus, the growing market for project managers can also be a volatile one, but making sure you have contingency plans in place to manage unforeseen risks can help you stay on track in the long run, even with a few bumps here and there. Brainstorm with the team on the kinds of risks, roadblocks, and outcomes you may encounter on your project roadmap and adjust as needed in the planning stage so you stay ahead and avoid potential pitfalls.
For long term goal project planning, keep a risk assessment document, template, or task in place to look back on how risks were handled in recent projects to learn from them in the future.
Related: Learn about the best risk management tools!
5. Gain a strategic understanding of company goals and implement similar initiatives
Implementing this long term goal can help you execute high-impact projects and play a bigger role in the company wins down the line, so take this as a sign to break away from your usual bubble and create initiatives that contribute to the company’s larger purpose!
The project should always be business-driven and meet certain requirements set by business users or managers, but try researching and reaching out to other departments in the company to see what they’re working on too—there is no harm in gaining a better understanding of how the company operates.
Knowing what your company’s larger goals are and why they’re important can help guide your own project management goals and help you make more strategic decisions about your projects. It was found that 30% of a business’ projected benefits are achieved from implementing a new project, and about 70% of those benefits will come from putting in place a process for holding people accountable and having a system to make the long term benefits of a project known.
Basically, this will help you draw a clear line from how your project’s success impacts the success of the company as a whole.
6. Manage stakeholders expectations
Stakeholders are the support system of your organization; you could even think of them as your project sponsors.
As a project manager, you will be asked to keep them informed about the project at every milestone and incorporate their feedback because believe it or not, they have their own personal objectives too! To succeed with this goal you’ll want to increase transparency into your project’s progress, visibility into the team’s efforts, and get everyone on the same page ASAP.
We suggest starting with a review template! Include a summary of the big picture, updates since the last review, any questions, additional needs, etc. Having a project management tool (like Clickup!) with the ability to create dashboards and instantly pull up-to-date insights on your project at a moment’s notice will also help you tremendously.
Beyond transparency, you’ll also want to create a standardized process for receiving your stakeholders’ approval, feedback, and communication. 🙂
7. Upgrade your skills and certifications, expand your PM knowledge
A great way to stay on the cutting edge of your industry is to remember that we are never done learning!
About 51% of organizations now require project managers to hold a certification, and we’re not suggesting that you pursue a new degree or learn a new skill every year, maybe consider investing in refining the project management tools you already have—even if you’ve been using them in your field for the past decade.
Use this goal as an opportunity to branch out and get creative. What other competencies do you have and what are you interested in learning that is new?
Upgrading your project management skills can start with something as small as reading a book or a blog. 🙌🏼
There are also a ton of courses that allow you to learn at your own pace and choose the option that works with your personal time constraints. Plus, this is a great way to show that you take initiative to innovate and hold yourself accountable by wanting to improve.
Check out these Goal-Setting Templates!
8. Maximize your contributions
This is a long term goal, largely because it takes time, trial and error, and skill to learn how to do the most in the role you currently have without totally burning yourself out.
Expand your impact step by step and think beyond your current responsibilities. Maybe you start taking a greater interest in training new team members and retaining them! Or perhaps you work with management to create new team goals, research your competitors, or look at old performance reports to create new improvement strategies.
You’re no one-trick-pony, so show them! 🙂
Project management goals that may not be SMART, but are smart
Though these three project management goals may not be SMART as defined earlier in this post, they are great habits to keep in mind and will take you far in the way of leadership!
1. Work on your soft skills
It is important to be a well-rounded asset. Have a healthy mix of technical knowledge, business knowledge, and a working knowledge of how to communicate with your team, clients, stakeholders, etc. This also relates to negotiating skills and knowing how to get things done without burning any bridges.
This can help you avoid conflicts and promote a collaborative and functional work culture!
2. Balance strategic goals with employee needs
Remember: be a human first.
We mentioned that one of the main objectives of a good project manager is to stay on the project budget, which includes ensuring that your company does not have to hire replacements constantly. 👀
Without the team, you will not have a project or a product. Employee satisfaction is important to keep the team engaged in the project because it is not only in the best interest of the employee to have their needs in mind, but also the best interest of the product.
Communicate transparency with your team and hold regular one-on-one sessions to normalize giving feedback and create a relationship between yourself and your team members. Take interest in their own goals and hold reviews to help them celebrate the benchmarks they’ve reached while identifying areas to grow.
Check out these budget proposal templates!
3. Lead by example
If you are going to set a precedent among your team that they need to hold themselves accountable for their actions, you need to be ready as a leader to hold yourself accountable too!
In tough times, try asking yourself what kind of leader you would want to have if the roles were reversed and look at every situation as its own isolated incident. Try not to let personal feelings or outside influences change your perception of a chain of events, and remember to look at every situation from all sides to gauge the type of leader needed at that moment.
Know when to delegate, when to step in, and when it’s just best to listen.
The magic of this list is that you can continue applying these goals with every new project or at the start of each fiscal quarter. While there may be other project management objectives specific to your team or company, use these as a springboard to let your dreams soar!
Remember: investing in improving the quality of your projects means you’re also investing in yourself.
The sky is the limit but when in doubt, think SMART. And when you’re ready to take your project management goals a step further, download ClickUp. 🥳