It’s that special time of the year for entrepreneurs around the world…
Time to reflect (and hopefully celebrate) what you’ve accomplished over the past 365 days and time to start planning what you’re going to accomplish over the coming year.
Unfortunately many of the well meaning individuals who invest the time to set goals with the best of intentions and pursue them with gusto will unknowingly set goals that are either a) meaningless or b) not achievable.
To help you avoid these goal setting traps I’m going to share my top five goal setting ‘rules’. These are the goal setting rules I have used to grow multiple seven figure Internet businesses over my career.
Now these rules may seem like common sense, but despite their simplicity many of the goals I see from the entrepreneurs I coach through both EntrepreneurLab.com and my Mastermind groups break one or more of these rules.
So here goes…
Rule #1: Measurable
This is the rule I see broken most often. Goals that have no defined ‘finish line’. For example…
- Increase gross sales
- Spend more time with my family
- Lose weight
- Grow my database
Here’s the problem with these goals:
If you increase sales by $1, spend 5 minutes more per week with your family, lose half a pound, or get 5 new opt-ins over the next 365 days – you can mark these goals as ‘accomplished’ – but did they really create any meaningful change in your business and/or life?
The first rule of goal setting is ensuring your goals have a measurable finish line and in most cases there are two questions you need to ask to define the finish line:
Defining Question #1: How much?
Most meaningful goals have a quantifiable outcome…
- How much do you want to increase sales by?
- How much more time are you going to spend with your family?
- How much weight are you going to lose?
… you get the point!
Defining Question #2: By when?
Every goal needs a deadline and although the end of the year may be the deadline for some of your goals, it is not going to be the deadline for every goal you set.
For example if you want to lose 10lbs in 2015, leaving the deadline wide open until the end of the year is ridiculous since even if you were only losing .5lbs per week, you could achieve your goal by the beginning of June. So here is how I would write this goal…
“Lose a total of 10lbs at .5lbs per week to reach my ideal body weight of 175lbs by June 1st and then maintain my ideal body weight of 175lbs for the balance of 2015″
So in summary, every goal should have a clearly defined finish line. There should not be any gray area. The outcome should be black or white. You either hit it or you didn’t.
Rule #2: Meaningful
Are your goals meaningful? If you accomplish the goals you have outlined for the coming year will they really make the difference in your business/life that you desire?
I think the least meaningful strategic goals entrepreneurs and businesses set for themselves are revenue/profit goals (i.e. We are going to make $XXX,XXX,XXX in gross revenue in 2015).
Now don’t get me wrong, your business lives and dies by the the money you make so obviously you want to make as much money as possible, but the amount of money you want to make is NOT the goal.
The meaningful goals are the things you need to do in your business to achieve your revenue goals. Or another way to look at this is your revenue goals are really just a by-product of achieving your strategic goals.
So when setting your goals you first need to define your desired outcome (revenue, profits, etc.) and then set meaningful goals that are going to help you achieve that desired outcome.
The best way to do this is to ask yourself the following question… “If I want to achieve [INSERT YOUR DESIRED OUTCOME] in 2015, what are the things I need to do to make that happen?” The answers to this question will become your goals.
Rule #3: Be Optimistic AND Realistic
I want you to set big goals.
I want you to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
If you never leave your comfort zone, the likelihood of achieving anything meaningful as an entrepreneur is slim.
But successful goal setting requires balance. You want to set goals that challenge you, but your goals need to be achievable because nothing is more demoralizing than realizing part way through the year that you’ve already lost.
It is a common trap many entrepreneurial minded people fall into because by nature entrepreneurs like to think big, a trait that is a blessing and a curse at the same time.
So what’s the best way to think big while at the same time setting challenging, yet achievable goals?
The method I personally subscribe to is the goal setting process I learned early on in my career from a gentleman by the name of Verne Harnish, who is the founder of YEO (Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization).
In his book “Rockefeller Habits” he breaks down the goal setting process into 5 year, 1 year, quarterly and monthly increments. Your big goals, in the book referred to as your BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), are reserved for your 5 year and beyond goals.
Once you know where you want to be 5 years from now you need to start building your plan to get there with achievable goals set annually, quarterly and monthly driving towards those big goals.
Of course that was the 30 second debrief of what Verne has dedicated multiple chapters to explaining in Rockefeller Habits, a book I would highly recommend every entrepreneur reads at some point.
Rule #4: Prioritize
A common question I get when I am teaching entrepreneurs how to set goals is “How many goals should I have?” The short answer is as few as possible and in most cases I limit myself to five. Any more than that and chances are you will end up working on too many things at once and not actually making meaningful progress on any of them.
So within your list of goals you need to realize that not all goals are created equal. Certain goals, if achieved, will have a bigger impact on your success. You need to make sure that your goals are prioritized so that over the coming year your efforts are focused on the goals that will make the biggest difference in your business or life first, so that you can prioritize and allocate your time and resources accordingly.
Another way to look at this is you are going to be much more successful in business and in life if you do one or two things really well instead of five things half-assed.
In fact, another book I would highly recommend is called “The ONE Thing: Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller. This book was recommended to me by another successful entrepreneur and friend and I just finished it up over the holidays. It is full of wisdom and actionable strategies to become more effective in business and in life.
Rule #5: Front of Mind
Once you’ve defined and refined your goals for 2015, don’t just stick them in a Word document on your desktop. The likelihood of you revisiting them regularly is slim to none, so make them visible.
Print them out in a large font and post them on the walls around your house and in your office.
If you have a weight loss goal post it on the refrigerator.
Post them on your bathroom mirror so while you are brushing your teeth each day you are also reviewing your goals.
Then each month and quarter use those goals to help figure out your monthly and quarterly goals.
Goal Setting Summary:
I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who does not prescribe to some form of goal setting.
If you want to see success in business and in life you need a plan. The goals you’re about to set will be the foundation of your plan. They will guide your decision making over the coming year, steering you closer to the life you desire.
Yes it takes time, but it is time well spent.
And to wrap things up, one last tip…
My favorite goal setting tool is MindMeister.com. This is an online mind mapping tool that allows you to brainstorm, prioritize and map out your goals and is far more effective than any word processor. They have a free plan that will allow you to create up to three mind maps for free which is more than enough to get started with your goal setting!
Wishing you a prosperous 2015…