In my last post, “The 3 Steps Every Business Owner Should Take At Year-End” I touched on goal-setting and how you can use your analysis of your business over the current year to set actionable plans to meet next year’s goals, but in this post I want to dive into the meat of goal-setting and break it down into very clear, actionable steps.
I’ll be the first to say it – I’m not a big fan of goal setting. Maybe that’s because I don’t think I’m good at it, or maybe it’s because I get frustrated that setting goals sometimes feels so damn arbitrary. Do you ever feel that way?
Here’s the thing, though. Goal setting does have its place in business, and I do think it’s an important part of the year-end process. I just don’t think it needs to be overwhelming, or hard, or the ONLY thing you focus on when you’re rolling into a new year. To help combat some of the frustration around setting goals, I’ve laid out my 3 favorite tips for setting goals that matter and will actually make a difference in your business.
Make Them SMART
I’m a huge fan of “SMART” goals – ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. So what exactly do each of these mean? Let’s break them down:
When it comes to goal setting, be as specific and descriptive as possible. Instead of saying that you want to grow your e-mail list, say that you want to grow your e-mail list by 500 subscribers every month for the next 12 months.
Goals that can’t be measured are pointless – there’s no way to track them, so there’s no way to see how close you are to achieving them. Break your goal down into measurable elements – instead of saying “I want to be happy” say “I want to work out every other day” because you know that working out makes you happy. You can track how often you work out; you can’t track your happiness.
Is your goal possible? At what cost? Remember that achieving our goals takes energy, effort, motivation, time, money and talent – if you are lacking in any of these (or especially if you’re lacking in a few of them), reaching that goal will be that much harder. So don’t just ask yourself if the goal is possible (“It’s possible I can build a 7-figure business this year”); ask yourself if you have all of the inputs to make that goal happen.
This is where you really get to the WHY of your goal. If your goal is to get that promotion but deep down you really want to pivot in your career and pursue a different industry, then that goal is probably not that relevant to you and your desires. Drill down – what do you want to accomplish (and why) and will this goal really get you there?
Timely or Time-Bound
Without deadlines, your goals will likely peter out. Make sure that you set a reasonable deadline and that everything required to achieve your goal can be accomplished within that timeframe. Time constraints are important to instill a sense of urgency, but don’t set yourself up for failure – make sure your timeline is actually doable.
Make Them Short Term
I once heard someone say that goals are what you’re going to accomplish in the next 3-6 months, while your vision is what you want to happen beyond that. From the moment I heard this, it’s absolutely stuck in my mind because it speaks to what I hate about goal setting. Too often, especially in young businesses, so much emphasis is placed on setting goals that are in fact arbitrary or are not supported by historical data and analysis.
If you are starting out in your business or only have a few months or perhaps a year to look back on, it’s difficult to figure out the best goals (especially when it comes to revenue) because you have no clue what the next few months, let alone the next year, will bring. That’s the “fun” of a new business, but it’s what makes goal setting so hard at that stage.
Even if you’re not new in business, you may have unexpected opportunities or roadblocks come your way that can derail even the perfectly planned goal – and this isn’t always a bad thing. For example, you might start down the coaching path but then through feedback from your community discover mid-year that they really want you to create a course. Doing this will likely mean a shift in goals, and that’s OK as long as it aligns with your overall strategy – your overall WHY.
That’s why I like to look at my goals in shorter bunches, with an overall vision for the year. For example, my goals and vision for my business this year might look something like this:
Vision: Build out several streams of passive income with a focus on automating as much as possible in my business so that I can focus on creating quality content and serving my community.
Notice how in the above vision, I didn’t get specific and I didn’t set any specific milestones. I did, however, set a clear intention for what I want to accomplish this year, which can then be broken down into achievable goals.
- Grow my e-mail list by 1,000 subscribers every month for the next 6 months, so that when I launch my first course in the summer, I will be able to achieve my sales/revenue goal.
- Create and produce my first digital course by June 1st, with the goal of achieving 100 sales within the first 30 days of the launch.
Notice how both of my goals meet the SMART criteria – they are certainly specific and measurable, and if I have a solid action plan for creating the course and marketing strategy in place for both the list building and selling the course, then they are likely attainable. They are VERY relevant to my overall vision of creating passive income for my business, and I have time-bound them by setting deadlines (which I will drill down on in my action plan). More importantly, I have aligned them with each other – using average e-commerce course conversion rates, I’ve calculated that I’ll probably need 5,000 – 6,000 people on my e-mail list in order to sell 100 courses, so my list-building goals aren’t arbitrary.
But more importantly, notice that I’ve only focused on the first 6 months. I have my overall vision for the year, and I have my goals for the next 6 months. This allows me to hone in on exactly what it is I need to accomplish to get to that next milestone – launching my course. Then, I’ll work on a whole new set of goals.
So that I always have something on the horizon, I like to check in with my goals monthly (to make sure I’m on track) and actually review the goals themselves quarterly. At these quarterly goals reviews, I start to craft the goals for the next 3-6 month period. This way, my goals are always created based on what is actually happening in my business at that time, and not some faraway vision for my business that could end up looking very different than I imagine.
Come Back To Your Why
I touched on this when we talked about relevant goals, but if your goals don’t align with your why, they’re likely not going to get you very far. What do I mean by this? Here’s an example:
My Why: Build a business based on passive income so that I can enjoy the freedom to create quality content while still serving a community of creative entrepreneurs who are looking to leave their 9-5s and build businesses they love.
Goal: Earn $100,000 this year in revenues.
Disconnect: Earning $100,000 this year in revenues doesn’t necessarily accomplish any of the aspects in my vision – it doesn’t necessarily give me the freedom to create content and it doesn’t necessarily help me serve a community I care about. While it could do these things, the goal alone is not really aligned with my why.
Better Goal: Create and sell a course that provides me with $100,000 in revenues through 100 sales so that I can focus on creating quality content for my community of creative entrepreneurs, to continue to serve them and empower them to leave their 9-5s and create businesses they love.
Connect: This amended goal more clearly aligns with my why – it still talks about the revenue that I need, but instead of making my goal to earn $100,000 in revenue, my goal goes beyond that – it speaks to creating a course and additional content that serves my audience and fulfills my vision.
I know how tough goal-setting (and achieving) can be but I truly believe that if you set SMART goals, keep them in the short-term and align them with your why, creating them, and achieving them, will be easier, more fun and more impactful for your business in the long run.