Eight Absurdly Simple Tips for Reaching Your Business Goals Next Year
Year end planning is my favorite nerd holiday.
On the scale of exciting things for me it’s in the top 5, right up there with new fuzzy socks and pizza nights. I like to drag it out for a month or two, use 3-4 Google Docs and a spreadsheet, and actually plan my planning sessions. As one does.
I know not everyone gets as excited about planning as I do, but if you’re an entrepreneur you know it’s a necessary evil. Especially the goal setting part.
The downside of not having a boss telling us what we should be focusing on, is that we have to make those decisions ourselves and hope we chose right. Add the fact that most of us feel pulled in a dozen different directions daily; between clients, marketing, planning ahead, looking back, paying bills, blogging, learning new software, and the million other things we do, and it can be hard to see the forest for the trees some weeks.
Setting clear goals helps you put some of your daily decisions on autopilot. You can decide where you want to end up, draw yourself a map, and create guidelines to help you navigate past all the other things fighting for your attention. If your goal for the first quarter of 2017 is to put out a course (Hey! Me too!), then you know you should pay attention to opportunities involving course creation and marketing, while safely ignoring opportunities to start Alpaca farms or knit chicken sweaters. You're deciding in advance where you should be focusing for the next few months. Future you thanks you for that by the way.
Since I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error in the planning department over the last 6-7 years I thought I’d share some nuggets of wisdom with you while I'm deep in planning mode and they’re fresh on my mind. As with any advice, keep what works for you, forget the rest, and you’ll still be ahead just for thinking about where you want to go and how you want to get there!
Now, here are eight absurdly simple tips, tricks, and advice to help make next year a game changer for your business.
1. Let your past guide you, Grasshoppa.
Start your planning session by looking back over at least the last year and learning what lessons you can from it. Write down any milestones, accomplishments, and disappointments you had. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s the tricky part… while you’re dredging up the list of what didn’t work, don’t let yourself be consumed by it. This isn’t a pity party, this is how you take those unmet expectations and turn them into your GPS coordinates for next year.
Start asking yourself questions… why didn’t I meet my income goal? What could I have done differently to get a better result? Did I excel in another area that I didn’t plan on? The answers might surprise you.
2. Focus on the big picture.
Where do you want to be in five or ten years? If you don’t know where you’re going it’s going to be really hard to get there. Figure out where you want to end up and work backwards to determine what you need to do to get there.
3. Don’t go overboard.
It’s ridiculously easy to set a goal. We would all love to learn Cantonese, lose 25lbs, write a book, and adopt 3 ferrets, but sadly you can’t do it all at once. Try to keep it to one or two goals each in the main areas: Health, Finances, Career or Business, Self Development, Spiritual, Family, and Recreation. Or whatever areas are most important to YOU, this is your life my dear.
4. Stay in your lane.
If you’re setting goals based on where you think you should be at this point in your life, or where other people tell you to take your business, you’re probably going to fail. You’ll either not achieve the goal because it’s not something you feel in your heart, or worse, you’ll wake up one day and realize you’ve spent your time working towards achieving the wrong goal to begin with. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of your goal, it's yours.
5. Think a little bigger, but be realistic.
I’m probably going to piss off some motivational speakers here, but for the love of Earl try to be realistic with your goal setting. Your goal should feel far enough outside your comfort zone to challenge you, but possible enough that with a little work you can find a path leading you there. You need to be able to break your goal down into chunks, and one of those chunks shouldn’t start with “Win the lottery”.
6. Break it down into manageable chunks.
I like to consider myself kind of a nerdy free spirit. I want to plan everything to the Nth degree, but at the same time I’m never completely sure where I’ll be living in 12 months. So my new favorite way to plan is to start out with a big picture look at where I want to end up, and keep the precision planning to what needs to be done in next 90 days. Then I can break those chunks down even farther to monthly, weekly, and daily plans. It’s less overwhelming and also gives you quicker wins (and a “new” goal every 3 months!).
7. Remember why you started.
I get how cheesy this one is, really, but it’s so friggin true. First off, never set a goal without knowing why you’re setting it. Do you want to create a course because you want to help more people than you can with one-to-one services? Or because it seems like the thing everyone is doing right now? Hint: One of those answers is a terrible reason to create anything. Make sure your why is important enough to keep you motivated when the path doesn’t look so clear, as well as when the new season of Walking Dead comes out on Netflix.
8. Be consistent, but flexible.
This one is for after the planning session ends and you have to actually take action. If you’ve set the right goals and laid out some kind of plan to get there your odds of success are high, even if you drew your map in crayon.
Consistent action over time guarantees results.
On the flip side of that, take some time every month or at least once a quarter to check in on your goals and make sure you’re still going the right direction. I’ve realized halfway through the year that I was working towards a goal I no longer cared about. Sometimes you set a goal in one area and work your arse off only to realize the Universe wants you to get your health in order first. Or maybe you set too many goals and by March you're floundering and have to prune your list. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you're taking action, you're moving in the right direction, and your flexible enough to yell "Plot twist!" and move on.
Taking a few days at the end of the year to step out of the everyday hustle is like stopping to put the address in your GPS before you start driving down the road. It saves you time and frustration in the long run, and you greatly reduce the risk of looking up one day and realizing you’re not where you wanted to go at all.