This post is all about setting goals that really work, and using goals effectively.
If you’ve written a business plan then you’ve probably done a bit of goal setting before, but more than likely you haven’t looked at that since you originally wrote it. The truth is that probably 99% of people in the world don’t have their goals written down. Why? Maybe you’re too busy. Or maybe you’re barely surviving in practice now so you can’t wrap your head around the future of your practice.
You know your business is unsustainable the way it is, and you can’t keep going on like this. Without clear goals you have no light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to!
I promise you, goals make everything easier. The process doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, my process is short, easy, and you can get started straight away. Once you’re done setting your goals you will have a clear direction for your business and you can start working towards your vision with confidence.
Ultimately this is just one way to set goals. There are thousands of apps, websites, and worksheets available to help you. And of course if you are already using a system that works for you then keep that up instead. It’s the goals that matter most, not the method.
We’re going to look at the process of setting goals, how to take action on your goals, and what to do when you achieve your goals. By the end of this post you will have all of the tools you need to get started writing your own effective goals.
Just before we get started, I’ll share with you that it took me a long time to find a goal-setting method that worked consistently for me. I had tried different forms, I set reminders in my phone, I had endless to-do lists, I had a spreadsheet…you name it, I tried it! But there were two problems with all of the methods that I tried: I didn’t look at them every day, and my goals had no clear daily actions to get them done. I found myself reviewing my goals periodically with my fingers crossed hoping that the stars had aligned and I had accidentally achieved my goals! This system is the first system that actually worked for me.
- Start by writing a list of your 3 year goals. You don’t have to know how you will achieve them at this point, so just write down anything you want. You should make them stretch goals and let them push you a bit, but they should be somewhat realistic.
- Of those goals, pick the ones that you want to accomplish in the next year and write those down.
- Take those 1-year goals and split them into quarters (3-month periods). Some of them will be decided by sequence, but also pick ones that will make the biggest difference in your business. Try to space out any massive goals throughout the year. These can also be broken up by theme, so for example the first quarter might be marketing focused, the next quarter might be professional development, third could be office procedures, and so on.
- Next look at your first quarter goals, and make a list of all of the action steps required to do each goal from start to finish. The actions should be small and very specific, so that you break the goal into chunks.
- Finally, take those action steps and schedule one or two of them into each working day throughout the quarter. I like to leave a few buffer days for unexpected events, but otherwise all of your actions should have a date associated with them.
- Now keep that list of actions somewhere you will see it every day. I like to use a clipboard, but you might put it on your wall or somewhere else. Each day when you complete an action step, cross it off your list.
Make sure you’re being realistic with your time and not over-scheduling your action steps. It’s better to be ahead of schedule rather than behind!
The key to this system is making actionable goals. The 1/4-, 1-, and 3-year goals are your target goals that you use to measure progress and milestones, but breaking them up into daily tasks is what makes them actionable goals. It also gives you a nice mixture of short and long-term goals. I classify anything longer than 3 years away as more of your vision. It’s too hard to know what will happen that far away, so it can be a waste of time to set actionable goals for those.
It’s great to have your goals written out, but of course the real success comes in taking action. It can be easy to think of goals, but much harder to get off your butt and do them! That’s why we make action steps that are very small and manageable. The action steps can also include things like research or asking a particular person for help. If you don’t know what step to take next, then find someone who has achieved a similar goal and simply ask them how they did it. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Also beware of analysis paralysis. Remember that being done is better than being perfect.
Reviewing Your Goals
Using this quarterly structure makes it really easy to review your goals. Each quarter you’ll need a new set of action steps. Schedule some time in your calendar to review your quarterly action steps and get ready for another productive quarter. Beyond that, use your judgement for when you need to reset your 1-year goals. Sometimes that’s every quarter, or sometimes it’s once each year. Remember that your goals aren’t set in stone. If your circumstances change, it’s better to update your goals instead of neglecting them all together.
Since you will be achieving goals on a regular basis now, it’s time to set up a reward system for yourself. The idea is to keep you motivated, and it’s a symbolic way of moving from one task to the next. If you don’t take some time to reflect on your achievements it can lead to burnout or boredom. Set up a system that feels right for you. Scratching the actions off your list is great for the daily rewards, but set targets for the larger goals. Maybe you reward yourself once each quarter, or maybe you do something after you’ve achieved each of your goals. Remember to include your family in the reward, or anyone else who made your achievements possible.
- Download the worksheet to set your goals (it’s okay if your first quarter is shorter than the rest).
- Schedule time to review your goals in your calendar.
- Setup rewards for achieving your goals.
In the fourth and final installment of this series about creating your practice plan we’ll talk about where to find help implementing everything.
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