Today’s Dear Coach is about what I call New Year’s Euphoria and its counterpart, Goal Bloat.

Who doesn’t love the feeling of a clean slate? It feels good to kick off the new year with goals and that sense of a fresh start. But here’s my word of caution: January has 31 days. All of 2019 has 365. So when you’re thinking of what you’d like to accomplish this year, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And like a marathon, to achieve your goals you need to chunk them down into milestones. Here’s what I suggest.

First, figure out the destination of your race. Where is it taking you? What do you want your business to ultimately look like? Life can change so quickly I personally think it doesn’t make sense to imagine this much past the next 3 years. So ask yourself, in 3 years, what are your goals around revenue, profit, employees, facilities, markets….think in terms of things that you can measure so there’s a way to track your progress over time. Also, thinking in these terms will help create checks-and-balances around your decisions. Whenever you think about hiring someone, or signing up for a marketing program, or buying a piece of equipment, you want your default mode to be automatically questioning how those decisions support your goals.

Once this is clear in your mind, and you feel connected to where you want your business to go, the next step is to think about this year. Think in terms of the outcomes that will give you the most bang for the buck. Years ago, I went to a workshop where the speaker used a metaphor I’ll never forget. He said when you’re swimming in the ocean, and you slap your arm on the surface of the water as hard as you can, you can create a small splash. But, when the earth’s crust shifts even an inch, it can create a tsunami. And that’s because all of the focus and energy is concentrated at a foundational level. So the moral of the story is avoid New Years euphoria splashing around in surface-level goals. Pick the few things that will significantly shift your business in the right direction. Then, brain dump everything you think you need to do to make that happen.

Once you’ve brain dumped, start prioritizing your actions. You may very well wind up with a long list of tasks, but don’t let that deter you. What’s important is to take your time and chunk everything down into a sequence that makes sense. When you take care of one critical thing early on, it can automatically resolve five lesser tasks or make them significantly easier.

This year, I’m going to spend 15 to 20 minutes every Monday morning choosing which action I’m going to accomplish that week and how I’m going to do it. I find I’m much more effective when I’m clear about What needs to be done, Who needs to be involved, How I’m going to get the action completed, and When I need it done by. Every 90 days, I’m going to celebrate what I’ve achieved and identify my next set of priorities.

I get a real sense of accomplishment from this process. And additionally…I give myself a prize. Rewards are important! As business owners, we’re always looking for the next problem to solve. But it’s just as important to recognize what we’ve already achieved. So when you’re putting your action plan together, write down what you’re going to do for yourself when you’ve crossed your mini finish line. It’s amazing what you can get done when your eyes stay on the prize!

If you’d like additional ideas for how to approach goal setting, I recommend the book The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran. He’s a big proponent of staying focused on shorter-term goals to avoid burnout or distraction.

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Small Business, Big Voices: Episode 2