Timelines can help you achieve success

When we are busy focussing on our own career we often forget to look backwards at how far we have come. Timelines can help you achieve success if you use them in the right way.

I am writing this article a couple of days after my birthday (yes that’s crazy eyed me on my first birthday!).

Birthdays are always a good point in the year to reflect on how far you have come, and what you have achieved with your life so far. It isn’t a moment to put undue pressure on yourself! It is a time to appreciate all that you have done, to get where you are right now.

We forget that when we entered this world we didn’t know anything. We had to learn how to blow out that candle on the cake until eventually we were baking our own. It is the same with your career path. We gaze lovingly at the people who are ahead of us and believe that we can never do as well as them.

Not only is this damaging to your self confidence, but you also have no idea whether they have had help to get where they are today, or have grown up with family members to help them into the industry.

It is important to focus on your own path. In this week’s podcast I talk through ways that you can do this, and how to use timelines to plot out- not only where you have been, but where you are heading as well.

How to use timelines for your projects

Using timelines for your projects can really help you to focus, but also help you prepare for when you might need some help, or a financial loan. Here are some key ways of using them for your projects.

  1. Start with the end. By starting with the end you have something to aim for. You often know the date deadline for the project (even if it is a moveable one). Plot this date at the end and then work backwards plotting all of the important deadlines on the timeline.
  2. Branches. Branches along the timeline can help you to focus on particular elements of a project. You might add a branch for finance or meetings, or even for skills & training. If you find branches unmanageable you can work this out with a flowchart or post-it-notes. The important thing is to get everything that you need to do to complete the project, down onto the timeline.
  3. Be realistic! We often think that we can complete something in less time than we actually need. It is better to deliver something to a client on time and unstressed, than to sprint to the end- which is when mistakes are made or bad relationships arrive. By plotting the project out on a timeline before you start, you can see if you need more time or physical help to get the project done. Better to over estimate than underestimate!

How to use timelines for your career

Using timelines for your career is similar for projects, the only difference is the scale of time between the milestone points that you plot.

  1. Start with an end goal. Where do you want your career to be in 2, 3 or 5 years time? If you don’t have a goal you have nothing to aim for. It is important to have a goal, no matter how ambitious it is-even if it feels like a dream one. If we don’t have dream goals, we have no goals! You might surprise yourself and find your dreams become a reality…
  2. Plot the milestones you have already achieved. By looking backwards you can see how far you actually have come. We often forget the smaller achievements or accomplishments that we have made, because we are so focussed on moving forward. It is important to remember them, especially when you feel the comparison killer strikes and you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else in your field.
  3. Mark small goals on the timeline. We need a big goal to aim for, but it is also important to remember the smaller goals that are going to help us get there. They might be moments when we learn a new skill, or an apprenticeship that you want to take, or a special research retreat. These small goals keep you going when the end goal feels far way.
  4. Have a buddy system! Having a buddy or friend to help you on your way is invaluable. You can help each other to stay focussed or remind each other of what you have achieved so far. Sometimes you might want the support of a community like Creative Women International  rather than one friend.There are lots of places to find support. When you work for yourself, it is important not to isolate yourself. You might discover that there is a whole community ready to welcome you with open arms and be cheerleaders for you!

The key to using timelines is to plot them out in a way that works for you- Whether that is on paper, large post-it-notes stuck to your bedroom wall, or organised on spreadsheets. Everyone thinks and plans differently, so it is important that you find a way that works for you.

I have set you a challenge at the end of the podcast to plot your own timeline for your career. Let me know in the comments below what your big goal is that you are aiming for. We might be able to help you on your way!