In my post about planning for 2008 I mentioned creating 90 day goals and action plans. This planning method was introduced to me by my coach and has worked very well. I’ve also discovered that many other entrepreneurs use this planning method – probably because it works.
How do you set an effective goal?
What’s the difference between setting a goal that moves you forward and one that never gets done? First, it needs to be believable to you. If you set a goal that is so big, in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “no way, this will never happen.” If you don’t believe you can do it, trust me, you won’t.
On the other hand, your goal must be big enough to be worth your time and effort. I don’t know if it’s a lack of confidence or a misguided idea that we must be ‘sensible’ but too many small business owners set their sights too low. I’ve been there. If you focus on the minimum you need to get by, that’s what you’ll get.
So you need to find a balance between too big and too little. Trust your instincts. You know whether you’re aiming to low or biting off more than you can chew.
The goal you set also needs to be specific. It’s not enough to say you want more business – how much more? Do you want to attract a certain number of new clients? Increase your sales by a specific dollar amount? It’s not a goal if you can’t tell whether you’ve achieved it.
Why 90 day goals?
Why 90 days? I think it’s because 90 days – 3 months, 12 weeks – is a small enough period of time to wrap your mind around. One year seems far off, so we can easily procrastinate. But 90 days – that’s soon. You really need to get moving NOW.
Also, a goal without a deadline is really just a wish or a dream. By setting a 90-day goal you have a concrete deadline. A deadline can really be motivational.
Don’t try to do too much
One of my biggest road blocks is having unrealistic expectations of myself. I once looked at my ‘to do’ list for the day and wrote down an estimated time for each action item. I’d have needed about 31 hours in the day – without sleep – to get everything done.
I do the same with 90 day goals if I’m not careful – I try to cram a year’s worth of work into 12 weeks. This leaves me frustrated when I fall behind. To prevent this, I limit my 90 day goals to two or three items.
I’ve set my two or three goals. Now what?
Now that you’ve set your goals, create an action plan – steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal over the next 12 weeks. Write down each action and set a deadline next to it. Look at your calendar and write these deadlines down.
But remember, you still have to run your business – meet with clients, do administrative work – and have a life. Don’t fill each day. Leave time for other tasks. Consider having only one or two major actions per week on each goal.
If you find you’re filling entire weeks with actions for your goals, perhaps they’re too big to be achieved in 90 days. Consider making your goal smaller so it can be achieved in the next 12 weeks without taking over your life.
Staying on track
Once you’ve set your goals and created your action plan, you need to take action. But how do you stay on track? It’s much easier to have good intentions in theory, but now you need to get to work.
First, you need to be committed to your goals. Make a decision that you will do what ever it takes to get it done. This is a very important part of the process. Perhaps the most important part. When you are truly committed to your goals, it’s easier to take the actions you need to take.
Second, get some outside help. If you have a coach, it’s easy. He or she will help you stay on track. But what if you don’t have a coach – or can’t afford one? Find someone you trust to help. Someone you can tell about your goals.
I have an accountability partner. She’s another business person who I ‘meet’ with twice a week by phone. On our calls we announce what actions we will take before the next call. I’m really embarrassed if I don’t get it done before we speak, so I really try to do what I say I will. If for some reason I’m having trouble getting my tasks done, we can brainstorm ideas to get past the problem. And of course, I do the same for her.
You don’t have to meet as often as we do: once a week or twice a month might work as well. The key is to have another person who helps you stay accountable. After all, as entrepreneurs we don’t have a boss holding our feet to the fire. We have to find ways to do it for ourselves.
Today is December 28th. If you haven’t created your plan for the next quarter, get started now. Decide on one to three goals you want to achieve by March 31st, 2008. Create an action plan. Take action.
Andrea J. Stenberg
If you’ve created a 90 day goal for the first quarter of 2008, tell us about it. There’s nothing like announcing to the world you intentions for staying motivated.