Having goals is the fundamental key to success. You have to know where you want to go before you can aim for it.The vision/mission/goal setting stage of any business plan is possibly the most important and should be the most inspirational. It is the time to think about what you really want to do and why you want to do it. What will it feel like when you have achieved it? When done well it is a beautiful, exciting, glittery thing that you should be proud of and return to frequently. We’re talking jumping out of bed in the morning because you’re so keen to get started and make it happen.
Setting goals just requires a little thought and a bit of soul searching, but they are just thoughts. They won’t achieve themselves. Regardless of how creative, relevant or important your goals seem when you write them down they are a list. They only come alive when they are incorporated into an action plan.
An Action Plan that finds it’s drive from your emotions
In essence, it is a slightly more glamorous “To Do” list. But turn it into an Action Plan that finds it’s drive from your emotions and it provides the motivation to move forward and keep going until you achieve all your objectives. If you know what you’re moving towards, you’ll find ways to make it happen. An action plan is still a to-do list, but with a twist. Your “to-dos” are divided into categories, and each category is a goal you want to achieve.
Break each goal down into smaller, specific and manageable steps that you and others will know exactly how you can achieve your vision. Tasks can often appear boring or seem pointless but knowing where and why your work fits in can be helpful. Taking an extra 10 seconds to write a couple of sentences can affect the quality and enthusiasm of execution.
“Write a best-selling book”, or “Create a family friendly petting farm” or “Get fit” all sound like exciting ideas. They are great goals but left on their own they are just sparkly bangles with no substance. To achieve the end results you are looking for there needs to be a series of specific and measurable actions.
Create and maintain momentum
Most people who have been around in business for a while have heard about SMART goals. Blanchard used the term in his 1985 book “Leadership and The One Minute Manager”. The term “specific measurable goals” was apparently used by engineers in the 60’s. In the last few years, it has become even more popular. It can be inflexible for long term target, but for most purposes, it is an easily actionable method of setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable Relevant and Timely goals to guide progress.
Specific – write down exactly what you want to achieve in small steps. How are you going to achieve each mini-goal and what obstacles might need to be overcome. The more specific you make each stage, the easier it will be to create a progress-based plan. And make them compelling and inspiring too. For instance, each of our examples above will need some research, so beak that down. What questions need answering, who will you ask and how will you carry out the research – online, face to face questions, mail chimp survey etc.
Measurable – When do you know you’re done? How do you pace yourself? Having one large, shiny goal is fine, as long as you have plenty of smaller, mini-goals that help you measure how you’re doing. If you want to create a website the steps might be, source designers, get quotes, plan content, write 2 blogs, photograph product etc.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable Relevant and Timely
Achievable – Setting out-of-reach goals is often a major demotivator. “Have website by end of the month” if you haven’t yet found a designer you like or decided what topics you will display is probably unreasonable.
Relevant – Make sure your goal is moving you toward your end objective or vision. If you want to create your petting zoo learning to become a bricklayer might be a handy skill, but does it bring you closer to your goal. Would sourcing local trades people be a better use of your time?
Timely – Establish deadlines. You’ll get a sense of urgency that way, which can make your time management more efficient. Ideally work backwards and decide when you must have that mini-goal finished by so that it doesn’t hold anyone or anything else up. Don’t forget to allow an extra bit of time as a cushion – allow sufficient time or you’ll be beating yourself up for failing to hit targets. Another demotivator.
Having this level of clarity puts power behind your goals and ensures you can measure your progress more often and take new actions.
Once you know what you want to achieve and how exactly you are going to do it try to do one or two things every day that bring you closer to achieving your end goal. Like the “Salami technique”, eating a whole kilo salami sausage in one sitting is not appetising, you need to cut it into thin slices. In the same way, you won’t be so overwhelmed by a huge list if you take it a small piece at a time.
When you have two frogs to eat, eat the ugliest one first
Often repeated words from Mark Twain, if you eat a live frog each day for breakfast, nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day. Or get the thing you really don’t want to do over and done first. If you leave the worst till last you’ll have it constantly nagging in the back of your head. Get it over and done with quickly and it’s all downhill from there. The rest of your day can be spent doing things that are fun – or at least less difficult.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” -Dwight Eisenhower
1. Allocate everything on your list to one of the boxes.
2. Focus on box 1 NOW. These tasks are time sensitive and provide value to your end Goal. Everything else can be scheduled.
3. Everything in box 2 and 3 can be scheduled in your calendar.
4. Consider dropping everything in box 4 These tasks are not worth your time. If you can’t get rid of them schedule a time to look at the list again at a later date or delegate.
Emotion Drives Action
Productivity can completely overlook the emotional reason for getting things done. Word your action plan to include phrases that reflect your shiny end goal. Identify your purpose, why do you want it? What will it bring you? You’ll find energy in your emotion and that’s what’s doing the driving.
Create a Vision Board
A visual reminder of what the big picture is and why you are doing it is a great way to keep motivated. Giving context about the task, place a vision board near your desk or on a wall that you walk past several times a day. It should contain photographs, colour swatches, drawings, pages torn from magazines and great quotes. It might be things directly connected to your project or rewards you will get by achieving your goals – like holidays, a new wardrobe or a new car.
Spending time scrabbling around trying to figure out what you need to do next is a waste of time and energy. You will feel your motivation draining away. Jump out of bed each morning with your day already planned and you are ahead of the game. Keep your goals focused; big yet obtainable. Know your strengths, avoid your weaknesses and invest all your valuable time and effort moving toward your goal. Make it happen!
As always your comments are most welcome.