How to Handle New Performance Targets at Work

14 Mar ‘23
4 min
Work performance
Annemarie Andre
Reviewed by psychologist Eva Rüger
Girl putting her head on the desk, behind her a dart
You’ve got no idea how you’re going to achieve your new targets at work. Everyone feels that way sometimes. High-performance targets don’t always encourage us to give our best. Quite often they leave us feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated.


In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to manage these challenges better. We’ll also show you a few tools and exercises from psychologist Eva Rüger that will help you to muster up some positive energy again.


Why targets are useful and can even help you


How do you feel about performance targets? Do you find them a useful source of guidance or do you think management just invents them for no real reason? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by new targets, you first need to check in with yourself. 


Ask yourself how you feel about performance targets and where these feelings come from. Maybe the reason you find new targets so overwhelming is that you’ve had negative experiences in the past. Or maybe you have imposter syndrome – a little voice in your head that keeps saying that you’re not good enough


Take some time to figure out what’s behind your feelings and return to your new targets with a fresh outlook. Remember that targets can be useful and they may even help you to prioritise and organise your work better. Further advantages of targets:


  • You can focus on the most important tasks
  • They create clarity between management and employees
  • They lead to personal and professional growth
  • They promote individual responsibility and motivation


Ideally, constructive performance targets will boost your motivation and ultimately allow you to appreciate and celebrate your successes. And even if you don’t achieve them, you’ll most likely get closer to your targets than if you’d simply carried on the way you were before. 


However, in order for you to able to work towards pre-determined targets feeling fully motivated, there’s one vital pre-requisite: targets need to be realistic and achievable.


📚 See also: Are You Feeling Overwhelmed at Work? Here’s What You Can Do When Everything Gets Too Much

Mindfulness practice: touching hands

When you’re feeling agitated, mindfulness can help you to manage your feelings and calm yourself down again. Try one of psychologist Eva Rüger’s favourite exercises:


  1. Hold your left hand in front of your chest. You can close your eyes or let your gaze wander (to your hand). 
  2. Now take your right index finger and guide it to the side of your hand. 
  3. Slowly begin to trace your right finger along your left hand, slowly moving it up and down the outside of your fingers. Try to fully focus on the sensations in your hands caused by the touch. 
  4. Once you’ve finished with your left hand, you can switch hands and do the same on the other side. 
  5. You may feel an urge to move faster or your mind might start to drift off. Simply notice this and know that it’s totally normal and an important part of our mindfulness practice.

What healthy targets look like


If you feel overwhelmed by the targets you’ve been set, it’s worth first taking a step back and examining them closely. “It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. In order to calm down again and refuel your energy, it first helps to identify that you’re feeling overwhelmed,” says psychologist Eva Rüger. 


“Try to remove yourself from the situation (both mentally and physically). Step away from your desk or, if possible, go outside on your lunch break and get some fresh air,” recommends Rüger, continuing: “Once you feel calm again, you can look back at your performance targets and start to scrutinise them.” 


You can ask the following questions: Are these targets achievable? Do I know the reason for these targets? How clear and tangible are the steps it would take to achieve these targets? 


Bear in mind here: A McKinsey study found that employees see performance targets as fair and effective when they meet these three requirements: 

  1. Individual targets are linked to company targets 
  2. Effective coaching measures are given 
  3. Employees are compensated for meeting targets 


If something isn’t clear to you, it might help to talk things through with your manager. 

💡This might help too: How to Handle (Acute) Stress at Work

Mindfulness exercise: name colours

When you’re feeling agitated, mindfulness can help you to manage your feelings and calm yourself down again. Try one of psychologist Eva Rüger’s favourite exercises:


  1. Wherever you are, take a look around. 
  2. Pay attention to the colours surrounding you. 
  3. Can you see anything green? Anything blue? Anything red? Can you identify different shades of these colours? Something light green, something dark green?

Tips for achieving constructive targets


After you’ve taken time to calm down again after that initial wave of overwhelm, you can start to forge plans for achieving your new targets.

These tips will help you here: 


1. Make your targets as specific as possible


When discussing your targets with your manager, make sure that they are as specific as possible. “Targets like do something better, more or less can quickly become a bit vague and this makes it hard to define that first step and to precede accordingly,” says psychologist Rüger. If you’re finding it hard to make a goal tangible then answer the following questions: What will be different when I’ve achieved the target? How will I know that I’ve hit my target? How will other people know that I’ve achieved it?


2. Divide the target into individual steps


Performance targets that stretch over a long period of time can be particularly overwhelming. Therefore, try to divide big targets into as small steps as possible. Psychologist Rüger: “Keep these partial targets feasible and ask yourself what the first step is that you can take towards the goal today, even if it’s just something small.”


3. Prioritise your tasks


Which of the tasks that you accomplish over the course of a working day really contribute towards achieving your target? Well-known methods, such as the Pareto Principle might help you to assign value to your various tasks and to put unimportant tasks on the back burner if they aren’t helping you to achieve your targets. “Asking for the why behind your targets not only helps you to find the right drive, energy and motivation to complete your tasks, it also helps you to prioritise your individual tasks,” says Rüger.


4. Communicate your targets and create accountability


When it comes to private goals, it can help to involve other people and create accountability. Eva Rüger: “In a professional context, that means managing expectations. Challenges which deadlines are realistic and what you need from other people to achieve these targets.”


5. Plan ahead


Good time management is obviously important for any project. Remember that you won’t have the same amount of time and energy each week, so plan ahead. According to psychologist Eva Rüger, it’s also important to tackle one target at a time. This way you can focus your attention and energy on what’s right in front of you.”



If you’ve reached the end of this article, but you’re still concerned about meeting workplace demands, then don’t panic. At Spaces to OpenUp, you can sign up for interactive group sessions on topics like “setting healthy boundaries”, and benefit from sharing your experiences with other people.

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