Setting Goals: Do Not Forget the Plan to Execute
Not only has a new year started, but a new decade as well. Plus, this year of 2020 is just pleading all of us to use the perfect vision theme. And the common activity of crafting the goals for the upcoming year and possibly the next decade continues to be a top priority. Applaud yourself if you are one of these individuals who has engaged in this practice and is dedicated to achieving your goals this year.
However, a common mistake when it comes to creating goals is not also devising a plan to achieve those goals. Hence the popular saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Staring at a goal throughout the year as it has not progressed, wondering how to achieve it, is an overwhelming experience. But working a plan toward that goal is an empowering practice. In addition, it has been found that every minute spent in planning will save as many as ten minutes in execution. Meaning, not only would goals be achieved, but would improve productivity, a win-win situation.
It is said that 80% of individuals either abandon, admit failure or simply forget their New Year’s resolution by February. Two main reasons resolutions fail are they tend to be broad, vague and wishful thinking, as well as there is no clear plan to keep up the resolution other than will power. Experts suggest not only setting goals (versus resolutions) but also putting a full plan in place to work from to achieve them.
Clear, Written Goals
First, it is imperative that goals are specific, measurable, believable and achievable, aligned with your values, and are time specific. And another important aspect of goal-setting is writing them down, on paper.
A simple example is instead of a goal of “growing business in 2020”, define the growth with a specific measurement like “grow top-line revenue by $500,000 in 2020.” This version of the goal is specific and measurable through an income line item, and a specific number. For this example, it is also believable and achievable based on last year’s growth and is aligned with the value of improving the financial well-being of company and employees. Finally, it has a deadline of the end of year. But most importantly, other people involved in this goal—employees—will be crystal clear on the goal and not use their subjective meaning of growth.
Putting the Plan Together by Breaking it Down
Now the real work begins–coming up with all the tasks to achieve each goal. Take each goal and develop tasks and actions that achieve a portion of the goal, with the collection of tasks and actions achieving the full goal. For example, if growing top-line revenue, each task and goal will help achieve a set amount of the overall goal revenue by a certain time within the year-long goal timeframe. And when all the tasks and actions are completed, the goal is reached.
Goals can feel overwhelming, even when they are believable and achievable. Looking at a goal of hitting 100 when you have not even achieved 1 can be defeating. Questions begin: Where to start? What to do first? How much time is left? But when there is a plan all of these questions are instantly answered, and instead of trying to answer them, tasks and actions can be completed.
Developing this list of task and actions can be difficult. There are probably a few items that are easily put on the list, set a timeframe and a specific number or measurement. However, it may take some thought, creativity and input from others to optimize the list. Dig deep. Ask questions. Play out different scenarios. Use past, current and emerging data and trends. Ask employees, current clients, prospective clients and even past potential clients that chose not to buy or sign the contract. And just like with the overall goal, be specific, measurable, believable and achievable, aligned with values and time bound.
Write them down, along with the associated goal. It is suggested to write and think on paper with the plan. It has been found that the very act of writing out a list and referring to it constantly will increase productivity by 25% or more. This is the plan, to-do list—always work from this list. Use it in daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly schedules and planning.
Getting to the start of the fourth quarter or worse yet, December, and realizing the goal is off-track is defeating. Hold frequent check-ins, review progress, tasks, and timelines. Not every plan is perfect, but normally the goal does not change, but the plan might. Revise and rethink the plan if off target. Noticing an issue in March and being able to course correct is an essential part of achieving goals.
Cross off the List and Celebrate Progress
Now, the real fun begins—crossing tasks and actions off the list as they are achieved and celebrating the progress. Do not skip this step. Crossing items off the list is not only fun, it is a visual reminder of progress. Put the results of the task or action so if the plan needs to be refined, or can be used again for next year, there is clear data to follow. Skip the ones that did not work as well, and possibly double down on what did work.
Finally, celebrate. This will be different for every person, but do something fun, enjoyable, or special. Staying in the moment of achievement before moving on to completing the next task will help maintain motivation.
There will be setbacks. But do not give up. If possible, stop for a moment and reflect. Review and adjust the plan if needed. Make note of what worked before and what did not, what can be controlled, and, more importantly, what cannot, and adjust. Keep going. Keep trying. Progress not perfection.
Here is to a great 2020 and achieving goals!