Setting goals is the foundation of business success. By taking time to crystallize where you are, where you want to be, and what action steps are required to get there, you clarify and prioritize the most important actions for your business. Here are a few common questions about how to set business goals.
Why Is It Important To Set Business Goals?
Some people swear by setting goals. Other people avoid it, preferring to take a more leisurely, “goal-free” life. Those who don’t set goals say goals detract from enjoying the present moment. Perhaps they have a point.
However, the most successful people from athletes to business professionals have clearly defined goals they take action towards each day. They’ve prioritized what is most important to them and have made working towards their goals a daily habit.
Perhaps they might train or exercise or write at a certain time each day. Perhaps they leave work by 5PM to eat dinner with their families. Perhaps they don’t leave the office until they’ve made their sales quota.
Setting business goals is beneficial for a number of reasons:
- Clarify your ideal outcome – Goals are different from wishes and dreams. They are specific, measurable and urgent. When you set goals, you decide exactly what you want to achieve and how you will know when you’ve reached your destination.
- Motivate yourself with reasons why – Getting started is the easy part. Staying motivated to be a finisher is more challenging, especially with longer-term goals. What impact will this goal have on your life once you’ve achieved it? Why is it worth taking action each day?
- Give yourself a deadline – If you don’t consider a goal urgent, you will push it off “until tomorrow.” Deadlines help you stay on track.
- Stay focused – You have infinite things competing for your attention each day. Setting goals helps you stay focused on those that will directly impact life positively.
- Clarify your next actions – What is the next action you must take to make progress towards your goal? Often we don’t take action because we’re not sure exactly what to do. Ask yourself, “What physical action must I do next?”
- Map progress with benchmarks and milestones – How will you know if you are making progress? Setting goals keeps you focused on those benchmarks and deliverables along the way so you can see that you are making progress.
- Deal with road blocks – By setting goals and making some action towards them, you gain real world feedback about what works and what doesn’t. You probably will make mistakes, but you can use those mistakes as stepping stones to evaluate your progress and take better courses of action.
Which Goals Should You Focus On?
If you have a list of goals or a bucket list, how do you decide which to tackle first?
Your full list of potential goals, wishes, and wants can quickly overwhelm you or keep you second-guessing yourself. You can spin plates for months or years, jumping between projects, and never making much headway on any of your major goals.
Instead of trying to do multiple tasks at once, take some time to objectively analyze which tasks and goals are worth the effort and resources to complete. Which fall into the “would be nice, but aren’t necessary” category?
Which offer you a greater return on your investment? For each goal, consider what needs to be done to reach that specific goal? How much time, money and effort will you need to put into it? Do you have those resources at your disposal now? Are you willing to utilize those resources to accomplish this goal?
Narrow your list until you have one item that you believe will have the greatest benefit on your life. Pick the one that excites you and will make your life considerably better afterward. Then commit to it.
Why Don’t People Achieve Their Goals?
Maybe you’ve attempted to set goals in the past. You might be great at coming up with new ideas – but not so good at finishing. Or life seems to get in the way and you forget what you were doing. When you go back to your goal several weeks later, you aren’t as motivated. Generally, people don’t achieve their goals for three key reasons:
- They don’t believe it’s possible. – Sure, it might be possible for others, but not them. They aren’t talented enough, rich enough, disciplined enough, focused enough, or want it badly enough to succeed. If you don’t believe you can do it, you probably won’t try your best – or you will quit once you experience a few setbacks.
If you fall into this category, try to uncover your limiting belief. Why can’t you achieve this? What’s holding you back? What can you do to overcome obstacles? Sometimes it’s as simple as joining a support group or mastermind group of like-minded people to encourage you.
- They underestimate the required investment. – Some goals seem like they should be easy to achieve, but wind up draining your time, money and energy. Problems come up that you didn’t anticipate. You made faulty assumptions. You underestimated your competitors. You only saw things through rose-colored classes or positive thinking.
Underestimating resources required can be a major setback for entrepreneurs starting a new business. While it’s good to be optimistic and believe in yourself, you also need to have a healthy dose of skepticism. Whatever your estimated time frame or budget, double it. Brainstorm what could go wrong and what you would do if that happened. Consider your exit strategy – what if you fail?
- They downplay the perceived benefits. – That goal might change your life, but is that really the type of life you want? Maybe you fear success, or failure, or the unknown. What will happen when you have all these clients demanding your attention? You’ll have less time to spend with your family. You’ll have to write more, speak more, talk to journalists, stay up late completing delayed projects, and so on.
Instead of worrying about what might happen, keep your eyes on the prize but stay grounded in the present. You can make key decisions about that lifestyle once you get there. You probably have imperfect knowledge about what that life will be like anyway, so rather than use fear to squelch your hopes – and kill your motivation in the process – focus on taking that next step today.
Whether you decide to set small or large goals for yourself, break down your goals into a set of manageable, actionable tasks. Then, set time aside each day to work on them. After about a month of daily action, you will have made this a habit and will be well on your way to accomplishing your goal.