The new year is upon us. Before long we’ll be planning for summer vacations, then getting the kids back to school, and then it’ll be the holidays again. That’s just how life goes these days—to say it’s a whirlwind would be an understatement. Heck, I always thought my life was crazy working, running my own business, and such. Then I had kids and—whew—if I thought I was busy before.… I had no idea. I was always one of those people who thought that was a cliché thing and it certainly wouldn’t happen to me, and then it did.
I got busier and busier, trying to juggle every aspect of my life and business and—if I’m being honest with all of you reading this—I tell myself I’m doing a good job, maybe even a great job. I’m a regular Cirque du Soleil performer, keeping everything in the air. Now my wife, my kids, my employees, my clients, my friends, pretty much everyone who knows me would probably disagree and tell me that I’m a mediocre juggler at best. Yes, I’m keeping most of the balls in the air, but it’s a pretty messy performance.
How’d I get here? I often ask myself that question when I find a rare quiet moment of reflection. I keep coming back to a couple of things (and we’ll get into that in a moment). There’s a reason I’ve got this on my mind—it’s because every year, just before the new one begins, my wife and I set goals for the coming year. We set goals for our family, our personal lives, our businesses, every aspect of our lives together. We also sit down as a company and set goals for the business, our growth in multiple metrics, our potential, a bunch of things.
Goals are a fantastic way to kick off the year with a fresh start, but not when you are already feeling maxed out. As we started planning our 2019 business goals, I set an ambitious one for us. I intend to accomplish it—we’re going rock it and it’s going be amazing. I’m genuinely excited about our business plans for 2019, and excited I found the time to work on them. But then I realized that I’ve been so busy that my wife has already started our personal goals without me … because, well, I’ve been busy.
This scenario is, unfortunately, not uncommon. I’ve noticed a pattern: when we go through a change, growth, expansion, etc. in the business, I get caught up in that particular project and realize too late that I’ve let other things languish. I don’t want to do that, but that’s the way it works for me. You can tell yourself that you don’t ever do this either, but you’d likely be lying to yourself. It’s just normal. And that’s okay.
Five Steps for Goal-Setting
1. Set your goals and categorize them.
Too often we set all kinds of random goals, print them out, and post the list somewhere we can see it ... and then promptly ignore them. Nice, neat categories will help you jump to Step 2.
2. Simplify the goals in each category down to one actionable goal.
If you want to move the meter, you need a simple target. All too often we make many goals with a similar target, but spraying and praying isn’t effective in any realm.
3. Create an action plan for those concise goals.
This step flips the script on most traditional goal-setting procedures—we’re taking a bunch of goals, paring them down to one large goal, and creating an action plan. Normally people focus on all the potential goals but take no time to actually figure out how to get there, but you can’t get anywhere without a road map.
4. Create a reward/penalty structure.
We all like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it’s pretty easy to look at a goal and reward yourself when you hit it—whether it’s tied to a monetary value or a vacation. But if you really want to test yourself, you need a serious penalty if you don’t obtain your goal. Make it painful. Make it hurt. Make it shocking.
5. Track your progress.
Normally you’ll set-and-forget your goals until you reach them, or until you’re planning your goals for 2020 by reviewing the 2019 ones. You have to track your progress to obtain the goal. If you followed Step 3, you already created the action plan—you just have to follow it.
But this year is going to be different! Or at least not the same. As we set out our goals this year, I’m challenging myself with each and every goal we set. Whether personal or business, I’m making a plan for achieving every goal without sacrificing another. This might be an even bigger goal, but I’ve got to start somewhere, right? The way I look at it, I’m setting myself up for success. You don’t have to follow my plan, but I’m going to work it.
I’m not going to say that this approach will make all your goals come to pass or your dreams come true, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did? If you take the time to simplify your goals and make sure they are concise, you’re giving yourself an advantage. Comparing how I’ve completed this exercise in years past with this year, I can see that things are dramatically different. I’m hoping that simplifying my system brings me, my family, and my company more success than ever before. I hope that, at the very least, this column inspires you to revisit your goal-setting and prepare for a fantastic year ahead.