Today’s Dear Coach is a riff on a New Year’s topic that comes up a lot with clients this time of year, and it’s what I call New Year’s Goal Bloat.

This time of year people 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 when you’re thinking of what you’d like to accomplish this year, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And like a marathon, to achieve your goals you need to chunk them down into defined, progressive milestones. I suggest beginning with the end and working backwards from there. Here’s how to start.

First, so many of us just jump on the hamster wheel and think that because it’s spinning we must be accomplishing something. But activity doesn’t always equate to meaningful action. Think about where you want your efforts to take you. Do you have a clear destination in mind? Life can change quickly, so I personally think it doesn’t make sense to imagine this much past the next 3 years. 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 consider hiring someone, or signing up for a marketing program, or buying a piece of equipment, you want to develop a default mode that automatically questions 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 always remember. 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 you can avoid New Year’s goal bloat by not 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.

One of the things I started doing in 2019 was beginning my day with an hour of work that moves my business forward. I get up and get on the computer before I’m 100% awake. My brain is turned on, but the distracting chatter in my head is still asleep. I work only on things that are part of my purpose. I DO NOT use it for busy work or emails, which means I move through the rest of my day with a sense of accomplishment rather than having all the “Should Have Dones” hanging over me, sapping my energy.

To recap: Identify where you’re going with your business. Then list what it’s going to take to get there, chunking everything down into bite-sized tasks. Next, prioritize your tasks and establish a routine for when you can tackle them with focus. And last but most importantly, take the time to celebrate your wins!

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Small Business, Big Voices: Episode 13