Creating Goals That Won't Fizzle Out
Welcome to another new year. As usual, most of us are feeling a more energetic sense of determination in the new year – this is the time where we make resolutions in order to better ourselves and make plans for the upcoming year.
If you’re trying, scrambling, to make sense of the past year and build yourself a business plan or a personal plan for this upcoming year, I can understand if you’re confused and overwhelmed. Trying to plan out your upcoming year for success causes both of those emotions even under the best of circumstances, but with the added turmoil of this past year and still having so many unknowns in our future, it’s even tougher than usual.
So here’s some tips to help, whether it’s now or later, this year or next year or six months from now.
Don’t plan your whole year.
That’s right, don’t try to plan out your entire year all at once. A year is a long time, and though it’s great to have a general idea of things you want to accomplish in the year, don’t try to get down into the nitty gritty for the whole thing all up front.
Things will change.
Surprising opportunities will arise.
Unforeseen negative events will happen (global pandemic, anyone?).
A year is too long a time for you to plan everything out successfully. So start with just the first three months.
Block your year into quarters and get into those tiny little details and work out your marketing strategies and timelines and which projects or activities you want to prioritize and start making those lists. Map out your schedule, daily, weekly, and monthly.
Then, toward the end of those three months, look at your plan and reevaluate. Are you still headed where you thought you were three months ago? Have some aspects taken longer than you expected? Have some things been pushed off your plate to make room for others? What opportunities have arisen and should they become a higher priority?
Using how your first three months have gone, then plan out your next three months. Use what worked well and figure out where you can increase your productivity or efficiency to do better. Look at what got in the way of making some of your goals and evaluate.
Then keep moving forward.
Think differently about your goals.
Goals are tricky because they seem so simple.
· I want to lose 30 pounds.
· I want to publish a book.
· I want to get a promotion.
Those are three goals that are common for someone to have, but are they good goals? Looking at them objectively, all three seem a bit overwhelming. Do you know how much goes into planning, writing, and publishing a book? It’s a good overall goal, but by itself, it’s too big.
Writing a book is what I consider a Summit goal. Those are your large, overarching goals for your whole year, or some length of time. It’s a final destination.
The problem is that a lot of people write down their Summit goals, thinking that’s all there is to it, and then they don’t succeed because they get overwhelmed. It’s a huge goal!
There’s nothing wrong with having big goals, but you have to remember to break it down into what I call Step goals. Writing a book gets broken down into a large number of Step goals, from the planning phases to the writing phases, to the editing phases, to the publishing phases, and then to the marketing phases. The Step goals can be something like: “Write chapter 12, “ or “Send digital manuscript to beta readers,” or “Create book cover image,” or “Write book description for back cover.”
There are typically quite a number of Step goals needed in order to reach a Summit goal, but because you break them down they’re not as overwhelming. It also gives you a clear path forward for what to do next so you’re more efficient. Just cross the step off your list and move on to the next one.
The weight loss goal will be more likely to be achieved if you break it down into 5 pound goals. Sure, your Summit goal is to lose 30 pounds, but first you want to lose 5 pounds, celebrate, then another 5 pounds, etc. It’s so much easier to accomplish it that way.
Think about if you were going to learn how to play/sing a song. You don’t listen to the song and try to learn the whole thing at once, you listen to part of it over and over to learn that part, then move on to the next part and learn a little more and a little more and start putting it all together.
When it comes to goals like wanting to get a promotion, it’s trickier still. Wanting a promotion is fine, but is it something you know you can accomplish? Something like a promotion relies on more than just you to get it done, it also relies on your boss, the company you work for, other employees that might be competition, etc. This means there are factors you can’t control and it makes it a murky goal.
So perhaps you need to reword it. Instead of saying you want a promotion, say you want to get yourself to a place where you feel comfortable asking for a promotion by showing your boss that you’ve gone the extra mile and done this, this, and this.
The biggest mistakes people tend to make with their goals are:
· They’re too big and overwhelming – You need to break them down into smaller Step goals.
· They’re not the right goals – Focus only on what you can control.
· They’re not specific enough (measurable) – Instead of saying you want to lose weight, say you want to lose specifically 30 pounds (and then break it down into Step goals!)
Many people don’t make their goals specific enough, which makes it challenging, if not impossible to tell if/when you have reached your goal. The easiest example is the weight loss goal. Many people will say they want to lose weight, but how much? You need a specific goal with a specific amount in order to know when you’ve actually reached your goal. It needs to be measurable.
Be as consistent as possible.
The key to your success is consistency. A goal is not typically achieved by huge changes all at once – you’ll burn out. Most New Year’s resolutions fizzle to dust within a few weeks because people who never go to the gym say they’re suddenly going to go five days a week for two hours each time and get in shape.
That’s way too big a change to stay consistent for long and the likelihood that it will be a success is slim.
Small, consistent changes are key. If you don’t typically exercise at all and are terribly out of shape, don’t overwhelm yourself and set a big Summit goal immediately. Instead, start by going for a 20-minute walk twice a week. It’s not a huge commitment, but it will get the ball rolling. Once that becomes a routine, add another day or make your walks longer, or add in a little weightlifting or yoga, etc.
If you’re a weightlifter and your goal is to be able to bench press 50 more pounds than you can right now, you don’t go and add the 50 pounds immediately. You work up to it. You add five pounds and work at that level until it becomes comfortable. Then add another five pounds. Then another.
Over time, because you were consistent in your efforts, you reach the 50 pound Summit goal.
We get all this excellent energy at the beginning of a plan. That’s why our resolutions are so overly…optimistic. We think big changes need to happen immediately for that big Summit goal, but the best way to approach any plan is to find ways to take small, consistent steps forward.
Your momentum is being built like a snowball rolling in the snow. First you add just a little snow, then as you roll it, a little more gets added on and a little more, and before you know it the snowball has increased in size dramatically.
Make an actual plan.
Naturally I’m not much of a planner, but I’ve learned that the best way to make real progress is not just to think about the things you want to accomplish, but to actually sit down and write down a plan of attack.
Start by writing down a few Summit goals.
Then break down each of those Summit goals into Step goals. It’s okay if you realize you have to break down some of your Step goals into even smaller Step goals, that’s normal. Keep breaking them down into everything you think you’ll have to do to accomplish the Summit goal.
Then piece it all together.
This might mean making a marketing calendar telling yourself when and how to market your products to gain momentum, reach a bigger audience, and make more sales.
It might mean adding reminders on your phone and blocking out 30 minutes for a walk every Monday and Thursday afternoon.
It might mean making meal plans for each week at a time.
It might mean making detailed to-do lists for projects where you can easily check or scratch those steps off as you finish each one.
However your brain works, make your Summit and Step goals into an actual plan for the next few months and try to be as consistent as possible in those actions in order to achieve success.
You don’t need to be perfect.
You don’t need to succeed right away.
You don’t need big, sudden changes.
And you don’t have to plan your whole year right up front to succeed.
Leave yourself wiggle room. Allow yourself to celebrate small successes, along with the big ones, and focus on any momentum forward, even if it’s small.
It’s not a race and you’re not in competition with anyone. Don’t sabotage yourself. Keep it simple, clear, measurable, and consistent.
Tailor your plan to what you REALLY want, and make those steps and actions a priority.
Check out Corrina's books, How To Build Your Art Business with Limited Time or Energy, How To Communicate Effectively - For Artists & Creatives, and How To Crush Self-Doubt and Gain Real Confidence on her website: www.corrinathurston.com/books-2