Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Want to get 2020 goals back on track? Think like a consultant

Four things that can drive success at work and in your personal life

Marguerite Svendsen //April 6, 2020//

Want to get 2020 goals back on track? Think like a consultant

Four things that can drive success at work and in your personal life

Marguerite Svendsen //April 6, 2020//

The first few months of the year have come and gone, and for many people and organizations this is when the rubber of our resolutions starts hitting the road of reality. In fact, studies suggest that by now, many of us have already failed at our 2020 resolutions.

If your efforts to hit the gym more often or tackle a large business project have already started to falter, consider adopting a consultant’s mindset. As consultants, we have one goal: Ensuring transformation happens successfully. Whether that’s driving incremental progress or grabbing a drink with a co-worker to talk about our hurdles, the strategies below are key consulting tips and tricks that drive success at work and in our personal lives.

Remember the big picture 

We get distracted from our goals when we forget the big picture – that cliff-top 360-degree viewpoint of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Constant reminders of the greater objectives help keep you on a focused path. That may include:

  • Publicly sharing progress toward a gap you’re trying to close, like the way nonprofits do during a fundraising campaign.
  • Reserving time every morning to remind yourself of what you want to accomplish today, this week or this year.
  • Securing a team-branded project room with visuals of the end goal, providing space to step away from outside noise and focus on core objectives.

Having a constant true-north reminder — and the mental and physical space to be reminded — ensures you and your teams are focused on the same end goals and will always lead to greater success.

Embrace the incremental  

Success is always dependent on setting short-term, achievable tasks that build on themselves until you’ve achieved a greater goal. On a personal level, that might be setting goals of “two trips to the gym this week” instead of “go more often” or “10 times this month,” which is bound to set you up for an exhausting end of every month.

At work, that means tracking to one or two weekly goals that lead to a more complex exercise of something like strategic planning for an upcoming year. Take the time now to ensure you have clear incremental mile posts, with frequent opportunities to reassess progress, rather than leaving it toward the end. There are several online tools available (Trello is one of our favorites) that can help break down your objectives into meaningful, smaller tasks.

Schedule check-ups 

We regularly schedule dentist appointments and annual exams months in advance. Bring that same discipline to your goals by taking the time now to schedule recurring health checks every three months. These can be held alone, with a mentor, or with your wider team. Keep the agenda loose and allow time to look both retrospectively at where you are versus where you expected to be, and then look forward for what you want to start, stop and continue doing from this point.

And remember those mile posts you outlined above? Be sure your health check includes a moment to appreciate the incremental steps you’re taking as you march intentionally towards your ultimate goal.

Have great conversations 

Conversations can reset your entire mindset within the span of a 45-minute coffee break. It's the natural ebb-and-flow of giving and taking, sharing thoughts and attracting outside perspectives. When all else fails and you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to move your goals forward, get out of your own bubble and seek a different perspective.

Reach out to someone doing amazing work – even if it’s unrelated to your own – and offer to buy them a drink. Absorb yourself in their world for a few minutes. Get out of your own head and try to learn from someone else’s experience. 

And when you leave that lunch/coffee/happy hour conversation energized with new ideas or motivation? Write it down. Get it on any piece of paper, sticky note or dinner napkin as quickly as possible. Tape it to your desk, your dashboard or your bathroom mirror. Just don’t go back to the status quo.


These are just a few ways to ward off the onset of doubt that oftentimes comes after we’ve set goals for the year. Whether that’s you now or in a few weeks, take a moment to step back, acknowledge the year-long journey you’re on and remember that each incremental step along the way brings your goal a tiny bit closer. 


Marguerite Svendsen and David Woltze are project management and business transformation experts at consulting firm Propeller.