What Planning Steps SHOULD You TAKE to Accomplish Your Goals?

Here we are, almost in the second month of 2022, and it feels like January was a blur. In effect, we're already 1/12th into our year. Missing our objectives for the year is usually not an option, but time might be running out. If we feel we're behind already, we may need to rethink some of our assumptions. It all boils down to goal setting, measuring, and adjusting course quickly.

You've heard it a million times: write down your goals and they'll get done. I know I've written down a ton of goals that never got done, so what's the difference between the ones that get crossed off and the ones that seem to always be on the list? The difference is in how you write them and, in turn, how you track them. Writing down "go to Italy this year" is not a goal, it's more of "I hope this happens" with no roadmap or airline ticket on how to get there. Writing down "save $480 a month to travel to Italy next summer" is now a trackable goal with a known end date and all the fun planning in-between to keep you motivated with that travel savings account. 

The same applies in business. I ask many of my clients, "What are your top three goals for this year?" Amazingly, for most of us, this question is harder to answer than it should be. Believe it or not, according to a recent Harvard Business Review report on working ON or IN your business, 85% of us spend less than an hour per month on planning. Not surprisingly, in the same article, 95% of surveyed employees said they have no idea what their companies' plans are. If this sounds familiar, don't worry, it's relatively easy to fix.

The root cause is usually found in our daily agendas: Working IN our business too much instead of ON our business leads us to a daily grind and blocks us from thinking about the future. Below are three descriptions of 3 building blocks you can use to set and achieve your goals for 2022 and beyond.

Building Block One: Thought-Process

This is where you get to think about where you are and where you want to go. Anything is possible. Forget about any negatives here; this is the list you create assuming everything is perfect. This exercise will allow you to resurrect old ideas and make them new again or think through a new strategy. After you have completed the list, it's time to organize your priorities for the year, quarter, month, week, and day. 

We all need to devote considerable time to this exercise by going back through our notes from last year. What did we aim to accomplish and didn't? Why? Once you figure out some of your top initiatives, rank them in order of priority. What is the one thing on that list that, if nothing else gets done, can move everything forward? Make this your overarching goal and connect everything else to that objective. Make your team aware of these goals so everyone can move in the same direction.

Building Block Two: Setting Your Goals

For a goal to have a chance to be reached, it needs to be quantifiable and trackable.

I learned this lesson from the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution (I believe it's a business must-read on this topic.) This formula follows the SMART goal guidelines. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) 

Example:

  • Your initiative for the year is to "grow sales by 30%" and say you currently have $60,000,000 in sales.

That's too general. You need to break it down a bit more:

  • "Increase annual sales from $60,000,000 to $78,000,000 by December 31, 2022."
  • "Increase monthly sales from $5,000,000 to $6,500,000 by December 31, 2022."
  • "Increase sales team from 10 reps to 13 reps by March 1, 2022."

As you continue to divide overarching strategies into specific, trackable goals, a clear path to get there will emerge.

Building Block Three: Achieving Your Goals

Now that you've set your goals, you need to gather data for month-to-month goal attainment. I've heard it a million times: What gets reported gets done. Since my corporate days, this is a must-do every day, week, month, and quarter. The key to this process is to keep it simple. In fact, that's one of the reasons I insisted that our team members only measure 3 goals.  

Review your goals often and keep them top-of-mind when the inevitable whirlwind of activity diverts your focus. Share these goals with your team and require them to hold you accountable, and vice versa. When you commit to the goals and they're on paper, they are more likely to get done.

Let me know what you think. Thanks in advance!

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