If you read my post on doing a year-end review that actually improves your business, you know: I really effed up my 2016 business objectives.
My excuse was valid. It was my first year in business and I was clueless. That said, I knew how to set New Year’s resolutions that stick, but couldn’t seem to transfer that same logic to my professional objectives. Brilliant, I know.
So this year, I’m getting serious about setting real goals for my biz and-- here’s the kicker-- actually putting strategies in place to achieve them. Because it’s great to do all this fun planning at the beginning of the year. But if your meticulously-set goals just sit in an Excel file for the year (like mine did), they aren’t actually helping you move forward.
1. Start with a brainstorm
If you’re anything like me (or any other creative, heart-driven entrepreneur), you have more ideas than you know what to do with. You have ideas about blog posts, ideas about videos, ideas about products and webinars and workshops.
And don’t forget about all the personal development ideas swirling around in your head: miracle mornings and journaling and volunteering, and, and, and….
It’s a mess up there, so step one is a brain dump. Get ALL THE IDEAS out of your head (or out of the six different notebooks you use to capture all these ideas) and onto one sheet of paper.
I did this with mind-mapping, which was a great way to get my ideas organized into categories while still keeping the creativity flowing. I was able to fit all of my ideas and goals for both my business and personal life on one page-- which helped me see my year at a glance.
Having all your ideas laid out in front of you will give you the big-picture view you need to start planning.
2. Set yearly goals (and make sure they're SMART )
You know this already: the best goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. So the next step is to look at your brain dump and pick out a few desired outcomes that you can turn into SMART goals for the year.
Examples might be:
- Annual revenue
- Number of people on your email list
- Number of clients or contracts
- Number of products sold
Really, you’re looking for the big, overarching goals that will guide your business next year. At the end of the year, you should be able to measure your progress against those goals and know exactly how successful your business was.
Something to keep in mind: there’s a difference between an outcome goal and a strategy.
A goal is what you want to achieve, a strategy is how you’re going to achieve it.
For example, I was tempted to write, “Attend two networking events a month,” as a goal. But then I realized that attending two networking events a month wouldn’t help me determine whether or not my business was successful-- it was a strategy to make it more successful.
Still having trouble? For every goal, ask “Why?” If the answer is, “To help me reach that other goal,” it’s probably a strategy.
3. Break ‘em down into 90-day goals (but only for next quarter)
I’m a massive fan of 90-day goals. Three months is a long enough timeframe to focus your effort, test and adjust, and not get completely overwhelmed. But it’s also short enough to create that sense of urgency you (and I) need to stay motivated.
90 days is long enough to get big things done, but short enough that you can't procrastinate.
So look at your annual goals and ask yourself:
- What do I need to achieve in the next three months that will get me 25% (or more) of the way to my yearly goals?
- What do I need to focus on in the next 90 days that will set me up for success for rest of the year?
- What foundational work do I need to start with to reach my big goals?
- What is priority, or time-sensitive and can only be done in the next three months?
For example, one of my goals is to create an online program in the next year. When I set my goals for next quarter around that, I didn’t say, “Do 25% of my e-course.” Nope, I listed out the steps I'd need to take to make it happen. The ones I need to do first became quarterly goals.
4. Plan out your strategy
Ok, now’s the time for the strategy planning. Go back to your brain dump and pull out all your “how’s”: the marketing tasks, networking, client outreach, etc. Look at your quarterly goals and connect each “how” to a goal.
Have some homeless “how’s” that don’t really fit under any goals? Ask yourself: do I really need to do this?
Maybe that particular strategy or task isn’t a priority. Maybe it can wait until next quarter. Maybe it can be stricken from the list completely.
If it isn’t clear why you’re doing something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
5. Organize your strategies into to-do lists
By now, you should be feeling pretty badass. You know exactly what you want to achieve and you know exactly how to achieve it. Now it’s just a matter of doing the damn work.
Doing the damn work is my Achilles Heel, so the way I fight my procrastinating nature and get things done is by getting hyper organized. To do the same, look at your strategies and organize them into five buckets:
- Daily tasks
- Weekly tasks
- Every two weeks tasks
- Monthly tasks
- Quarterly tasks
And don’t forget your personal development! If you want to meditate every day or run once a week or dedicate an hour a day to reading blogs (I don’t recommend that), put it on the list!
Think of this task list as your regular business maintenance-- like brushing your teeth or getting your hair cut. They are the tasks that will hopefully become habits to keep you constantly moving towards your goals.
Because going after the big goals starts with the little, daily habits.
While your daily priorities will shift and you'll have other goals around projects, these smaller tasks will help you stay consistent.
6. Set goals and schedule tasks
Phase 2 of doing the damn work is using your task list and goals to set your daily, weekly and monthly priorities. That sounds like a lot of planning, but I promise it’s painless. Here’s how to do it.
At the beginning of each month, block 30 minutes in your calendar (go ahead and do it now!) to plan out your goals for the month.
During that planning time, look at your quarterly goals and break them down into what needs to be done in the next 30 days. Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish and readjust your goals if necessary.
While you’re planning your monthly goals, go ahead and schedule in when you’re going to do your monthly and quarterly tasks. If you don’t schedule it, you’re not likely to do it-- so block your calendar now. Remember, you set those maintenance tasks because they’ll help you achieve your business goals, so don’t let them get pushed to the backburner and pile up.
Setting your weekly goals will look a lot like your monthly goals, only even more task-oriented.
Take 10 minutes every Sunday night or Monday morning (I do it Monday morning while I’m having my coffee) to set the tasks you need to do that week that will help you achieve your monthly goals. While you’re at it, schedule in your weekly and bi-weekly maintenance tasks so you have it all in your calendar.
I’ve written before about the 5-minute secret to getting shit done. Essentially, you want to take 3 minutes each morning to write out your three priorities (and only three!) and schedule them in your calendar.
Start your day with the most important task and stay focused on your priorities. If you get all three of them done, move on to your daily maintenance tasks-- but only after you do those priorities.
That’s the hardest part: staying focused on the real work without getting distracted. I'm not saying ignore your maintenance tasks, but:
If you’re spending the bulk of your time on maintenance, you’re not moving forward.
Because that’s the point of this entire exercise: growing your business-- and yourself.
It’s setting goals that are meaningful to you. Working towards something you desperately want. Actually getting the thing done that you put off all last year.
But whatever your goals are, just know one thing: you got this.