Why 4 Smaller Goals is More Effective Than 1 Big One
The end of the year is fast approaching, which is when many business owners’ thoughts turn to planning and goals.
If you’re like most people I know (including me!), the vast possibilities of the new year are totally inspiring, and you start doodling long lists of goals and aspirations around what you’d like to accomplish both in your business and your life…
…travel abroad for a month
…get to the gym more
…reach six figures and beyond
…launch a new product
…double your email list
…hire a team member
…take up salsa dancing
But once January rolls around, how will you make those goals and dreams a reality?
Statistics tell us that only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. And anecdotally, I’d guess it’s roughly the same for business owners who set lofty goals at the beginning of the year, but don’t have any plan for how to reach them.
And that’s the key: It’s not about setting different goals, it’s about having a better plan.
I encourage you to dream big! Set those pie-in-the-sky, out-of-this-world goals!
Then develop the plan to execute them.
First, you’ve got to have a plan.
Planning is absolutely necessary for business success. You cannot expect to grow with any kind of consistency without a solid plan.
- Provide crystal clear focus on what tasks you should be tackling at any given time.
- Reduce mistakes and missteps over time.
- Actually save you time.
That last one is people are often skeptical of. Planning is one of those “important but not urgent” tasks that gets put off, because people assume it will take too much time away from their productivity.
In fact, productivity expert and author, Brian Tracy, suggests “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.”
That means for every hour you spend planning, you’ll get save 60 hours on the execution.
And I don’t know about you, but I could definitely find a good use for 60 additional hours next year!
But one big goal isn’t very helpful.
The problem is that most people go about planning the wrong way. They either make way too many goals, without any concept of how long each of those things will actually take to achieve, and then get scattered when they try to do it all…
…or they make one giant goal, but lose track of it in the day-to-day business of running their business.
While it’s OK to have one big goal for the year — to increase your revenues to a certain dollar amount, gain a certain number of new subscribers, or expand your product line, for example — that kind of big goal is often hard to keep track of over the course of the year, and very hard to break down into action steps.
The solution, then is, what my friend Todd Herman calls the 90 Day Year. He suggests breaking down your year into segments of 90 days, four segments per year. For each 90 days, you choose one or maybe two goals that you can achieve in 90 days and then spend the entire time focused on those goals.
This kind of planning has a lot of benefits over traditional annual planning:
- First, it’s more predictable than annual planning. It’s very difficult to break down long-term goals into individual action steps or to figure out what you should be doing to reach that goal on any given day. Ninety-day plans strongly connect the action you take today with the specific results you want.
- Having shorter-term goals keeps you more focused. Annual plans fail because too many objectives result in chaos and poor execution. Ninety-day plans force you to choose 1–3 priorities with greatest impact, and then create energy and urgency to act.
- Having short-term goals forces you to break a big goal down into individual parts and then create daily action steps for each part. These steps are specific, actionable and achievable in the time frame.
- The overall plan is structured so that if the action steps are completed on time, your goals are achieved!
The biggest benefit for me is that it helps keep me laser focused; if a new opportunity appears, I can quickly ask myself, “Does this help me reach my short-term goals?” If the answer is yes, I can say yes to the opportunity with gusto. If the answer is no, I can turn it down without guilt or schedule it for later.
This kind of planning really helped us 10x our business and focus on the tasks and goals that would make the biggest impact.
Short-term goals help you focus on what’s working — and what’s not.
The other huge benefit of this kind of short-term planning is that it gives you the freedom and imperative to pivot when something isn’t working — and the mechanisms to figure out what isn’t working and why.
If you have just one huge goal for the year, it’s like driving a giant cruise ship; it becomes slow and difficult to change directions mid-journey.
But a short-term plan is like a luxury yacht that can maneuver and change directions much more quickly and easily, to head for the best possible destination.
When you’re taking the time to stop and plan every 90 days or so, it:
- Builds your self-esteem. It’s much easier to see your progress and what you’ve achieved, and help assure you that you’re on the right course.
- Demands your attention and helps you to respond more quickly (rather than ignoring the fact that a certain tactic isn’t really working — which is so easy to do!).
- Helps you understand why you’re not hitting goals when something falls a little short. It’s much easier to see if it’s a flaw in the plan or the execution.
At first, some people may be a little disappointed when they see in black and white how little they’re moving towards their goals — but this is actually a good thing! Most of us drastically underestimate how long a project will take and then overestimate how much progress we’ve made.
But when you break your goals down into short sprints, with clear action steps, you can’t help but see where your process is working and where it’s not. This is invaluable information for the smart business owner; you can start outsourcing, find more team members, change direction, change your forecasts, or any number of other solutions once you know what the problem is.
This article was written by Melanie Duncan, who has several years experience starting and growing successful online businesses. From the multimillion dollar Greek apparel company that they started together in college, to the home decor ecommerce brand that has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC, and in dozens of magazines all around the world.
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