The New Year is fast approaching and we know how this goes – we all rush into GOAL MODE. We buy premium planners and deck out our offices with new calendars and words of wisdom. We write lists upon more lists of all the things we’re going to get, accomplish, and have. We feel inspired because we know where we want to be and THIS is THE year we will get there. Am I right?
Problem though. We become so consumed with envisioning the end results – the finish line and items we can check off the list, that we lose sight of the HOW. How will we reach our goals? How are we going to get to the point when we can check those items off our list?
Creating a collection of goals is wonderful, but if you actually plan on accomplishing them, then you must build a strategic action plan. You need to hustle and put forth the necessary effort and time, otherwise, your goals will always be that; goals.
I specifically mention the word strategic when speaking about an action plan because I think it is very important to emphasize that an action plan must be carefully designed with a strong purpose and foundation. If you simply just throw together a list of tasks and steps you think might lead you to accomplish your goals, then the likelihood of you actually being successful will decrease dramatically. It is crucial that you complete the thorough, necessary steps I’ve listed below if you want to experience a new year filled with positive change and growth within your business.
1 // Assess + Prioritize Your Goals: Collect your thoughts. You know, those visions and hopes that have been swirling around in your head for weeks, months, maybe even years. Wrap your arms around those goals that you can almost taste, and write them down or type them up. For each goal, assign a ranking based on which are least and most important to the future of your business. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm…
What is the bigger vision I have for my business and does this goal align with that vision?
How could achieving this goal affect future profitability for my business?
Must this goal be completed in order for other goals on my list to be confronted?
How will this accomplishment affect future business productivity?
Is this goal time or seasonally sensitive?
Is this a “nice to have” or a “must have” goal?
Now, re-list your goals from MOST important to LEAST important, according to their ranking. The goals that are now at the top of your list will be the highest priority, while goals towards the bottom of your list are the lowest priority. Recognizing high and low priority goals is especially important when you decide how much time and how many resources you will dedicate to working towards each goal (which will be completed in step 3).
2 // Define Tasks + Success Criteria: What NEEDS to happen in order for you to make progress towards achieving each goal? And, how will you measure that progress? This is when you really break down the HOW. If you don’t know what steps must be taken to reach a goal, then it is time to get researching! Pick up books, chat with other professionals in your industry, explore the web hunting for helpful guides and stories of success, listen to reputable and relevant podcasts, etc.
By educating yourself and collecting this pertinent information, you won’t be left in the dark. Instead, you will be able to really understand the process required to accomplish each goal. When you know the process, you know the steps. When you know the steps, you know what ACTIONS you need to take to complete them. And as you implement those steps each day, each week, each month, you will be able to measure your progress towards completion.
3 // Designate Time + Resources Effectively: You know what you want to accomplish and the process needed to do so. Next, you must be practical about how much time and how many resources will be required as you carry out those actions. This step is not an opportunity to challenge yourself to do things quickly. That is not the objective here. The objective is to set realistic expectations of what your action plan will require, and then prepare yourself and your schedule for high productivity and efficiency. Unravel how much time in minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. it will take to complete each action, and really look at what kind of support you’re going to need (i.e. financial, technological, human (team), etc.).
Once you have an idea of what it will take to be productive, you have to look at your work and personal calendars. You are the backbone of your business and so your availability will determine when and how things get done. If you have other commitments in your life such as your family, another job, etc., then don’t lose sight of those important obligations. The last thing you want to do is neglect the truth of your availability, otherwise, you will end up overbooking your schedule, exhausting yourself and hurting your overall progress. So, how much time can you REALLY dedicate to tasks?
4 // Identify Potential Problems: Be ahead of your own plan. What I mean by this is to try and foresee potential problems. Ask yourself the hard “what if” questions. This step might feel slightly discouraging at first but it is not meant to make you feel that way. The purpose of predicting problems is so that you can have solutions in your back pocket instead of scrambling to fix the issue. You will be prepared to tackle that problem effectively and move forward, losing less of your valuable time and resources.
5 // Schedule + Begin Implementing: It’s go time! You now have all of the information you need to confidently plug these tasks into your wonderful new planner and fancy office calendar effectively! As you create your action plan-driven schedule, remember to do so in a way that will hold you to it. If you are someone who needs loud reminders, then get those alarms ready! If you are someone who is most productive at certain times of the day – line up your work accordingly. Set yourself up for the highest productivity possible by taking the way you work best into consideration!
6 // Regularly Analyze Performance + Revise Plan: The first go at your action plan might not pan out exactly how you hoped. You might have made some mistakes, maybe mismeasured your time, failed to account for other factors that came up, etc. This is okay. In fact, it is part of the process. What matters more than those bumps in your plan, is your attitude and how you bounce back as a business owner. You are doing yourself and your business a huge disservice by not continuously analyzing your performance. It is through routine reviews when you will learn where and how your processes can be improved upon. Ignoring opportunities for improvement can only lead to hitting a plateau or potentially moving your business into a downward spiral. I highly recommend scheduling reoccurring performance reviews throughout the year.