Many businessowners and managers find much of their time is occupied by reacting to the many problems and perceived crises that occur daily in any business. As a result, it is easy to overlook what needs to done to make sure their business succeeds and continues to grow.
Setting clear goals can help you stay focused on what you want to achieve and use your time and resources more effectively.
The following broad guidelines will help you to set meaningful goals:
Make each goal a positive statement – it is better to say “respond to emails promptly” than “don’t ignore emails”.
Be precise — include dates, times and amounts so that you can measure your achievement.
Set priorities – this helps to direct your attention to the goals most important to you and stops you feeling overwhelmed.
Write down your goals – this makes them more real and helps you stick to them.
Keep low-level goals small – by setting yourself small goals each day, you will be more likely to achieve them and feel that you are making progress.
Focus on performance, not outcome – make sure that your goals depend on personal performance rather than external factors that you have no control over.
Be realistic – think about what is really involved in each goal so you do not set yourself impossible targets and do not let other people set unrealistic goals for you. Achieving personal goals is easier when you take things one step at a time. First, decide what your large-scale goals are, then break these down into smaller targets and, finally, start working to achieve them.
The first step in setting personal goals is to think about what you want to achieve in your lifetime (or by a time at least, say, 10 years in the future). This gives you the overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision-making.
Once you have decided where you want to get to, you have to work out what to do to get there. Set small achievable goals and review and update your to-do list every day.
Every now and then, review your longer-term plans too and modify them to reflect your changing priorities and experience.
When you have reached a goal, take the time to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with it and reward yourself if appropriate.
Notice what effect achieving this goal has had on your overall progress and see what you can learn from the experience.
Consider the following:
1: If you achieved the goal too easily, make your next goals harder.
2: If the goal took a dispiriting length of time to achieve, make the next goals a little easier.
3: If you learned something that would lead you to change other goals, do so.
4: If you noticed a deficit in your skills despite achieving the goal, decide whether to set goals to fix this.
Missing the target
It does not matter too much if you don’t manage to meet your goals as long as you learn from it and adjust your plan accordingly. Remember too that your goals will change as time goes on. Adjust them regularly to reflect growth in your knowledge and experience and let go of any goals that are not useful to you any more.
John Joe McGinley is business strategy manager at Aegon