Three Types of Goals Academics Should Set for 2016

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As I look back, 2015 has been a great year for me professionally. I’m always amazed at how much can change in a year and how much we grow in our profession in such a short period of time. As our careers progress in academia, it is as important as ever that we set goals and use winter break to push ourselves forward.

I’ve always been one to set goals both for the short and long terms.  And I attribute a great deal of my productivity and success to goal-setting. Here are 3 types of goals I value.

How to set goals in academia

First, and often overlooked, are the goals that focus on process; the things we must do to achieve the desired results, Without these, we cannot achieve outcomes. But many people set goals focused solely on outcomes without thinking of the day-to-day things they must do to realize those outcomes. Second, are outcome goals – goals in our direct line of sight that focus on attainable outcomes.  They result from the processes we do. Third,  are bigger picture “dreams”; the sort of thing that you don’t quite have a plan for exactly but they’ve been in your mind and you feel like you are working towards them in one way or another. It is important to have long-term goals that extend beyond a year and/or big picture dreams, because without these we can lose sight of what inspires us. Put another way, the only way to “be big” (accomplish big things) is to “think big.”

In the spirit of new year’s resolutions, I’d like to briefly share examples of each of these types of goals that I have. I hope that by sharing these, they get you thinking about your academic goals for 2016.  Below are 2 process goals  – the things it takes to achieve our goals, 2 outcome goals – things I want to accomplish, as well as one “think big” goal that is rolling around in my head.

Process Goals:

  1. Staying Relevant As Social Media Matures – The field is constantly changing. It is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve worked hard this past year to make small adjustments to stay on top of things going on in the field as well as trying to take advantage of some of the amazing opportunities that have been presented to me. Often times,  the small changes are easier to realize than the big ones. But, that doesn’t’ mean small changes are easy to do.  Often time complacency is the curse of progress. We get comfortable where we are and before we know it, enough time has passed that we have fallen behind. As a professor, it is easy to look at the syllabus from last year and just stick with what we’ve been doing rather than updating. That is why I  feel it is a priority to be constantly scanning the environment and staying proactive in making these small changes – such as to my syllabi and course content. Doing so, means avoiding major problems down the line. I spent the first week of winter break working on updates and changes for next semester. Of course, I’ll share some of them this upcoming  semester on this blog. 🙂 One activity I’m really excited about is the BuzzFeed writing assignment we’ll be doing in my Writing Across Platforms class.
  2. Becoming More Effective With My Time – Productivity is something I think a lot about . As someone who is a bit of a workaholic, I’m never sitting still. I live on Wunderlist. I’m always thinking of things I’d like to or need to get done. There are so many exciting things to learn and do, and I like to think I’m interested in interesting things. 🙂 I feel I’m very good at completing tasks ahead of time, staying organized, and always doing what I say I will. But, with so many distractions today, I’ve found myself becoming less productive with my time. Time spent working doesn’t always equate to tasks completed. Too, I tend to focus very heavily on details and am a bit of a perfectionist – I think that’s the curse of being an academic. 🙂 So, the goal for 2016 is to use time more efficiently. If I can do that, I can increase productivity, opening time for new opportunities as well as to enjoy personal time. I’m exploring a few different ways to do this.  I read that one way to do this, is to track how you spend your time – the way you track your personal finances – to see where your resources are being spent. That way, you can get a baseline and see opportunities to optimize. So, I’m playing with using a time-tracking app such as Time Meter. I’ve also recently downloaded a fun little game called Forest that motivates you to not fall into the habit of ‘phone distraction.’  In recent months, I’ve gotten particularly bad at this. I think we can all benefit from taking back our time!

Outcome Goals:

  1. Maximizing Educational Opportunities for My Students  –  Related to #2 above, I’ve been very fortunate that some new opportunities have presented themselves. Continuing to grow and build connections, in the end, creates opportunities for students. And that’s what I’m all about. This past year, I improved on bringing in some amazing outside professors and professionals as speakers in my classes. I’ve continued to grow and build relationships for internships and hands-on learning opportunities here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. As our Strategic Communication concentration finishes out its first cohort of students this spring, I’m aiming to continue to build in this area. Next fall, I’m hoping to possibly teach a new class, thus deepening the education I’m providing my students.
  2. Tenure – This one is out of my hands at the moment. 🙂 I’ve already put in my application for tenure this past October. Needless to say, a long term goal for the past 5 and 1/2 years has been to earn tenure. This spring is when I’ll find out!

Big Picture Dream:

Finally, I spent a good deal of time this past semester thinking about that “next step” for the strategic communication concentration as it grows past the graduation of our first cohort this upcoming spring.

  1. A Social Media Listening/Command Center –  Picture a place where students can go to monitor social media, track trends, perform analytics and more. Think of your favorite brands. In all likelihood, they have such a command center.
    I would love to build a small social media listening or command center for the students here in our department. We currently use Hootsuite Universitiy for our Social Media class, which is an amazing tool for monitoring and scheduling social media. But, it is not a metrics platform. I’d love to add to that an analytics tool for looking at trends. Several larger programs have such command centers, such as Clemson and Illinois State’s SMACC (by the way, Nathan Carpenter who runs SMACC is amazing. He was so generous with his time telling me about their impressive initiative have developed programs like this. His energy, knowledge, and initiative are extremely motivating). We’re a small program and the biggest hurdle is access to metrics software.  And so it is going to take some creative problem-solving to make this listening center a reality for my students (I’m very open to your suggestions, ideas, or interest in this project – Tweet me). I wrote about the need to up our offerings for teaching metrics back in February and expressed some ideas and frustrations on the issue. I believe integrating a command center with classes and extra-curricular opportunities is a worthy, long-term goal that will have  an enormous impact on our students and our community.

The year ahead is filled with promise. And these are some of things I would love to accomplish. I hope this post helped you think about your process, outcome, and dream goals for 2016!

Let me know what your goals are in the comments. If you have suggestions on how I can optimize my goals, please let me know.

I hope your 2015 was amazing, productive, and rewarding. Best of luck in 2016!

-Cheers!

Matt

photo CC credits Celestine Chua

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