I always use the last two weeks of each year as a time of reflection. I think about the goals I set the previous year and see if I reached them. I then consider what I want to focus on next year and get busy making a plan and strategizing for the coming year.
One thing I’ve learned after being a solo-entrepreneur for the last 12 years is the importance of goal setting. If you don’t have clear goals, you can’t achieve them. If you don’t decide what your focus is going to be, you will not achieve it, because you will meander, get side-tracked, or distracted by other opportunities that come your way.
What generally works best for me is to pick 2 or 3 big goals each year. My 2012 goals were to relaunch my website with a better design, and add workshops to what I was currently doing. At first you might think, “Well did it really take you a year to accomplish just those two goals?” Well yes.
It took me a while to decide what I wanted to include in the new site and what I wanted to get rid of. It took me a while to design the site the way I wanted it to be. And it took me two tries to get a web designer and programmer who could get the job done. While I was doing all of that, I was still blogging, doing readings, doing trainings, and selling and marketing my products. But it got done and I’m super happy to be able to check that off my list. I will be making tweaks to my site over the coming year, but no major overhauls.
I did two workshops last year. Again you might think, “Two weekends? That’s it?” Nay. First there was deciding what the workshop would be about, then there was finding a suitable venue on the right date at the right price with the right size room. That took a lot of leg work and phone calls and meetings. Then I had to design the workshop. That took an entire month. I had to get volunteers to help me. I had to print out scads of materials. I had to practice and carefully consider what material stayed and what had to go. I consulted with other teachers since I’d never done a 2 day workshop before. All of that added up to me doing two workshops in 2012. If I do more workshops, it will be easier since the material is solid and the venue I chose would work again.
So those were my two big goals and I achieved them. In the past, I would set 10 goals and probably achieve 2 or 3, and at the end of the year I’d feel like I didn’t succeed. So I learned a while back to ask myself this question, “At the end of the year, what one thing will I wish was done?” Once I pick that item, I ask again, “What other thing will I wish I had accomplished?” That becomes goal number 2. If there is a third major goal, I’ll add it in. But honestly I’ve found, at least with the goals I’ve chosen, that 2 or 3 is the absolute limit.
Now this doesn’t mean you don’t get other smaller goals done. You totally can. In the past year I also began researching teleseminar and webinar software. I began thinking about home study courses. I formed a new company with an awesome partner, which is in limbo at the moment. I made a list of books I want to write. I began learning how to get those books into the right hands. I explored coaching. I explored a reality show idea. I explored a tv show idea or two. But because none of those were my major goals, they never got my full focus or attention.
Consequently, I wasn’t seriously side tracked, and my major goals were accomplished.
In addition to business goals, I also set a couple of person goals each year. Sometimes I discuss those publicly and sometimes I don’t. These goals are usually related to health, relationships, and family.
If you run your own business and you don’t already set goals each year, I recommend you try it. You’ll see your focus become much sharper, because each time an opportunity comes up you can measure it against your goal and ask, “Will doing this bring me closer or further away from one of my major goals?” If the answer is closer, you do it. If the answer is further away, you decline.
It is only by staying sharply focused on your goals that you will achieve them.
If you find that you achieve your major goals too quickly, set bigger goals, or simply select a couple more. Perhaps you have quarterly goals. Or even monthly goals. Find the amount and the timing that works best for you.
When you get ready to start the new year, also ask yourself if there is anything on the plate that needs to go. Were you doing something this past year that no longer has a place in your long term strategy or plan? Be brutally honest. Do an assessment. Let go of anything that you hate doing or that isn’t serving your business. This will make space for new things you want to do, that you are good at, and that people want or need.
When you focus on just two or three goals a year, you build a stronger business. You lay a foundation that is solid and supportive of your infrastructure. If you meander or work on too many goals at the same time, you may find yourself standing in a pile of half completed projects, none of which are serving your customers because they’re all incomplete.
So ask yourself, what can you do over the next year that will take your business to the next level or help you accomplish more of what you want to put into the world. Pick two or three things to focus on, and make sub goals for each one. Then get busy gettin’ busy!