How to balance daily tasks and reach your long-term career goals

Jun 2, 2022

Is your job getting in the way of the career you want?

A topic which comes up a lot in my coaching sessions is how to balance your long-term career goals with the demands of your current role.

Like one client put it, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘hamster wheel’ of daily tasks – and forget to allocate time to your long-term priorities. Especially when the pace of change in the past couple of years has forced us to focus on fighting fires and short-term strategy.

As this client experienced, thinking short-term led them to put their employer first. In the process, they completely neglected their own development and career goals. Had they not addressed this, it could have hindered their ability to reach their long-term goals and limited them to whatever path their organisation offered them.

Because when you dedicate a small amount of time to working on your long-term career priorities… you will start dreaming bigger and design the career you really want.

Here are five ways to balance your to-do list or short-term job responsibilities so you can achieve your big career goals. 

#1 — UNDERSTAND YOUR PRIORITIES

If you’re anything like me, you set huge goals for yourself and remain dedicated to reaching them. But here’s the truth…

Despite the best intentions, there are times when I become so overwhelmed with the size of the goals in front of me, I procrastinate. Or I’ll focus on small, unimportant tasks.

Can you relate? I’ve noticed this is common amongst my high-achieving clients, especially for those of us who struggle with perfectionism.

Ticking these ‘easy’ items of your to-do list may give you an immediate hit of achievement — yet it’s always short-lived. Then as the weeks (and months) go by, you realise you’ve made little headway on your most critical projects. As I write this, I’ve recommitted to two big projects I’ve been talking about – and procrastinating on – for years!

However, when you are clear on your priorities and break them down into small steps… You will take meaningful action and accomplish your long-term career goals.

#2 — REALISE OVERWHELM IS A SIGN YOU LACK CLARITY

Overwhelmed with your daily to-do list? Can’t figure out where to start with working towards your long term goals? Let’s look closer at why you’re overwhelmed and how to get unstuck.

Assuming you know what your goals are, overwhelm indicates you haven’t broken them down into small enough steps.

Start by mapping out all the key milestones for each project you’re working on. These are the specific tasks and action steps you need to take to complete it. Begin with the first task and if you get stuck, ask yourself: What’s the next best step I can take right now?

When you focus on the first step, you will be one degree closer to your long term goal.

#3 — DO THE THING THAT CREATES DISCOMFORT

What if you’re clear on your goal and know it’s important — but for some reason you keep putting it off? You’re procrastinating because something is uncomfortable.

Sometimes the discomfort comes from having to do a task you dislike. In this case, keep the big picture in mind. Focus on why you’re working towards this goal and realise there will always be aspects you won’t enjoy.

For instance, I put off creating videos for ages, because I’m not good with technology and don’t love video editing. But it was more important to me to share my knowledge with others and get my message out there in video format.

More often though, a task is difficult because there is fear attached to it. You’re trying something new and are afraid of failing or what others will think.

The best way through fear is to do the thing you’re afraid of. In his book ‘Eat That Frog’, Brian Tracy recommends completing the biggest, most important or uncomfortable task at the start of each day.

Because when you move into action… you will overcome any resistance, build confidence and accomplish your goals over time.

#4 — SCHEDULE TIME FOR SELF-REFLECTION

One of the most overlooked steps is allocating regular time to career planning. In my experience, most people do this once or twice a year as they prepare for a performance review. Others wait until they’re looking for a new job.

You set your goals — and may even put some tasks on your to-do list to make them happen. Yet as soon as you’ve spoken to your boss about a pay-rise or sent out a few job applications, you forget about your goals until your next review or job move.

But career planning isn’t something you can do once, set and forget.

I truly believe it’s critical to make time each month to check in on your career. As Marie Forleo says, ‘if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t real’.

What are your career goals? If you’re unsure, use this space to figure it out. Reflect on your progress towards your career goals and create a plan you can take action on in the next month.

Because when you schedule regular time for self-reflection, you will reach your career goals.

#5 — ALLOCATE TIME FOR ACTION

It’s also vital to put time in your calendar to implement your career plan. Diarise at least an hour a week to take action towards your long-term goals, even if you’re happy in your current role. If you’re working towards a big professional goal such as a promotion, career change or finding a new job, carve out fifteen minutes a day.

Here’s how to balance this with your existing workload. To manage your daily work responsibilities, I recommend identifying your top three tasks and number one priority to work on the next day. Treat the steps you take towards your long-term career goals in the same way, by prioritising them daily.

Think about it this way. Completing one task per week related to your long-term priorities is better than doing nothing for the next six months. Because when you take small steps over time, you will get to where you want to be, faster.

Here’s a challenge for you… What one specific action will you take this week to get one step closer to your long-term career goals? Schedule it in your calendar now.

These tips have helped my clients and I balance our daily tasks and long-term career goals. I hope they support you too!

Want my help to reach your big career goals? Let’s chat!

Click HERE to book a free 30 minute consult and we’ll work out the best option for you.

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.