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The fine art of goal-setting

A lot of us have associated goal-setting with New Year’s Day and a list of promises we give to ourselves, like “going to the gym everyday”, but never keep. This may lead you to believe setting goals serves no real purpose. But goal-setting helps you move your life forward with intention and can be a great tool for building your business and reaching your dreams. Ticking off small goals is like renewing a contract of trust with your future self. It won’t only bring you one step closer to your lifetime goals, but will also give you confidence to handle any challenges life throws at you along the way. Let’s explore how you can set goals for your entrepreneurial journey that will give you short-term and long term motivation and how you can break down your big goals into smaller goals so you can go towards them steadily and without fear!

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable Relevant and Time-bound. Making your goals specific, means thinking about what success would look like should you reach your goal. Ensure your goals are measurable by considering what are the metrics of success as you defined it. For instance, when Googler Sundar Pichai took the 3-year goal to build the best browser in 2008, his key result, his measure of success, was the number of users, and that was the one number he focused on while building Chrome. Making your goals attainable doesn’t mean you should limit your ambitions or compromise your dreams, but you should have a realistic approach about what is feasible. Having relevant goals means to think long and hard to ensure the goals you pursue are important to you and aligned with your values, and not just the goals you think you are supposed to pursue. If you want to have the motivation to stick to your action plan, you must have your heart in it. Last but not least your goals must have a deadline. You must think of a realistic time horizon to ensure you keep up the pace.

Set goals in writing.

Putting things in writing will give you the chance to reconsider and refine if needed the goals you’ve set and get a broad view of your short and long term objectives for your future. The physical act of writing down your goals will strengthen your commitment to your plan.

Prioritise your goals.

After writing down your goals, it’s time to cross out some of them! One of the main reasons we fail to keep up with our goals is we set too many! It ends up becoming overwhelming and keeping up with our progress on all fronts ends up too much work. Ideally prioritise 3-5 goals maximum and forget about the rest of your goals until you meet success with the ones at hand. Warren Buffet’s two lists strategy may be of help.

Break down your goals.

Bill Gates once said: “People overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” A reason we often fail to achieve our goals is we overestimate what is achievable in a certain timeframe. Many bigger goals we set for ourselves are the result of following through a number of smaller goals. Trying to follow long term goals without an action plan, mapping out the smaller goals we need to achieve in order to get to the end goal, can be intimidating. On the other hand, completing these smaller goals without losing sight of the big picture, fortifies our motivation and commitment. A way to go about this is a method used by the US military called backward planning. Simply put you need to think about what is the last step needed to accomplish your end goal, then the step before and so on until you get to the starting point. Make sure you break it down in detail estimating how long each step of the way would take. This can take you from a 5-year goal to a next year, next month, next week-goal, down to a goal for tomorrow. After that you just need to get into action focusing only at the step right ahead of you.

Track your goals.

Measuring your results will help you keep track of your progress and provide the opportunity to check-in with yourself, reflect and renew your commitment to your goals. Some people prefer bullet journaling, others prefer using apps, you need to find what suits you best in order to keep track in a timely fashion.

Reevaluate and adjust your goals.

Looking back at the goals you set and the progress you’ve made so far is necessary to ensure you improve your productivity and stay aligned to your values and greater vision. While reflecting on your performance consider if you were on point in your timeline estimates and if you had any obstacles you can remove or advantage you can provide to ensure you stay on track. For instance, if your goal is to grow your network since you can’t physically connect with new faces, instead you could block out half an hour everyday after lunch to email one person you’d like to connect with. You may also find out down the line that your greater vision has shifted a bit or your priorities have changed so your goals need to reflect that. Make sure you allocate the necessary time to reflect by booking a timeslot with yourself in your calendar. Me time is important, make sure your dedicate that time to yourself without any distractions just as you would do if that meeting was booked with another person.

Onwards and upwards!

Further Reading